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Sullivan County
Sullivan County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Linn County and named for James Sullivan, a Revolutionary War general. Originally defined by the Legislature as Highland County on February 17, 1843, the name was changed upon actual organization.

County Seat: Milan


Sullivan County
101 N. Main
Milan, MO 63556


Sullivan County, first known as Highland County, had its boundaries defined in 1843; county organization became official in 1845. First courts in Sullivan County met at the home of Armstead C. Hill in May 1845.

In 1846 the court appropriated $800 to build a brick courthouse in the center of the square in Milan, but a year later these ambitious plans were superseded by orders to build a more modest 1-1/2-story, hewn-log structure south of the public square. The building measured 20 by 24 feet; the lower floor had one room, the second floor had two. The upper rooms served as jury rooms when needed; one doubled as a clerk's office, the other for probate court.

William Putnam contracted to build the modest structure, and the court appropriated $300. Ira Sears superintended the work. Putnam had the courthouse ready for occupancy by October 1847.

The courthouse square of Sullivan County originally was the site of a curious V-shaped mound, pointing to the northwest, elevated about 15 feet at the highest point. When leveling the mound, excavators found three Indian skeletons. Stones which had been placed around the skeletons were used as foundation stones for the jail.

The second courthouse for Sullivan County occupied the site of this mound. Major John McCullough constructed the building in 1857-58 at a cost of $5,000. The cupola was added later. The 1877 Atlas. This was the first brick structure in Milan.

By 1891 the courthouse had deteriorated, and the court asked for an examination by architect Adriance Van Brunt from Kansas City. Van Brunt recommended building a new courthouse, but the court chose to repair the old building. Kerns and Shearer did carpentry and roofing work.

Fire destroyed the building June 26, 1908. For a temporary courthouse, the county purchased a two-story, brick building erected by the O. K. Railroad Company. Purchase price was $6,000, the sum the county received from fire insurance on the courthouse.

Sullivan County existed without a courthouse for 30 years until the federal government made financial assistance available. In June 1938 county residents voted support for the project.

Milan had a favorite son architect, Lyle V. DeWitt, raised in Green City. At an early age, DeWitt showed interest in architecture. Upon graduation from a school of architecture in Illinois, DeWitt was the natural choice for designing the 1938 courthouse, in spite of being only 23 years of age.

The Public Works Administration approved the plans for courthouse and jail in June. Contracts were let in October 1938 to Walter Barenfanger, Vandalia, Illinois, for the three-story, 110-by-66-foot building constructed of buff brick with Indiana limestone entrances.

Anticipating elevators at a later date, DeWitt left shafts for them in his plans. A community room in the basement is still an asset to Milan; a well-maintained, carefully preserved courtroom occupies the second floor. The initial request estimated costs to come to $136,500; construction contracts totaled about $125,500.

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

Additional History
Records at Courthouse

Recorder of Deeds: Index to deeds, 1845-1887; Deed records, 1845-1893; Warranty deeds, 1866-1890; Record of patents, 1858-1880; Swamp land patents, 1859-1953.

Clerk of the County Court: Permanent record of births, 1835-1871 and 1883-1892; Register of births and stillbirths, 1883-1892; Permanent record of deaths, 1883-1899.

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Index to circuit court records, (no dates); Circuit court records, 1845-1886.

Clerk of the Probate Court: Probate records, 1850-1889; Inventories, appraisements and sale bills, 1871-1892; Settlement records, 1870-1905; Will records, 1849-1928.

More Links
 Birth & Death Records Database

Search for Sullivan County on Archives' Online Catalog

Roll by Roll Listing of Microfilm

Local Records Inventory Database

Missouri Birth & Death Records Database: Search & Record Availability

Early Death Records 1875-1899

Marriage Records