Plan and Description of Architecture of the Wise County Courthouse

     Made of white brick, three story high, original part of the building completed in 1896 and the addition was completed in 1922. 
     It has the Tuscan type of columns in front, the brick work is the common bond type. It is build on the "H" type, but, one side of the "H" is larger than the other. The entrance doors are of the "Fan" type, the doors rounding off at the top to form an ellipse. 
     The flooring of the Courthouse is small and uniform in width. The hall and the Clerk's Office of the older part of the Courthouse is floored with marble squares and the flooring of the newer addition in the
hall is the mezzanine type. The windows are two lights 40 x 40 inch panes. Walls plastered with wood wainscoting. Exterior cornices of stone. Interior cornice at bottom of wood wainscoting, at ceiling of embossed steel. Exterior top cornices of steel.
     Doors hung with common type hinge of brass, all hardware of brass. Three flights of stairs, baluster of wrought iron, with wood handrail, square iron newels. Door locks on outside of doors, made of brass.
     Portico one story high, at both entrances, ten foot long by three feet wide. Top of portico has baluster of granite stone. Newels also of white granite in square form. Columns of white granite. Courthouse is covered with gray slate roof.
 

History of Wise County Courthouse
 

     On February 16, 1856 an act of the Legislature of Virginia was passed forming the new county of Wise.
     The bill forming Wise County from parts of the counties of Russell, Scott and Lee was first introduced in the Senate by Senator McElhaney. The bill as first prepared by Mr. McElaney had left the name of the county in the bill blank, but the name was afterwards inserted by him as "Roane", and passed
the senate after the name "Roane," had been inserted. After the bill was reported in the House, Mr. Thomas L. Preston, a member of the House of Delegates from Smythe County, amended the bill by striking out the name "Roane" and inserting the name "Wise," naming the new county after Henry A. Wise, then Governor
of Virginia. The bill was then reported back to the Senate with the name of the county inserted as Wise, and became a law. A new county in Texas was named after Governor Wise of Virginia. So Texas and not
Virginia was the first state to name a county after Governor Wise.
     The act forming the new county of Wise provided that the county seat of the new county be on the lands of Daniel Ramey at the Big Glades (Wise), and that the name of the county seat should be Gladeville.
The commissioners were to select a parcel of land for the public building, not to exceed two acres in quantity. The public square now being about two acres in size.
     The first general election held for the county of Wise was in May, 1856.
     The following officers being elected: Clerk of the County, Commonwealth Attorney, Sheriff,
Commissioner of Revenue for the Eastern District, County Surveyor, one man from each of five magisterial districts were elected overseers of the poor. Twenty justices of the peace, four from each magisterial district.
     The act forming the county provided that the justices of the peace, should select and provide a place for holding the courts until a courthouse could be built. They selected the Little Primitive Baptist Church, a one story log building about 20 x 24 feet in size that stood at the time on a very small cleared spot of land about 300 yards back of, and a little southwest of our present courthouse.
     Near this church by a big spring during the first term of court a big fight was staged, between Beverly Dickenson and Alexander Carico. Dickenson hit Carrico with a stick making one mortal bruise, which caused death. Beverly was guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary for
one year.
     He was the first man to be tried in Wise County for Homicide.
     This little church was almost completely surrounded by woodland and thick underbrush. On account of the smallness of this one-room structure the grand juries and petit juries had to retire to a nearby, large flat rock for holding their sittings and deliberations. The rock is still there and is known as the
"Jury Rock".
     The first deed on record: Charles A. Campbell to John Wright, June 20th 1856. Charles Campbell,
Seal, Morgan T. Lipps, Clerk.
     First Marriage License: July 31, 1856 Elijah Vanover and Haney Mullins.
     The deeds were recorded by hand and the scrivener James C. Johnson made beautiful scrolls in multi-colors at the beginning of each deed.
     It is interesting to note that a deed is or record signed by William Gibbs McDoo, son-in-law of Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of Treasury in his own right and candidate for Democratic nomination for President.
 

