St. Louis Trip, Day 8, Friday, July 31, 2015
Court in Centerville, Iowa (the Appanoose County seat) was first held in a building that was also used as a blacksmith's shop and storeroom. In 1848 the first real courthouse (measuring 24 by 20 feet) was built for $119.
When this proved too small, court was held at the local churches until a two-story brick building was constructed for $23,000.
To celebrate one 4th of July, fireworks were lit up in the cupola and thrown into the air for the city's fireworks display. One rocket apparently landed in the box with the other fireworks and exploded. The resulting fire destroyed most of the second floor and the cupola, and that courthouse was condemned in 1891.
The present Appanoose County courthouse was built in 1903.
In front of the courthouse is one of the Freedom Rocks painted by Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II to commemorate veterans. Sorensen is working on painting a Freedom Rock in each Iowa county. He completes 10-12 every year, and hopes to have all 99 counties completed by 2023. You can learn more about his project at www.thefreedomrock.com.
Although it is not unusual to see Civil War era artillery near county courthouses, I was surprised to see cannonballs beside--and in--this 1863 canon.
It was interesting to see the law volumes at the back of the courtroom. In most other courthouses I have visited, they are kept in a separate room or hallway.
The rails had a neat design (close-up below), and the steps were noticeably worn from over a century of use.
Like Albia, Centerville has many old buildings downtown, well maintained and in use. With 5,528 inhabitants, the streets are far from empty.
Centerville was originally named Chaldea when it was founded in 1846. The name was changed to Senterville in honor of a Tennessee politician named William Tandy Senter. When the town was incorporated in 1855, an overzealous proofreader corrected the spelling...and the town has been known as Centerville every since.
Appanoose County is named for the Meskwaki Chief Appanoose. Appanoose was the son of Chief Taimah, after whom Tama County, Iowa is named.
Centerville was once a booming coal-mining town. Its first mine was opened in 1868, and by 1938, Appanoose County was producing about 600,000 tons annually.
At present, the county's population is declining. After a Rubbermaid plant in Centerville closed in 2006, Appanoose County struggled with high unemployment rates. However, when I visited, Centerville seemed like a very nice, busy community.