March 20, 2012 1

‘A disgrace to the opulent county of Green’

By in Uncategorized

The Green County Courthouse on a foggy December day

Back in December, I intended to do a story about the history of the Green County Courthouse hooked to the building’s 120th anniversary. Time ran out. When January rolled around, we were already entering the 121st anniversary year and the hook fell to the bottom of the priorities list.

But there are a couple of interesting things I learned in the half-afternoon I spent in the Courthouse getting a tour of the bell tower and looking over old newspaper clippings.

1) An inebriated resident on the Square shot bullets into the bell tower one time to shut it up. This happened at least 30 years ago, so the lore goes, and the bullet holes are still in the glass around the bell:

2) The people of Green County came out in droves for the inauguration of the current Courthouse when it was built in 1891, since it replaced a court building that by all accounts was only a few notches above a fur-trading shack.

From an Oct. 31, 1885, editorial in The Monroe Sun:

“As Judge Bennett sat in his chair in court Tuesday and a draft of cold air at his back caused the chills to playfully chase each other down his back, he was inspired to utter a few emphatic remarks about the unsightly and dilapidated pile of brick and mortar which we have dignified with the title of Court House, that struck a responsive chord in the minds of all who heard him. The present Temple of Justice is a disgrace to the opulent county of Green that should not be tolerated.”

The bombastic style of these old newspaper articles is fun. There’s a total disregard for quotes and attributed facts but a great ear for poetry. At the cornerstone-laying ceremony at the new Courthouse in 1891, newspaper accounts rave about the “immense crowd” and “vast assemblage” but not once does the writer bother to find an estimate for the actual number of citizens present.

Other parts of the paper wouldn’t at all sound out of place in today’s media, though. Outrage over the democratic process or lack thereof never goes out of style.

An editorial headline from the same time period: “Wisconsin a Democratic State? It Would Appear Not.”

One Response to “‘A disgrace to the opulent county of Green’”

  1. googlepo says:

    I enjoyed this! Well done!