Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 67
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
impose fines on several men who had been called to serve on the grand jury, but who did
not attend court. The county, of course, owned neither a courthouse nor any other building,
so the court met in the closest thing to a public building in the area, Nicholas Dillard's old
schoolhouse near the river, which had, evidently, escaped destruction during the hostili-
The new constitution had also created several institutions of county govern-
ment, including a county court, justices of the peace, a sheriff, a coroner, and "a sufficient
number of constables." On December 20, 1836, the congress passed three acts which
further defined these institutions. The county court was to consist of a chief justice and two
associates, the former appointed by the congress, the latter elected by the local justices of
the peace from among their number. In Colorado County, it was to meet on the second
Monday in January, April, July, and October. The county court was empowered to hear
certain lawsuits, to order that new roads be laid out, to conscript citizens and slaves to work
on the roads, and to establish ferries, grant licenses to their operators, and fix their rates.
The chief justice and all of the justices of the peace were to constitute a board of commis-
sioners that was empowered to oversee roads, bridges, and ferries in the county, to provide
support for "indigent, lame, and blind persons who are unable to support themselves," and
to levy taxes. In addition, the chief justice individually was to conduct probate court. To
record all these proceedings, to keep track of the county's money, and to record deeds,
mortgages, conveyances, and other legal instruments, the congress called for each county
to elect a county clerk. On the same day, President Sam Houston nominated and the
congress approved the appointment of William Menefee as the chief justice of Colorado
The new county held its first local elections on February 6, 1837. On that day,
Stephen Townsend was elected sheriff, Robert Brotherton county clerk, Thomas Thatcher
district clerk, and James Nelson coroner. Six justices of the peace, Samuel Alexander,
James Stephens, Williamson Daniels, William B. Dewees, Gail Borden, and Eli Mercer,
7 Colorado County District Court Records, Minute Book A, p. 1; Colorado Citizen, October 22, 1889.
The date of the session is given as "April term 1837." Williamson, as judge of the Third Judicial District, was
required by law to conduct court twice a year in six different counties over a six week period, beginning his circuit
on the first Mondays in March and September. Colorado County was the fifth stop on the circuit, meaning that
Williamson should have been there on the fifth Monday of his tour, or April 3 (see Gammel, ed., The Laws of
Texas 1822-1897, vol. 1, pp. 1258-1259). Many writers have stated that the first session of court was held under
an oak tree, however, the above cited issue of the local newspaper states that it was held "in a log house near
the river, long since gone to decay." Since it is known that there was a schoolhouse near the river as early as
1833, and since it probably contained the space that the court needed, it is likely that this, the earliest account
of the session that mentions a location, is correct.
8 Wallace, Vigness, and Ward, eds., Documents of Texas History, p. 102; Gammel, ed., The Laws
of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 1, pp. 1014, 1201-1206, 1208-1223; Williams and Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam
Houston 1813-1863, vol. 1, p. 514.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996, periodical, May 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151397/m1/7/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.