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Third Henry County Courthouse, Circa 1880s or 1890s

Henry County Courthouse, Circa Late 1880s

This is a photograph of the third Henry County Courthouse building which was completed in 1852, the second courthouse on that site. It was a two-story red brick building with a brass-like dome. Apparently, the fireplace in the court room was famously stained with tobacco juice.

During the civil war, the building witnessed the organizations of the “Paris Blues” (later incorporated into the First Tennessee Infantry), the 46th Tennessee Infantry and the Fifth Tennessee Infantry on its lawn; union soliders marching through the streets of Paris on March 11, 1862; their retreat through the city chased by confederates using captured union artillery; and an uneasy but brief occupation of the city by Company F of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry.

In May 1895, a grand jury, charged with evaluating the condition of the building, ruled that some updating was necessary. Instead, the county court decided to tear the building down and build a new one in its place. The current courthouse was then built, beginning in 1896.

I’m not exactly sure of the date of the date of this photograph beyond the fact that it must pre-date its destruction in late 1895 or early 1896.

The direction in which the photo is facing seems to be north west, as if the photographer was standing on the south east corner of the square. I base this assessment on the iconic rounded upper windows of the building seen behind the courthouse and on the right side of the picture. Those windows, I believe, are those of the Commercial Bank’s first location, which was on the North side of the square.

If that assessment is correct, that means we are looking at the south and east sides of this courthouse.

It also means that the west side of the square is visible in the background on the left side of the picture. While familiar and correct for the setting, the buildings do not look entirely correct to today’s west side of the square. Remember, there was a devastating fire in the 1890s that completely destroyed the west side of the square. Are we looking at the west side before it burned? I’ll have to find out when that fire was – it’s in one of my books.

This photograph was in the office of County Judge Harold Bell Jackson, Sr. until 1974 and obviously suffered the fading effects of the sun while housed in a picture frame. A handwritten inscription on the back of the photograph indicates that it once belonged to a Paris mayor from around the turn of the century.

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