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Shelby County
Shelby County
Organized 2 Jan 1835 from Marion County.  It was named for Gen. Isaac Shelby, who fought at King's Mountain, in the Revolution, and was subsequently Governor of Kentucky

County Seat: Shelbyville


Shelby County
P.O. Box 176
Shelbyville, MO 63469

The court adopted a plan proposed by Thomas J. Bounds in December 1835 for laying out the site for the Shelby County seat. At the same session the court appointed Bounds commissioner for the seat of justice. After rejecting the first plan for a courthouse, presented in January 1837, the court accepted a second plan, offered at the next session of court in February 1837. This plan called for a forty-foot-square, brick, two-story building. It also called for a roof described as having pediment fronts, apparently crossed gables, containing circular windows in each, and a wooden cornice. The brick was to be painted Spanish brown with mortar joints delineated. Orders for the painting and pediment fronts were later rescinded. Three exterior panel doors opened into the lower story, suggesting a transverse hall plan. Each door was five feet wide with fan windows above. The plan described in the County Court Record also called for a "girdle" across the courthouse supported by two columns. Apparently, this was a small entry, since the floor was to be level with the floor of the lobby.

The lobby floor was brick; the courtroom floor of oak, elevated one foot above the lobby floor; on the west side the 10-by-4-foot judge's seat rose three additional feet. Two flights of stairs with handrails, one on the northeast, the other on the southeast, led to the second floor, which contained a grand jury room and two additional rooms.

In February the court appropriated $4,000 for construction. In September Charles and Samuel J. Smith and James C. Hawkins contracted for the brick work for $1,870. Wait Barton contracted for wood work for $2,175. Obadiah Dickerson was appointed superintendent. Contractors completed construction in 1839.

Wings appearing in the 1878 Atlas illustration were probably later additions. Fire, which began in the cupola, destroyed this courthouse June 29, 1891. According to news reports, it was no great loss since the structure was in poor condition and unsuitable for county functions. "Peace to its ashes," the article concluded.

On September 5, 1891, citizens of Shelby County voted a $25,000 bond issue for construction of a new courthouse. The court paid architect Jerome B. Legg $500 to furnish plans and specifications for a two-story building, 80 by 90 feet. It was 85 feet to the top of the dome. The Circuit Court room, 45 by 55 feet, was on the second floor; the County Court room, 20 by 28 feet, on the first floor. There were entrances on the south, east and west.

Positioning of the entrances incensed one resident who anticipated the principal growth developing north of the courthouse and bitterly resented a design that turned its back to the principal thoroughfare. But his protest was in vain; no north door was included. Other dissatisfaction came from those who wanted more ornament on the building.

Judge George J. Parker acted as superintendent for the project. On February 4, 1892, the court awarded the building contract to Charles E. Force and Co., Kansas City, Missouri, for $24,380. The building was to be completed November 1, 1892, but progress was slow. The court could not occupy the completed building until July 1893. Due to damages sustained because of delays in construction, the county deducted $580 from the final costs. Louis Miller designed a similar courthouse to this in 1892 in Dunklin County. Builders made improvements in 1909 with the installation of plumbing and steam heating. In 1915 basement rooms were completed, and in 1934, a renovation included installing hardwood floors on the first floor. This building continues to house Shelby County officials.

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

Additional History


The first steps taken by the county authorities towards the building of a court-house were at the November term, 1836. Maj. Obadiah Dickerson was appointed superintendent of public buildings and ordered to prepare and submit a plan together with the estimate of the cost of a court-house. At this time there was some money in the treasury and more to come, and the need of a capitol building for the county was most imperative. The court-house had been on wheels, as it were, and moved about from one private residence to another. The building could not well be longer delayed. At the February term, 1837, the county court appropriated $4,000 to erect a court-house according to certain specifications. It was to cover an area 40 feet square; to be built of good, well burned brick laid in lime and cement, the foundation of stone; the first story was to be 14 feet high, and the second eight feet six inches; the wood work was to be well done, etc. It was at first specified that the building was to be painted and ornamented, but afterward these specifications were stricken out.

In September, 1837, the contract for the brick work of the building was let to Charles Smith for the sum of $1,870, and the wood work was let to Wait Barton for $2,175. An advance in cash was made to each of the parties upon their giving bond for the faithful performance of their contract.

The building progressed slowly. The country was quite new. Lumber yards were not in existence, and nearly all the material for the wood work had to be hauled in from Hannibal and Palmyra. There was not a brick house in the county, and the brick must be made and burned before they could be laid up in the walls. Nowadays the same building could be completed in two months; then it required more than a year to finish it. Smith finished his part in the summer of 1838, and Barton his in November following. The following was Maj. Dickerson's report to the county court, accepting Barton's work: - 

To the Shelby County Court -I, Obadiah Dickerson, appointed by the Shelby county court-superintendent of the erection of the courthouse for the said county, do certify that I have superintended the performance of the contract of Wait Barton made for the erection of part of said building, and that said Barton has fully completed the work stipulated for on his contract in that behalf, and the work done by him as aforesaid is received, and there is now due him the sum of  $215.00, the painting left out. Given under my hand and seal this 9th day of November, A. D. 1838.


[L. S.] Supt. Public Buildings.

The brick of which the court-house was constructed were made on the premises near town owned by Josiah Beathards. The lumber was sawed at Gay's mill, on North river, in Marion county, near where Ebenezer Church now stands (sec. 18- 58 -8). In his sketches Mr. Holliday inadvertently calls this mill "Lyell's mill," which was on North river. 

Records at Courthouse

Recorder of Deeds: Index to deeds, 1835-1891; Deed records, 1835-1890; Warranty deeds, 1867-1885; Quitclaim deeds, 1869-1884; Mort≠gage deeds, 1897-1905; Deeds of trust, 1867-1919; Marriage records,1835-1919.

Clerk of the County Court: Permanent record of births, 1883-1887; Register of births, 1883-1887; Permanent record of deaths, 1883-1887; Register of deaths, 1884-1887.

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Index to circuit court records, 1835-1925; Circuit court records, 1835-1907; Index to naturalizations, 1835-1925.

Clerk of the Probate Court: Probate records, 1863-1880; Administra≠torís/executorís letters, bonds and records, 1862-1955; Inventories, appraisements and sale bills, 1858-1888; Settlement records, 1863-1888; Probate court order, 1880-1886; Will records, 1845-1917.

More Links
 Birth & Death Records Database

Search for Shelby County on Archives' Online Catalog

Roll by Roll Listing of Microfilm

Local Records Inventory Database

Missouri Birth & Death Records Database: Search & Record Availability

County Death Index