In its 125 years, the Grimes County Courthouse has borne witness to all sorts of events.
Since his judgeship began in December 2017, County Judge Joe Fauth has married more than a dozen couples on the courthouse steps. One couple even traveled from out of state to say their vows on the courthouse steps, in love with the little piece of Texas history as much as they were each other.
A group of young students from Poland travel to Grimes County each year through an exchange program and take tours of the courthouse. In the late 1990s, Hope, a TV movie featuring Goldie Hawn, filmed scenes at the building.
“I am also amazed at how many people drive by here and just stop their cars to take five to 10 pictures of our building,” Fauth said.
On Saturday, a large birthday party is planned for the building. The event, scheduled from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., will include live music, free food and tours of the historic building.
There’s plenty of history soaked into the facility’s walls. For instance, Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were scheduled to be tried at the courthouse for crimes in Navasota, but they were killed before a court date, Fauth said. The Grimes County website states Joe Palmer, who was a member of the Barrow Gang, was found guilty at the courthouse of killing a Huntsville jail officer.
And, as with many old buildings, some people believe a ghost roams the courthouse halls.
“Personally I don’t believe in ghosts, but those who have been here before have seen mysterious things happen,” Fauth said.
The courthouse, built in 1894, is not the first court building erected in the town square — in fact, it’s the fifth iteration. Fauth explained that the first courthouse in Anderson, a wooden building, burned to the ground, as did the fourth courthouse. The second and third courthouses blew over in the wind. Today’s courthouse is constructed in an Italianate design, primarily of brick and stronger materials, and has stood the test of time.
The structure is officially recognized by the Texas Historical Commission as a historic site. A 2002 article published in The Eagle states the commission donated $1.56 million for needed renovations in order to keep the aging facility in top shape.
The historical commission has strict guidelines for its buildings. They may be repaired and renovated, Fauth said, but may not be expanded, and certain parts of the original materials must remain. Original brickwork (including bricks with bullet holes, as can be seen in Anderson) must remain, as must wooden windows. The county has been allowed to add a central air system, Wi-Fi routers, and ramps and an elevator for ADA compliance.
Fauth said that during Hurricane Harvey holes were knocked into the roof, and the building received internal water damage and staining and wear on the bricks’ mortar. Later this summer, repairs will commence with compliance to Texas Historical Commission standards.
Saturday’s birthday party, hosted by county officials and the Navasota-Grimes County Chamber of Commerce, will start with a free pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. at the senior center across the street from the courthouse. Stage activity will begin at about 11 a.m., with speeches and a barber shop quartet providing live entertainment. The county will bury a time capsule to be opened in 25 years, and everyone can enjoy free hot dogs, birthday cake and Blue Bell ice cream. Free tours will be given of the courthouse until 1 p.m., and activities such as a bounce house will be available for children.
Anyone wishing to place their business card in the time capsule can do so for a donation of $5, which will go to a local youth program to be chosen by the county.