JULY 13, 1814
200 years ago today, the three judge panel of the Washington Circuit Court had just opened its third quarterly session to conduct the business of the county. As the upland frontier of Washington County was being settled without the benefit of an established town, its official business continued to be conducted out of the residence of William and Mary Pitts Lindley on their developing farm on the knoll overlooking the Royse’s Fork of Blue River about a furlong south of the Salem plat. The judges knew that this was a severe imposition upon Lindley’s family but it was compensated for by the demand for lumber from Lindley’s sawmill operating below the bend of the river downstream from its confluence with Brock Creek.
Jonathan Lindley, Simeon Lamb and Moses Hoggatt determined that it was time to fulfill their duty to erect a seat of justice by commencing plans for the construction of a court house and a public prison. They entered written findings that because of: 1) an examination of the county treasury showed funds amply sufficient; 2) the very flourishing situation of the town of Salem; and 3) the fertile and prosperous state of the county generally; it therefore, “appeared to warrant and require the erection of a handsome, convenient and durable public building”.
They then proceeded to enter an order containing the general specifications for the court house to be erected in the Public Square of DePauw’s plat as follows:
A building 45 feet by 30 feet
Arches not less than 8 feet high
Supported by 14 pillars of stone sunk 3 feet deep in the earth unless founded on solid rock
One story above the arches to be 14 feet high built of brick
4 windows of 24 panes each in the court room
2 windows for the jury rooms of the same size
2 outside doors and 2 inside doors in proportion to the building
A fireplace in each of the jury rooms
Walls to be laid in limestone mortar well pointed and pencilled and to be plastered and whitewashed
The cornice to be handsomely made of brick moulded for the purpose
The materials to be of the best kind and also the work to be done in a good workmanlike manner
This order was followed by another one establishing the specifications for the jail as being;
A building 25 by 18
Walls 1 foot thick laid close together
Outside walls to be built on a rock wall 3 feet into the ground
Inside walls on a platform of rock 2 feet thick the size of the floor
Partition walls 1 foot thick extending through the inner walls
Iron gates and a double door
Judges Lindley, Lamb and Hoggatt finally ordered that these contracts be awarded to the lowest bidders on the 3rd Saturday in August of 1814. A materials list and a draught of the buildings were on file in the office of the Clerk [the personal care of Clerk/Recorder Isaac Blackford]. Advertisement of this invitation for bids was to be published in the Western Eagle in Madison, Indiana and the Western Courier [unknown].
It is not known who had the experience and expertise to recommend these dimensions and specifications but as William Lindley was the County Surveyor and was known to have expertise in building mill dams and millworks, his handiwork is probably present in the building plans ordered. With a plat that set out Main and Market Streets to be 80 feet wide and a central public square with a dimension of 392' by 392' (3.525 acres) , it was obvious that the 3 judges appointed by Governor Thomas Posey and their appointee, John DePauw, intended for the Washington County seat of government to be of impressive scale.