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Cass County
Organized March 3, 1835, from Jackson County and named for Lewis Cass, Michigan senator and presidential candidate. Originally organized as Van Buren County in honor of Martin Van Buren, the Democratic legislature changed the name to Cass on February 19, 1849, to honor Van Buren’s Democratic opponent Lewis Cass. Van Buren ran as the Free-Soil candidate for president in 1848.

County Seat: Harrisonville

Address:

Cass County
County Courthouse
102 E. Wall St.
Harrisonville, MO 64701

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History
First called Van Buren in 1835, this county changed its name to Cass in 1849.

Although the clerk recorded specific instructions for building a courthouse in April 1837 and identified the superintendent, this order was rescinded at the May 1837 meeting, and the court appointed another superintendent, John Cook. No additional entries clarify the order, but the County Court Record does note that court was held at the courthouse in Harrisonville on February 5, 1838.

Specifications called for a 1-1/2-story, two-room, weather-boarded building. One room was 18 feet square, and the other 14 by 18 feet. Two stone or brick fireplaces were to be in each end, with the tops of the chimneys completed with sticks and good lime mortar. The floor was to be well laid so it would not rock, shake or rattle.

Some speculate the building was never erected. Others assume it was. No location was identified, but Allen Glenn wrote in 1917 that he believed it was a log courthouse off the square.

On February 14, 1843, the court appointed Charles Sims superintendent to prepare and submit a plan with cost estimates not to exceed $3,000 for a permanent courthouse. This suggests that the previous courthouse was considered temporary. Sims submitted plans which the court approved in march 1843 and specified a completion date on or before September 1, 1844. Contractors were Henry Baker, John Fife and George Rice. The two-story, brick building occupied the public square, which was enclosed by an iron fence. 

An order issued by the court in May 1860 for building a new $15,000 courthouse caused concerned citizens to sign a petition protesting such action because of depressed financial conditions. They encouraged the court to reconsider the order. Disregarding this protest, the court proceeded to contract for manufacturing the brick.

War erupted and all thought of building was dismissed. Soldiers quartered their horses in the courthouse during the war, and at the conclusion of hostilities, the court declared the building unfit for occupancy. In 1865 sale of the 300,000 unused bricks that had been manufactured five years earlier for the planned courthouse provided funds for repairing the 1843-44 building, which served Cass County until the end of the century.

A petition presented to the court in November 1895 asked the court to develop plans and specifications for a $45,000 courthouse. W. C. Root, an architect from Kansas City, drew the plans for Cass County's third courthouse, which was built in 1897. 

Thomas Wilson contracted for the building in December 1895 for about $40,000. Citizens paid $45,000 for the building by direct taxation in two years, which they had authorized in an election March 14, 1896. W. B. Harrison superintended construction.

The three-story, yellow brick courthouse measured 93 by 78 feet. Dominating the facade is the off-center tall clock tower. Cornerstone ceremonies for Cass County's present courthouse took place April 10, 1897.

Copyright 2002 University of Missouri. Published by University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Additional History

"She's A Grand OLE Lady"

by Lenore Hutchison

She's one of many faces. She has been a log cabin; she has been built of brick that was burned in a kiln locally and she stands, as she is today, after several face lifts since 1897. The log courthouse was built in 1837 when the county was called Van Buren County.

She was a dream in the hearts of early pioneers. Cass County became "official in 1835 and in 1837 Fleming Harris was appointed Town Commissioner. In May of the same year the court received bids for the first building. It was composed of 1 room, 18 foot square and the other room 14 x 18 foot with …a good plank floor in each room well laid so that it will not rock nor shake nor rattle. A good chimney in each end put in and the fireplace well and complete fixed with stone or brick so as to secure the safety of fire." She was becoming a reality. She was completed in the early part of November 1837 and was located at 200 West Wall.

Harrisonville was growing and the Court wanted a permanent courthouse so in 1843 a plan " not to exceed $3000" was submitted and approved. To be finished by early fall of 1844, it was a 2 story brick building with the brick fired in a kiln on the public square by "brickmaster" Henry Baker. She was now the center and the heartbeat of the county.

Early in 1860 the courthouse was deemed unsafe and inadequate so the County Court appropriated $15000 to build a new one. But the Lady was required to wait for a while. Petitions of serious objections were filed with the Court from a worried public, concerning the expenditures of such a large sum when the entire country was in such a depressed condition. Circumstances were leading to a war and although new bricks were waiting to be laid, they were instead sold at public auction. The money was then used to repair the old courthouse. This substantial old building was then used for almost 40 more years.

She was a patient and gallant Lady. The present structure was built in 1897. She is a 3 story, yellow brick structure 93 feet long and 78 feet wide. She sits majestically in the center of-the town square. She has even outgrown her walls and spills over into other annexes in order to house all the offices necessary to keep a county running.

She has known her moments of sorrow and joy. She suffered the indignity of having horses stabled within her walls during the tragic Civil War. She wept tears of sadness when blood was shed within her shadows and men and women stood upon her sides in hatred. When autos were new to the community, the Lady must have smiled as the drivers of horse-drawn buggies and wagons and the automobile operators fought over the parking spaces. (Peace reigned when the horses settled for the East and West sides and those new-fangled cars won the North and South sides of the Lady).

Retaining walls were added to her "skirts" and trees have been her planted sentries. A statue guards her southwest corner and honors her boys and girls who defend her ground. She flies Old Glory with a proud patriotism. It was a hard-won battle for her. But she takes it all with quiet dignity and demands the respect that is due her. She's a grand OLE Lady.

Source: Cass County Website

Records at Courthouse

Recorder of Deeds: Index to deeds, 1837-1886; Deed records, 1837-1899; Administrator’s deeds, 1879-1883; Quitclaim deeds, 1882-1896; Sheriff’s deeds, 1879-1883; Mortgage deeds, 1870-1871; School fund mortgages, 1869-1894; Deeds of trust, 1870-1903; Deed releases, 1884-1894; Marriage records, 1836-1918.

Clerk of The Court of Common Pleas and Chancery Court: Index to common pleas, 1867-1878; Record of common pleas,1867-1878.

Clerk of the County Court: Permanent record of births, 1883-1899; Register of births and stillbirths, 1883-1903.

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Index to circuit court records, 1842-1888; Circuit court records, 1835-1886.

Clerk of the Probate Court: Index to probate records, 1839-1956; Probate records, 1836-1887; Index to administrator’s/executor’s letters, bonds and records, 1830-1950; Administrator’s/executor’s letters, bonds and records, 1835-1901; Index to inventories, appraisements and sale bills, 1861-1916; Inventories, appraisements and sale bills, 1861-1887; Proof of publication, notices and affidavitts,1867-1881; Index to will records, 1830-1861; Will records, 1844-1918.

More Links
Birth & Death Records Database

Search for Cass County on Archives' Online Catalog

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Missouri Birth & Death Records Database: Search & Record Availability