First courthouse was built in 1868

Published 5:27 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

Four courthouses have served Mower County since it was founded in 1855.

The first courthouse in Austin was built in 1868 on the corner of Maple and Main Streets.

The building had three levels: jail in the basement, offices on the first floor and the Court Hall on the second floor. Old timers told tales of going past the old courthouse and looking down through the bars to the prisoners in the basement and getting a ‘thrill out of it.’

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According to the Austin Daily Herald on March 17, 1934, “The new courthouse was the scene of a sensational murder trial in 1868, a crime growing out of lynching, the only one that ever occurred in this county. In 1868 John and Oliver Potter and William Kemp, and several others were arrested as having caused the death of Chauncey Knapp. It is interesting to know that the accused were defended by John Q. Farmer, who was later to be judge of our district court and to deliver the dedicatory address on that occasion.

The lynching occurred near Grand Meadow. Knapp was accused by citizens of being intimate with a woman of the neighborhood. The indignation waxed warm and one night some fifteen men caught Knapp, rode him on a rail, took him to a pond where he was so roughly treated that he drowned. His body was taken to a corn filed and buried between the rows of the growing corn. Knapp was missed, search was made and his body found. There were disagreements of juries and in the end all the suspected parties were released and no one ever punished.”

More next week on courthouses.

 This week at the HHH

Monday: Board of Directors, 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday: Board of Trustees, 4 p.m.

Wednesday: 4th Avenue Arts Triathlon at 1:30 p.m. Offered by the Austin Public Library, Historic Paramount Theatre and the HHH. Free ‘Exercise your arts’ at three locations and have fun while experiencing visual arts, poetry and performance. Call the library at 433-2391 for details.


Coming Soon

•Battle of Birch Coulie: Lecture by author John Christgau on this Dakota War battle in 1862 in Renville Co, Minnesota. Offered by the Austin Public Library, Mower County Historical Society and the HHH on Wednesday, August 29 at 12 p.m. Free and open to the public.

•Social Concerns will return on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. Watch for the topic to be announced.