History of the Courthouse & Jail

A Brief History of the Midland County Courthouse & Jail

In 1881, when the Texas Pacific Railroad set a box car off here and called it Midway, there we no established ranges, no wells, no windmills, no fences and no laws. The early settlers made their own laws based on honesty and fairness. By special act of the Texas Legislature, Midland County was carved out of Tom Green County on February 28, 1885. On June 15, 1885, the first election was held and on August 10, 1885, the first commissioners court meeting was held.

The court was opened according to law by Sheriff Theodore Ray and it was ordered that a building owned by F.M. Wardlaw be rented for courthouse purposes. Court Judge EB. Lancaster then presented a bond of the Midland Town Company whereby the company agreed to donate $3,000 to build a jail, provided the county seat was located on Section 35, Block 9, Township 1 South. It appeared to the court that the county seat was so located and the company's proposal was accepted.

On August 12, the commissioners asked for bids for building an adobe courthouse and jail. By September, only one bid had been received. It was rejected and the court agreed on a wooden structure. A contract was awarded to Hunter and Weller on their bid of $2,934.65 for a wooden building. Judge Lancaster was instructed to have a foundation laid for two steel-clad cells and the court contracted with Pauly Jail and Manufacturing Company to erect the cells a at cost of $3,000. On November 10, 1885, the court awarded a contract for $425 to Stout and Marlin to erect a brick building enclosing the two jail cells. These served until 1905.

In 1905, citizens approved a $30,000 bond issue for a new courthouse by a vote of 110 to 15. The contract for the new structure was let to William Martin of Comanche on his bid of $26,000. The 3-story courthouse and jail served until 1929.

The present courthouse was built in 1930. It also housed the jail on the fourth floor and was build for $319,000. It was remodeled and enlarged in the early 1970's and the jail was moved to the 5th floor. The total cost of this renovation was $2,000,000.

On May 11, 1985, a bond issue referendum was held and voters approved renovation of the first floor jail in order to comply with requirements of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. This renovation was completed in 1989. It was obvious that the capacity of that jail was inadequate to meet community needs, although it will continue to be used for women and pre-trial detainees in conjunction with the facility being dedicated today.

- Contributed by Nancy R. McKinley, Midland County Historical Society