The Bossier Parish Courthouse holds a significant place in the history of Bossier Parish, Louisiana. From its early establishment in Bellevue to its current location in Benton, the courthouse has witnessed the growth and evolution of the parish government. In this article, we will delve into the rich history of the Bossier Parish Courthouse, exploring its various locations, the drive to relocate it, and its eventual expansion.
The Early Years: Bellevue
In 1843, Bossier Parish was carved out of the larger Claiborne Parish, establishing a separate government. However, it wasn’t until 1853 that the first Bossier Parish Courthouse was constructed in Bellevue. This simple wooden structure served the growing needs of the parish government at the time.
The Need for a New Courthouse
As Bossier Parish continued to grow, it became evident that a more substantial courthouse was required. In 1860, a two-story fireproof brick courthouse with a stone foundation was built under the supervision of Andrew Lawson. Tragically, Lawson passed away shortly after its completion, and his funeral became the first to be held within the courthouse.
Rumblings of Relocation
By the mid-1870s, discussions about relocating the courthouse began to emerge. Proponents argued that a new location would better serve the growing population and improve convenience. However, the Bossier Parish Police Jury and several judges, including Lambert W. Baker, strongly opposed the relocation, emphasizing the courthouse’s sound condition.
The Railroad Influence
The construction of railroads in the area added another dimension to the courthouse relocation debate. The prospect of projected railroad lines rendering certain locations more desirable further complicated the decision-making process. A change in the courthouse’s location required a vote by the people of the parish.
The Railroad Era and the Fight for Relocation
With the rapid expansion of railroads throughout Bossier Parish, the desire to relocate the courthouse gained momentum. Several elections were held between 1875 and 1888 to determine the new parish seat. Benton and Haughton emerged as the strongest contenders, with Benton ultimately being declared the new parish seat in 1888.
The “Stolen” Courthouse
In a bold move, residents of Benton took matters into their own hands. Rumor has it that on the morning of November 11, 1890, a group of prominent Benton residents walked into the Bellevue courthouse and informed officials that they were moving the records to Benton. The documents were loaded onto wagons and transported to Benton, cutting off communication with Bellevue.
The Construction of the Benton Courthouse
In 1893, the Benton courthouse was built using brick at a cost of approximately $24,000. The new courthouse solidified Benton’s place as the parish seat, bringing an end to the contentious debates over relocation. Over the years, the Benton Courthouse underwent various renovations and improvements to accommodate the needs of growing departments and enhance service to the public.
The Modern Era: Expansion and Renovation
In 1969, Bossier Parish residents voted on a special tax to fund the construction of a new courthouse, which was completed in 1972. The new five-story structure, located in Benton, was designed to accommodate the expanding needs of the parish. Throughout the years, the courthouse underwent further expansions and renovations to keep up with the demands of a growing population.
The Bossier Parish Courthouse has a storied history, reflecting the growth and development of Bossier Parish. From its humble beginnings in Bellevue to its impressive expansion in Benton, the courthouse has served as a symbol of local government and a testament to the progress of the parish. As Bossier Parish continues to evolve, the courthouse remains a vital institution dedicated to serving the needs of its residents.