Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


Hamilton County Courthouse
Hamilton County Courthouse


An outbreak of ruckus in the courtroom often served as stagecraft in many of the most entertaining stories about early law and order in the Lone Star state; flimflamery meets calamity, on display in some of the state's most venerated performance halls. Most days, however, the courtroom drama is far more serious. Attendant courthouse activities in each of the state's 254 counties include a daily routine of issuing licenses, keeping records, assessing taxes, judging misdemeanors, and, most importantly, providing a forum for our elected officials to perform the duties and responsibilities of a civil, self-governing society. Perhaps that's why we place our courthouses at the center of our communities and employ enduring styles and materials for their construction. Courthouse designs across the state, in fact, serve as a compelling record of our social evolution, revealing a journey from our antebellum society's obsession with Greek Revival grandeur to our love of Victorian frivolity, Beaux-Arts classicism, Art Deco modernity, and our embrace of post-World War II simplicity. Courthouses transcribe our society's civil progression forward and their doors are almost always open 9 to 5, Monday-Friday, meaning that an examination of the journey can be enjoyed at your leisure. (Scofflaws, however, aren't so lucky.)

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The Texas Experience - Ralph Yarborough Presents County Courthouses
Donor: Jim Ruddy
Sound | 1986
Film courtesy Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Produced by Jim Ruddy and presented by the Shell Companies Foundation and the Texas Committee for the Humanities, The Texas Experience presents the history of Texas through a series of one-minute clips. Each clip features a celebrity narrator briefly exploring a specific aspect of Texas history or culture, with topics ranging from early women settlers to Buddy Holly's short but influential career. In this episode, U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough introduces the symbolic role that the county courthouse played in Texas communities.


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Read more about Texas county courthouses in the Handbook of Texas Online.