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Jasper County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Barry County and named for William Jasper, Revolutionary War soldier.

County Seat: Carthage

Address:

Jasper County
County Courthouse
P.O. Box 387
Carthage, MO 64836

Photograph

History
Jasper County's first courthouse, a one-story building on the north side of the square in Carthage, was built by Levi H. Jenkins for $398.50. He completed the building June 29, 1842.

The square also was the site of the next courthouse. Plans were presented to the court in July 1849 by John R. Chenault, superintendent. He was allowed $15 for the plans and specifications, which were furnished by S. W. Walcott; however, the order was rescinded November 28. Gabriel Johnson then built the courthouse; the record is not clear about whether Walcott's or Johnson's plans were used. Costs of the two-story, brick building came to $4,760. The first story was used for Circuit Court room and offices, the second story for jail and offices. The courthouse was completed July 10, 1854. Used as a hospital during the Civil War, it was destroyed by fire in October 1863.

For the next 30 years the court moved into a number of temporary quarters: a school, a remodeled jail, a two-story building on the west side of the square and a Baptist church converted for the court's use.

Officials took steps in 1891 toward building two courthouses, one, a joint Carthage-Jasper County project costing $100,000, the other, a special $20,000 project at Joplin for holding Circuit Court. This did not materialize because Webb City residents, who had not approved of the proposition, challenged the election on the basis of a technicality in the voting procedure. The protest ended in the Supreme Court, where the decision required that the issue be resubmitted to the people. In May 1893 the tax funding the building again received an affirmative vote.

The city and county shared costs equally for the $100,000 Carthage courthouse, and the city was to be granted the use of not less than four rooms. Officials accepted the plans of architect M. A. Orlopp, residing in New Orleans at that time, for a 106-by-133-foot building constructed of native Carthage stone.

The large appropriation and opportunity to bid on two courthouses at the same time attracted at least 16 architects, some with national reputations. According to the Carthage Press, Orlopp had built 10 or 12 courthouses, the most notable in Dallas, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana, both costing several times Jasper County's appropriation. L. W. Divelbiss, Olathe, Kansas, submitted the low bid for Jasper County's courthouse of $91,600.

The cornerstone was laid August 21, 1894. However, a strained relationship had developed between the architect and the court-appointed superintendent of construction, Nelson L. Damon. The dispute spread to the community, creating factions and resentment. Construction proceeded at such a slow pace the townspeople became impatient, then angry. At the height of tension one group called for Orlopp's dismissal. Damon had reservations about Orlopp's specifications; Orlopp did not trust Damon's judgment and threatened to resign if Damon continued to represent the court. The newspapers carried accounts of the dispute, quoting both sides, but generally sympathetic to Damon.

In spite of the problems of conflicting personalities and questions of judgment, the building was dedicated October 9, 1895. The courthouse, one of Missouri's finest, has remained a source of pride for Jasper Countians ever since. It is now included on the National Register of Historic Places.

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

Additional History
Courthouse burned in 1863 and 1883.

A temporary seat of justice was established, Thursday, February 25, 1841 in the home of George Hornback, a log cabin, 12 x 16 feet, one and a half miles northwest of Carthage on Spring River. Samuel M. Coolley, Jeremiah Cravens and Samuel B. Bright were the first justices of the Jasper County Court. The first county road commissioners ordered a road built in 1841 "commencing at the township line South of John Pennington's and ending due South of William Babb's Mill". Each male white person was required to work on the public roads at least two days each year or pay 50 cents.

A permanent county seat was chosen in March 1842 and designated by the name of Carthage. The County Court, under Judge Spencer as presiding judge, lets bids for a courthouse building, the contract being awarded to Levi H. Jenkins, at a total cost of $398.50 (100.00 in cash to be paid on completion of the building and the balance on the sale of bonds. The building, a one story room with a large door in the south, was completed on June 29th, 1842, and was located on the north side of the present public square in Carthage. With the settling of the county, the court business grew until it was necessary to have larger quarters, and in the early 50's a new building was constructed.

The Romanesque architecture was designed by Maximilian A. Orlopp Jr. of New Orleans, Louisiana and built by L.W. Divelbliss of Olathe, Kansas. The imposing structure was constructed of native stone quarried from the Thacker farm north of the Spring River by the Carthage Stone Company.

The 104-year old building has one of the area's first electric elevators which continues to be in use today. Accepted to the National Register of Historic Place in 1973, the well maintained building houses the central administrative offices of Jasper County government and the Judical system.

Carthage, Missouri was selected as the county seat in 1842. Before the Civil War Carthage prospered. Guerrilla warfare during the Civil War destroyed the city. The two-story brick courthouse on the square was destroyed by artillery fire in 1861. Rebuilding after the war during the Victorian era brought a new period of investment and growth.

A temporary seat of justice was established on February 25, 1841, in the home of George Hornback, a log cabin 12 foot by 16 foot, one an one half miles northwest of Carthage on the Spring River.  Samuel M. Coolley, Jeremiah Cravens, and Samuel B. Bright were the first justices of the Jasper County Court.  The first county road commissioners ordered a road built in 1841 “commencing at the township line south of John Pennington’s and ending due south of William Babb’s Mill.”  Each male white person was required to work on the public roads at least two days each year of pay the sum of fifty cents.

A permanent county seat was chosen in March 1842 and designated by the name of Carthage.  The County Court, under Judge Spencer as presiding judge, let bids for a courthouse building.  The contract was awarded to Levi H. Jenkins, at a total cost of $398.50.  The building, a one-story room with a large door in the south, was completed on June 29, 1842, and was located on the north side of the present public square in Carthage.  With the settling of the county, the court business grew until it was necessary to have larger quarters, and in 1854, a handsome two story brick courthouse was completed in the center of the public square at a cost of $5,000.  During the Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861, it was severely damaged, and county government was suspended.  County records were moved to Neosho, Missouri, and later to Ft. Scott, Kansas, for safe keeping until after the war.  This courthouse was burned to the ground several years later.

In the late 1880s, due to the increased population of the county, there was an effort to made to locate a courthouse in Joplin.  In 1891, after a special election, it was voted to have two courthouses, one at Carthage and one at Joplin.

On May 9, 1893, an election was held for the purpose of incurring an indebtedness on behalf of the county of $70,000 for the two courthouses.  $50,000 was for the Carthage Courthouse and $20,000 was for the Joplin Courthouse.  The City of Carthage gave $50,000 for the Carthage Courthouse with the stipulation that the City was to have four rooms in the courthouse.

The indebtedness was to be paid for by an increase of the tax levy of 20 cents on the $100 valuation and was to be paid for in three years.

The corner stone of the present Carthage Courthouse was laid in August 1894.  The building was completed in 1895 at a cost of $100,000.  This structure rests on solid rock and is built of marble from the famous Carthage quarries.

Records at Courthouse

Recorder of Deeds: Index to deeds, 1841-1885; Deed records, 1841-1913; Marriage records, 1841 -1916.

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Index to circuit court records, 1879-1889; Circuit court records, 1841-1886.

Clerk of the Probate Court: Index to probate records, 1841-1924; Probate records, 1841-1886; Probate minutes, 1841-1861; Administrator’s/executor’s letters, bonds and records, 1865-1908; Will records, 1842-1916.

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