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JIM: The Pride of the Town

One of America's great icons is the Joe Moore drawing of the Adair County Courthouse Clocktower. From its beginnings, as this story by Jim shows, the now Historic Adair County Courthouse has been a revered physical symbol of the center of the universe for Adair Countians everywhere. Jim has found another gem from the chronicles, this one by John Ed Murrell in 1922, which seems even more relevant for today than when it was written. Regular readers of CM will find insights and parallels to today's Columbia/Adair County, and will, no doubt join with all of us who are authentic Conservatives (it's a good word, even if rascally Radicals have done a pretty good job misdefining it - got to hand it to the DoubleSpeaksmiths) among us in preserving it and continuing the higher values in our marginally and metrically unique local society. The story is a reminder that these ideals which are the soul of Columbia/Adair County have held sway only at times, as in 1922, and that there has always been a struggle between what makes us Great and what pulls us down. Today, the Idealists and the authentic Conservatives seem to be winning. But on to this JIM masterpiece. -EW


John Ed Murrell breathed fire on the front page of the News in September, 1922. Under the headline "Nothing Like Beautifying," he wrote:

People about Columbia beautify their lawns with flowers and keep the grass green, which shows that cultivated families reside in the residences, whether they be large or small...A home that is well kept on the outside makes it more valuable and more desirable.

If private homes need to be beautified, why not a public building? The court-house needs a wall and low iron fence around it, and the ground leveled up to the top of the concrete wall...After the fill has been made, sow grass and plant flowers and set out a few maples sprouts, and in a few years there would be a nice little park around the court-house, the pride of the town.

It boggles the mind to think of all the uses the Adair County Courthouse has seen -- the drama of countless courtroom battles won and lost, and the sometimes equally dramatic revivals: for example, the Roberts' brothers had to move their meetings to the courthouse in th fall of 1911, as their tent wasn't large enough to accommodate the crowds.

The grand old structure also saw use as a venue for showing movies as early as 1904 (nearly a decade before the advent of the Parlor Circle) when Messrs. W.D. Tarter and J.T. White brought their "Kentucky celebrated show" to town.

In 1895, the funeral of Col. Frank Lane Wolford was moved to the Courthouse, as it was the only building in Columbia close to large enough to handle the throng of people in attendance (and still, hundreds were turned away). In 1913 and 1914, after the old Columbia Baptist Church building had been razed and before the new building could be occupied, the erstwhile congregation of that Church met on occasion for worship and fellowship in the Courthouse.

It was the scene of innumerable political meetings and rallies and so many ringing political speeches that without a doubt, many a stirring word still quietly echoes in the hush of the night. During the war years, the Courthouse often served as the patriotic backdrop for appeals to Adair Countians to buy War Bonds and to donate blood, and it frequently was the scene of departure for many young Adair Countians going off to war, too many of whom would never return.

In 1898, the first (and possibly last) assembly of many of the community correspondents for the News was held in the Courthouse, a gathering instigated by one Mr. Joseph Alexander Turner, who for several months in 1898 scribed for the News under the pseudonym Paul Revere.

In the years before Prohibition, countless temperance meetings were held and temperance lectures delivered in the Courthouse, the latter including a 1915 wall-scorcher by Russell County native Rev. George Perryman.

The Courthouse was also used as a venue for seemingly endless live entertainments -- vaudeville acts, schoolhouse plays, "readers," evenings of song, and any number of Chautauqua performances, to name but a few. In the 1940s, several gospel singings, organized by Rev. Clifford Spurlock and open to the public at no charge, graced the building, and other singings were held to raise funds for various war efforts during the same era. (As an aside, one must wonder if Silas Sullivan ever delivered there his famous speech about the Great Speckled Bird.)

And too, for many years, folks near the Square depended on the Courthouse clock for the hour of the day (or night) and for a number of decades, the Courthouse bell sounded to remind residents of important meetings. In March, 1901, in a lengthy article about the formation of the Commercial Club, the News wrote that "due notice was given and on the night that meeting was held, with the court-house bell making its loud peals..." An article in the News from May 1922 noted that "The citizen's meeting which was to have been held at the court-house last Saturday, was continued until next Saturday at 2 o'clock...Come at the ringing of the court-house bell, men and women who are interested in the welfare of the county."

The Adair County Courthouse - the once and future pride of the town.

Compiled by JIM

This story was posted on 2011-10-16 01:46:07
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