|The first courthouse was built of logs on property that is now the
City Square. Seth Hodges won the contract for the structure. The
record shows that construction costs totaled $128.66.
Ten years later, the county had outgrown this 18' x 24' log
structure and made plans for a larger one on the same site. The
new brick building measured 50' x 50' and - costing roughly
$15,000 - was considerably more expensive than the first. The
contractors were Harbird Weatherford and Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln frequently represented his clients in this
courthouse. In fact, when the State Preservation Agency
examined the Courthouse records in the 1990's, they found over
3,000 documents with the signature of A. Lincoln. Those original
documents are now in Springfield, but copies are on file in the
Macoupin County Courthouse.
The courthouse that Lincoln practiced in no longer stands in the
center of town because shortly after the end of the Civil War, in
1867, elected officials decided that the prosperous county
needed an even larger structure.
Four prominent citizens were commissioned to erect a new
courthouse: A McKim Dubois, George H. Holliday, T.L. Loomis
and Isham J. Peebles. They selected E.E. Meyers as architect
and determined that the construction not begin until there were
sufficient funds in the county treasury.
The court also ordered that a property tax of 50¢ per $100 be
assessed in Macoupin County and that the monies be used for
county purposes, i.e. a new courthouse.
Bonds totaling $50,000 were issued for ten-year terms and bore
interest at 10 percent. By September, over $13,000 had been
spent and in October the cornerstone was set in place. The cost
escalated dramatically from then on. By January 1869 nearly
$500,000 had been spent and building was still not complete.
The great dome and roof would cost an additional $125,115.
More bonds were issued, and by the time the courthouse was
officially completed in 1870, the project had cost a staggering
$1,342,226.31. Thus evolved the nickname, the "Million Dollar
Not only was the courthouse an exorbitant expense to the
taxpayers, rumors of a scandal involving misused appropriations
also tarnished the project. Initially, the blame was laid on Judge
Thaddeus Loomis and George H. Holliday, county clerk. Judge
Loomis was apparently innocent of any wrongdoing. (We may
never know the truth about Mr. Holliday, however, because one
night in 1870, he boarded a train out of town and simply
Upon completion, this courthouse became the largest county
courthouse in the United States, with the possible exception of
one in New York City. It was even larger than the Illinois
Statehouse. While the courthouse still serves as the seat of county
government, it has also become a showplace that attracts tourists,
architects and artists from across the country, as well as overseas.
Despite the scandal and the expense, citizens supported this
project with amazing dedication. In 1910, a mere 40 years after
the cornerstone had been set in place, the last bond was burned
and the debt retired. To mark the occasion, 20,000 people
gathered in Carlinville for a memorable two-day celebration on
July 20 and 21. At a pre-determined hour, all mine whistles,
church bells, alarms and anything else that could make a loud
noise raised quite a ruckus. The noise wasn't limited to one
mighty blast, however, because history records that athletic
contests, balloon rides and even airplane rides gave the citizens
plenty to cheer about. A parade of cars that stretched more than
a mile also entertained the crowds. That doesn't seem like such a
spectacular event today, but it was quiet impressive at a time
when so few people owned cars.