A History of the Fourth Union County Courthouses 1858–2009

by Dar­rel Dex­ter

The coun­ty cour­t­house is at the cen­ter of the polit­i­cal his­to­ry of Union Coun­ty. Here dis­putes between ear­ly set­tlers were set­tled, tax­es paid, mar­riage licens­es issued, estates set­tled, deeds record­ed, and polit­i­cal con­ven­tions held. Thou­sands of cou­ples have gone to the coun­ty clerk’s office for mar­riage licens­es. Many thou­sands more have walked through the doors to pay their tax­es. Near­ly 2,000 coun­ty com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ings have con­vened in the build­ing and count­less cir­cuit court tri­als have been held there. In the ear­ly years when court was in ses­sion only in the spring and fall, the peo­ple flocked from their coun­try­side farms and small vil­lages to Jones­boro for tri­al day.

The over-150-year-old Union Coun­ty cour­t­house is also impor­tant to the social his­to­ry of the coun­ty. The cour­t­house was not only used to con­duct court and pro­vide offices for coun­ty offi­cials, but has also been used for com­mu­ni­ty meet­ings, con­certs, polit­i­cal ral­lies, and oth­er non­govern­men­tal func­tions. Civ­il War sol­diers were tem­porar­i­ly housed in the build­ing in 1862. In Decem­ber 1920, over 200 peo­ple attend­ed a meet­ing of the Union Coun­ty Cedar Tree Asso­ci­a­tion, which was held at the cour­t­house. Oth­er meet­ings have attract­ed even more peo­ple to the courthouse.

The con­nec­tion the struc­ture has to the peo­ple of Union Coun­ty is what, makes the build­ing so his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant. The cour­t­house pro­vides a link from the ear­li­est pio­neers who walked through its doors to present cit­i­zens of the coun­ty. No oth­er build­ing in Union Coun­ty pro­vides such a strong con­nec­tion to the past- for so many cit­i­zens. Although the size and con­di­tion of the struc­ture may not suf­fi­cient­ly meet all the cur­rent needs of coun­ty gov­ern­ment, its impor­tance to the his­to­ry of Union Coun­ty is immense. 

…con­tin­ue reading.

The Official County Seal

From Per­rin’s 1883 His­to­ry of Alexan­der, Union and Pulas­ki Coun­ties, Illi­nois. Page 286: The coun­ty seal when explained, tells how the coun­ty came to be named Union. The fig­ures upon the seal rep­re­sents two men stand­ing up and shak­ing hands. One of them is dressed in the old-fash­ioned shad-bel­lied coat and vest, broad brimmed hat, and long hair. The oth­er is in the con­ven­tion­al min­is­te­r­i­al suit. It rep­re­sents a meet­ing of a Bap­tist preach­er named Jones, and George Wolf, a Dunkard preach­er, as one of two men, first in this county.

Jones had been hold­ing a remark­able series of meet­ings, and Wolf and he met, shook hands, and agreed to hold or con­tin­ue the meet­ing, the two join­ing in the work, and call­ing it a Union meet­ing. This was held in what is now the south­east por­tion of the coun­ty. The seal illus­trat­ing this his­toric inci­dent in the coun­ty was designed and adopt­ed by the Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­ers in 1850, and it was, it is said, the sug­ges­tion of Gov. Dougher­ty. The meet­ing of these pio­neer preach­ers that thus became his­tor­i­cal, prob­a­bly occurred about 1816 or 1817.