County Courthouse

History or Putnam County Courthouse

Kalida was chosen as the county seat back in 1829, before the county was organized.  Legislature appointed a commission to locate and name the county seat.  This spot was the center of population in those early years.  This would all change later.  After the organization of the county on May 8, 1834, the county commissioners purchased all  of section 5. which had not been previously bought, had it laid off in lots and ordered the town director to sell these lots at the best possible price.  The money obtained from these sales was to be used in the erection of a courthouse and jail.

In 1835 a frame courthouse and a jail of heavy timbers was hastily erected to accommodate the few offenders who might need incarceration.  In 1839 (or 1840) these frame structures were replaced by substantial brick buildings in Kalida and they remained in use until December 18, 1864 when the courthouse was burned down.  The courthouse suffered two fires.  In 1862- (1861) a fire in the recorders office destroyed many of the records.  During the winter of 1864-1865 a fire completely destroyed the courthouse.

Some historians describe the second court house as an imposing brick structure but no picture of this courthouse can be found.

The treasurer of the county was in bed at his home in Kalida, when the alarm was given that the courthouse was burning.  He secured his pantaloons and boots and left immediately for the courthouse.  On reaching his office he realized there was no chance to get the safe out of the building.  It contained all the county funds as well as many private deposits.  His wife had hastily followed him to the fire.  She took charge of the situation by gathering up the skirt of her dress around her waist, threw the cash in the pouch she had made and speedily carried it through the streets to her home, where all was found safe to the last dollar.

The two words “County Seat” were at one time fighting words in Putnam County.  Stories were told of fisticuffs and brawls at the mention of those words.

The following quote from the 1934 Centennial History: “Here is where tradition steps in to explain what really happened.  The writer does not vouch for its truthfulness.  A Negro named “White” was a janitor around the courthouse.  Years afterwards this same Negro in his death bed confession said that he set fire to the courthouse on both occasions and that he was paid a small sum for doing so.”

Following the second fire smaller buildings were erected at once from the old bricks on the courthouse grounds.  Business was carried on in that location until the county seat was removed to Ottawa in 1866.  An enabling act was passed by Legislature in December 1865 and a vote was taken in October 1866  with the result of Ottawa getting the vote for the county by a substantial majority.  This caused many hard feelings among Putnam County residents, especially those in or near Kalida and Ottawa.

With the removal of the county seat went much business that revolves around such a center.  Lawyers and others associated with the county government moved to Ottawa, along with the local newspaper.

 Unknown Author