The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Community

February 22, 2014

A Madison County mystery

Looking for the lost ladies of justice

ANDERSON — Madison County has had four courthouses located on courthouse square in Anderson. An 1820s frame structure was replaced soon afterward by a two-story brick building with a cupola. The brick courthouse served the county for about 40 years before it was destroyed by fire in the early morning of December 10, 1880. (A transient man was suspected of setting the fire, but no one was ever tried for the crime.)

In 1882, the cornerstone for the new Madison County courthouse, an Italianate limestone building, was placed and by 1884 the building was complete.

This is the courthouse that most Madison County residents over 45 remember. It was imposing and graceful. It looked the most important building in the county. It had well-kept grounds graced by Civil War cannons. In the clock tower, a courthouse bell hung to toll the hours. The building was decorated with ornamental cornices and from the four corners of the roof four stern yet lovely ladies looked down on Madison County. Dressed in flowing robes with Grecian hair styles and impassive faces, each grasped a wheel in one hand. The wheel was a modern gear wheel and symbolized Progress.

The statues were original to the building and were probably set on the roof in 1884. The specifications of the building call for the statuary to be made of zinc and held in place with wrought iron stays. The statues themselves are not mentioned in the specifications otherwise, but the original drawing of the courthouse clearly shows them placed on the four corners of the courthouse roof.

Fast-forward in time to the early 1970s. The courthouse which had seemed so imposing in the 1880s had been outgrown by a busy Madison County. Plans for a new Madison County courthouse, to be opened the year of Madison County’s 150th birthday, were in place. Demolition for the beloved old courthouse was set. Giving up the old building was a hard decision. It was hoped that some of the features of the old courthouse could be saved. The courthouse bell and the four roof statues were scheduled to be salvaged. The contractor was to remove them from the roof. Cables were attached to the four ladies of the courthouse and they were given a very modern ride to the ground after nearly 90 years of observing Madison County from on high.

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