Wise County's First Courthouse
                                
Location: Wise County's First Courthouse was 
located on the present public square.

Date: 1856

Owners: Wise County

Description: The following is a description of the courthouse, ordered by the court and entered in the Court Order Book #1; ordered to be built of hewn logs thirty feet square (later changed to thirty by forty-five feet), two stories high, upper story to be divided into two rooms, covered with shingles, to be "pinted" with lime, two chimneys to be build of brick, with two fire places in each chimney. This house was burned by Federal Forces during the fall of 1864.
     The brick for these chimneys was burned at the Andy Day Brick Kiln on the Rocky Fork of Guest
River. Some of these bricks can still be found there.
     During the raid of the Federal Forces and the burning of the courthouse (second courthouse), some of the records were destroyed and while some of the people were trying to save others, one of the Federal
Soldiers, slashed the back of Court Order Book #1 with his bayonet several times. The leather on the back of this book is still as it was the day it was cut, and many people have come to the court house to see the book. (Note: the book has been rebound and the slash marks are no longer visible.)
     The County Court ordered that the court be held in the bar room of N. B. Bruce's Virginia Hotel, then in February 1865 Court again ordered that a house owned by A. W. Smith be kept as a courthouse. In
September 1865 it was moved to James F. Wells house. By this time the Governor had learned of the trouble the courts were having about a house in which to sit, and His Excellency issued a proclamation, directing the courts be held at the house known as the "Daniel Ramey House" until a courthouse be rebuilt.
     This house was a two-story old fashioned log structure with a back shed attached and stood on the present public square.
     The court built a small red courthouse and jail which was used until 1876.
     The second building was made of native clay, hand molded brick, and was built in 1876. This was a two-story in front with a chimney at each end. A flat one-story projection, extended back in the rear which was used for the court room. The furniture was hand-made and not very durable.
     In 1881 James M. Gilley, Sr. hauled the court house bell from Estilville (now Gate City) to the court house at Wise. It took two days to haul it by wagon.
     William "Hop" Elkins, then a boy was with Gilley and they had the clapper of the bell tied with a rope so that the jolting of the moving wagon would not ring the bell. So, Elkins, boy-like and mischievous, secretly cut the rope just as the wagon topped the Wise mountain and the bell started tolling. Upon arriving
at the court house they found practically every man, woman and child congregated in front of the building to find what the tolling bell meant.
     Gilley was allowed $8.00 by the Board of Supervisors for hauling and hanging the bell.
     Between the present court house and jail there was once a whipping post constructed mainly for punishment of wife beaters and other domestic delinquencies. Popular resentment against it, caused it to be
discontinued a long time before the law authorizing it was abolished.
     The old gallows from which seven men were hung stood on the courthouse square remained for several years after electrocution at Richmond was substituted for hanging in the local areas. Many children
of this contemporary age used it as a play house.
     In 1896 the present court house was constructed by Mr. Milbourne Gilliam and Mr. Creed Flanary, residents of Wise. It was then, and still is one of the outstanding architectural structures in Virginia. This is a two-story building made of brick and stone. It houses the Clerk's Office,
Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff's Office, Treasurer's Office, Commissioner of the Revenue, Court rooms, jury and grand jury rooms and Board of Supervisors.
     In 1920 the county having outgrown it's court house facilities the Western annex was constructed upon the same two acre tract. The annex now houses the Treasurer's Office, Commissioner of Revenue. On
the second floor the Board of Supervisors, Agricultural Department, Trial Justice, court rooms, Library, Probation officers room.
     The court room is adorned with portraits of men of honored names in the history of Virginia.


 

 
 
Return to Wise
Return to Articles

 
 
Copyright Notice
All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may not be reproduced on another site without specific permission from Vickie Sturgill Stevens . Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which they are presented, the notes and comments, etc., are.