Fun Facts

The world’s most famous Horny Toad lies in a tiny cushioned coffin on display at the entrance to the Eastland County Courthouse. According to news reports of the day, Ol’ Rip was entombed in the cornerstone time capsule of the 1897 courthouse. Thirty-one years later, as the old courthouse was being demolished for a new one, the time capsule was opened and Ol’ Rip awakened, much to the delight of 4,000 onlookers. He became a national sensation when he toured Washington, D. C. and St. Louis. Some say he inspired Warner Brother’s trademark Looney Tunes cartoon of a bullfrog in top hat and tails. His likeness was included in the decorative plaster cornice of the 1928 courthouse.

The Lady of Justice sculpture on top of the Presidio County Courthouse holds a scale which was shot out by a cowboy who claimed, “There is no justice in Presidio County”. The bullet holes remain there today.

Leon County Courthouse may be the only courthouse in Texas with a fireplace in the men’s restroom.  Up to 2007, when the 1886 courthouse was restored, there were plenty of fireplaces (ten, in fact), but no restrooms. When the building was updated during its restoration, one of the original fireplaces ended up in the restroom as a reminder of simpler times, with fewer requirements for luxuries such as indoor water, central heat or electricity.

Legend states that one of the stone masons began carving the likeness of a local woman Mabel Frame in the sandstone column capitals of the Ellis County Courthouse. When she rejected the mason’s affections, he continued to carve her features but they grew progressively grotesque in an attempt to mock the woman who had spurned him.

The Cass County Courthouse, which dates back to 1861, is the state’s only antebellum style courthouse and the oldest documented, continuously functioning county courthouse in Texas.

The eight ornamental metal eagles that adorn the spectacular dome of the McLennan County Courthouse were originally designed with electric light bulbs in their eyes. Other sculptures include the Goddess Themis at top of lantern with Lady Justice and Lady Liberty on the lower roof.

More than one of our state’s most prominent historic courthouse architects has had arrest warrants issued on them, in attempt to compel them to attend to the construction oversight of their courthouses.

Some courthouses in Texas can trace a design lineage to Frank Lloyd Wright, through the hands of his former draftsmen Charles Erwin Barglebaugh and George Willis. Barglebaugh, working for the Dallas firm of Lang & Witchell, helped to design the Harris County Courthouse (1910), Cooke County Courthouse (1911), and the Johnson County Courthouse (1913) while Willis, working for the San Antonio firm of Atlee B. Ayres helped to design the Cameron County Courthouse (1912), Jim Wells County Courthouse (1912), and Kleberg County Courthouse (1914) – all of which exhibit Prairie Style and Sullivanesque influences.

In several cases, the land on which the courthouse rests was donated to the county on the express condition that the site forever remains the location of the county courthouse.

Since 1836, there have been at least 871 purpose-built courthouse buildings in the State of Texas. 

In the middle of selective demolition at the Red River County Courthouse, the paint conservator discovered some beautiful hand painted gold lettering above the historic judge’s bench that said “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness”. The text was set within a decorative arched band and accompanied by colorful design elements.

The wings of the Harrison County Courthouse dome’s Lady Justice were removed and turned to point downward in the 1930’s due to wind loads that caused structural problems for the statue. The wings on Lady Justice have been restored to their original configuration with additional bracing inside the hollow metal statue.

Local builder C.S. Lambie & Company erected the 1932 eight-story Potter County Courthouse within 270 working days for a cost of $315,000 ($5.37 million in 2012 dollars).  

The Potter County Courthouse has been the scene of numerous murder trials that captured widespread attention. The most notorious of these was the capital murder trial involving a famed Fort Worth millionaire accused of murdering his stepdaughter and a former TexanChristian University basketball star. The trial and events leading up to it became the subject of several books and was eventually scripted into a made-for-TV movie.

The unusual and subtle bas-relief terra cotta cactus, coyote, frontiersman, and Native American on the façade of the Potter County Courthouse depict the character and settlement of the Panhandle region.

The 1902 Newton County Courthouse and jail were built for $21,947. Clay for the brick courthouse was mined on nearby Caney Creek and molded and fired on the courthouse square.

On February 15, 1932, a bloody jail break took place on the Newton County Courthouse square. The county sheriff and a citizen coming to his aid were killed in gunfire trying to prevent the break. The jail breaker, who likely murdered his wife the night before, was killed by another citizen arriving on the scene.

The 1883 Second Empire Style Shackelford County Courthouse is constructed of stone fashioned by Scottish masons.

Movies Filmed in and Around Texas Courthouses
Movie  Year County City Stars
Bernie 2011 Williamson Georgetown Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
The Tree of Life 2011 Fayette LaGrange Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
True Grit 2010 Blanco Blanco Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
Waiting for Guffman 1997 Caldwell Lockhart Christopher Guest, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey
Hope 1997 Grimes Anderson Jeffrey Sams, Lee Norris, Kevin Jamal Woods
Lone Star 1996 Maverick Eagle Pass Chris Cooper, Joe Morton, Matthew McConaughey
Michael 1996 Fayette La Grange John Travolta, William Hurt, Andie MacDowell
Powder 1995 Wharton Wharton Sean Patrick Flanery, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Steenburgen
Pointman 1994 Harris Houston Jack Scalie, Brent Jennings
What's Eating Gilbert Grape? 1993 Caldwell Lockhart Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis
Trial 1992 Brazoria Angleton Beverly D'Angelo, Ned Beatty
Habitation of Dragons 1992 Colorado Columbus Roberts Blossom, Brad Davis, Frederic Forrest, Jean Stapleton, Maureen O'Sullivan, Pat Hingle, Horton Foote (Screenplay)
Final Verdict 1991 Fort Bend Richmond Treat Williams, Olivia Burnette, Glenn Ford
The Legend of Billie Jean 1985 Kleberg Kingsville Helen Slater, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote, Dean Stockwell
D.O.A. 1988 Travis Austin Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek
The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez 1982 Gonzales Gonzales Edward James Olmos, James Gammon, Pepe Serna, Barry Corbin
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas 1982 Lavaca Hallettsville Dolly Parton, Burt Renolds
The Last Picture Show 1971 Archer Archer City Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepard, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn
Windsplitter 1971 Colorado Columbus James McMullen, I. Van Charles, Joyce Taylor
Baby, The Rain Must Fall 1965 Colorado Columbus Steve McQueen, Lee Remick
Boys' Ranch 1946 Oldham Co. Tascosa James Craig, Dorothy Patrick, Skippy Homeier