Back When … History of Montgomery County Courthouses
Montgomery County courthouses have been the center of political, civic and business activity for more than 175 years. Today’s courthouse in Conroe is a tribute to the history of one of the oldest counties in Texas, which originated in 1837 as the third county of the infant Republic of Texas, with the old town of Montgomery serving as the first county seat. Over the next 100 years, the official seat of county government has been served by three separate courthouses in the town of Montgomery, followed by a temporary courthouse and two permanent courthouses in the city of Conroe.
By the time the Republic of Texas was formed in 1836, a large northern portion of the Austin Municipality – an area encompassing all or part of Montgomery County and eight other counties – was known as Washington County, with Washington-on-the-Brazos as its government seat.
On July 4, 1837, the town of Montgomery was founded. In October 1837, several Washington County citizens petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas to create a new county, the boundaries of which were said to exclude the area further east in present-day Conroe because it was then merely a big thicket full of deer and bear.
In March 1838, a log cabin was purchased as the first courthouse and moved to the square in Montgomery. It was soon too small for the operation of the county government. In 1842, a two-story courthouse was built with hand-hewn lumber.
In February 1853, a new courthouse was ordered built on the public square at a cost of $3000. In March 1853, the 1842 courthouse was judged unsafe, and court was held in the Baptist church. Specifications drawn for the new courthouse included two lighting rods at 50 cents per foot. The building was completed in 1855.
Between 1846 and 1873, Grimes, Walker, Madison, San Jacinto and Waller counties were organized from Montgomery County, leaving it with its present boundaries. With the town of Montgomery no longer the county’s geographical center, an attempt to move the courthouse to Willis failed; by March 1889 an election to move the county seat to Conroe prevailed. A residence owned by Isaac Conroe was designated as the temporary courthouse. In May 1889, bids were authorized for a new brick courthouse and jail not to exceed $10,000. The new courthouse was completed in 1891 using red bricks manufactured in Conroe. Repairs and changes have been made, including plastering the outside in 1909.
By 1932, the new Conroe oil field was a magnet for thousands of land speculators and oil field workers. Soon the old courthouse and jail were inadequate for the booming economy. In September 1935, the courthouse was demolished, and in October construction started on the new modern art deco-styled courthouse. In November 1936, the new courthouse and jail building was complete at a cost of just over $353,000.
Over the next 30 years, Montgomery County grew, requiring an expansion of the courthouse. In February 1965, the Commissioners Court accepted a bid for the construction of new wings on the north and south sides. In March 1979, the Commissioners Court approved $1.7 million for additions and alterations to the Courthouse. Since then, the unrelenting growth of Montgomery County has lead to more auxiliary county office buildings and a new county jail.
The Montgomery County Historical Commission provides the content for this page.
For information on the commission and its efforts, visit montgomerycountyhistoricalcommission.com.