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Old Courthouse Deed, Artifact of the Month for October 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by: Kathleen Moenster, Assistant Curator

Signatures on Old Courthouse deed


Old Courthouse Deed
JEFF-890

The Old Courthouse stands on land donated to St. Louis County (now St. Louis City) in 1816 by Auguste Chouteau and Judge John B. C. Lucas. Despite their political differences, both men believed that a centrally located courthouse was important.

The deed was written on parchment in black ink and signed by Thomas Sappington, William Carr Lane, Pierre Chouteau, Auguste Chouteau, Cerre Chouteau and John B. Lucas.

There are four important dates that appear on the document, the first being December 14, 1822, which was the date when the Missouri State Act appointing a commission to select a site for the courthouse was signed. Other dates on the deed include: August 25, 1823 (date the site was selected); September, 1823 (date the deed was executed); and December 11, 1825(date the deed was recorded).

Thousands of legal cases were decided at the Old Courthouse until its closure in 1930. Some involved issues that affected our country then and now: civil rights, slavery, the role of Native Americans, voting rights, immigration, and fur trade/steamboat economics.Dred & Harriet Scott's case for freedom, begun here in 1846, has certainly become the most significant.

In addition to its life as an active courthouse, the building also served as a public forum where notable speakers and the local population met to discuss important issues of the day. The Old Courthouse has served its purpose well and is important to St. Louis and to the nation in telling stories of both ordinary and extraordinary people.

In 1940 the Old Courthouse was included in Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The park was still in its initial stages of development when the City of St. Louis presented the 1823 Old Courthouse deed to the park in November.


Old Courthouse Deed



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Did You Know?

Drawing of Dred Scott from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1857

In 1846, a slave named Dred Scott sued for his freedom at the St. Louis Courthouse. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the verdict set the stage for the Civil War. Today, the Old Courthouse is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Click to learn more about Dred Scott. More...