2012-02-08 / Living

The Courthouse in Pleasanton

Part I

The County Seat of Atascosa County was for many years in the City of Pleasanton, Texas. In 1910, by a vote of the people of the county, it was moved to Jourdanton, where it remains today. The beautiful old rock building shown at right, located on the plaza square in Pleasanton, served as the Courthouse for Atascosa County from January l, l886, until shortly after the election in l910.

After 1911, the old courthouse served as the City Hall of Pleasanton until about l953 when a large portion of the front fell into the street, which, more or less, condemned the building. In about l954, the old building was razed, along with the old jail. The new Pleasanton City Hall stands approximately where the courthouse stood.

Records show that in April, l885, contract was made between Atascosa County and Oscar Crawford Company of San Antonio, Texas, for the complete construction of the two-story rock building as pictured above. The price for this construction, including all materials and labor, was $l5,850. The building was to be completed on or before Jan. l, l886. Contract was also made with J. C. Breeding & Sons, Architects of San Antonio, to complete the plans and to see that the construction was carried out exactly according to the plans. J. C. Breeding & Sons were to be paid 5 percent of the construction cost., plus expenses of traveling from the office in San Antonio.

Bessie and Taylor Brite, siblings, 1927. Bessie and Taylor Brite, siblings, 1927. W. H. Smith, a well-known local resident, made contract with Oscar Crawford, to furnish all the rock for building the two-story courthouse for the sum of $125. Edwin Hunt, another well-known resident, agreed with the contractor to haul the rock from the W. H. Smith place to building site at 75 cents per Perch Masons measurements; all wagons to be loaded by the quarry hands and unloaded by the teamster. Edwin Hunt presented his bill on Nov. 11, l885, for hauling the rock. Bill was $348.75.

Frances and Johnny T. Brite Frances and Johnny T. Brite In 1921, negotiations were begun between the city and Atascosa County for the sale of the old courthouse and jail to the City of Pleasanton which culminated in the county executing a quit-claim deed to the old courthouse and jail property, and the execution by the City of ten warrants in the sum of $500 each, payable to the county, as evidence of the consideration agreed to be paid by the city for the property. Apparently, the city was not able to make the payments on said note, or did not make the payments and in May of l937, Atascosa County sued the city of Pleasanton for the collection of said notes. A full trial was had in Jourdanton on said notes and the ownership of the property. The trial judge held in favor of the city, however, on appeal, final judgment was held that the City of Pleasanton duly owed the $5,000 for the property as contracted for. Apparently the City of Pleasanton must have paid the $5,000 for there is no further recorded evidence that they did not own the property, plus the courthouse building and the old Jail building. As stated before, both buildings were torn down by the city about l953 or l954.

It is interesting to note that in the trial of the case in l937, A. N. Steinle of Jourdanton and Johnson and Rogers of San Antonio represented Atascosa County; H. D. Barrow and R. R. Smith, both of Jourdanton, represented the City of Pleasanton.

Personal memories

On Oct. 27, 20ll, I turned 90 years of age and a few people have asked me to record some memories of this old property and buildings. From the first part of this history, you will remember that from shortly after 1911 until the courthouse and jail were torn down, it was basically being used by the City of Pleasanton. The old District Courtroom on the second floor would be rented out for parties, dances and other public events. The grounds around the courthouse were often the scene of county fairs, usually set up around the old courthouse; political meetings, carnivals, and even various traveling shows with real actors. Tents would be set up usually on the south side of the courthouse for these shows.

I remember the Atascosa County Fair at Pleasanton in l929. The fair was set up on the grounds. At this time, they also had old car races across the street, east, on the grounds where now there is a furniture business, etc. The races usually started just west of the courthouse and circled the entire area. On the north side there was several trees and some cattle pens. My father, Tom S. Brite, had acquired an old model car which he entered in several races. The person who kept the old car in working order and usually drove same was Walter Pursch, who was working as a mechanic at Burmeister Motor Company on Main Street. This is the same Walter Pursch who later established Pursch Motors, a business still going today. Walter was an excellent driver and won several races. During this Fair in l929, for some reason, Walter was not able to drive, possibly sickness. My father hired another young man to drive on that day. The young man circled the track several times and was doing great. As he made the last lap, he lost control and hit the trees on the north side. The old car had no top, so the young man flew out and over the front. Fortunately, he was not hurt at all, but the old car was totalled and that was the end of my father’s car racing.

Soon after the county seat was moved to Jourdanton, a trial was had in the new Courthouse at Jourdanton, but they did not yet have a jail completed. A man was tried for murder and received the death penalty. The defendant was kept in the old jail at Pleasanton and on the proper date was hung by the Sheriff, using the facilities of the Pleasanton Jail. This created quite a commotion in Pleasanton. Not too long ago, I talked to Jimmy Seay, son of the contractor who tore down the jail, and he told me that his father almost failed in knocking the building down since the walls were so thick.

When I was about l0 or ll years old, all the youngsters in Pleasanton had pigeons. We would keep them in cages, sell some of them, trade often. A friend and I decided that a good place to get a supply of pigeons would be the old courthouse tower. Many pigeons roosted at night in this old tower. This friend and I each got a towsack, went up the stairs, and climbed up in the tower by a convenient ladder. We each got several pigeons, took them up, and took them home We made two or three trips and finally had too many pigeons. Individual offices were locked in the courthouse, but otherwise it remained open all the time. My father would have “killed me” if he had known about these pigeon hunts.

Along about this same time, I was working in the town barbershop. Basil Gibson was the barber. His brother, Lou Gibson had a little store in the barbershop which also opened out to the sidewalk. My job was to shine shoes, sweep out after hair cuts and generally help keep the barber shop clean. Basil Gibson was more or less my boss. He used to say that I was pretty good help unless there was a carnival in town.

The carnivals almost always set up around the old Courthouse building and grounds. In slack times, I was generally missing from the barber shop. As a youngster, I particularly liked to ride Ferris wheels. One car nival had just arrived, and I walked down there to see what they had.

Some hands were just putting the Ferris wheel together and I stood there watching. I noticed a big dog in a fenced cage close by. A man was close by and was telling the workers what to do next. He saw me watching. He asked me did I know anyone that would be willing to feed meat scraps each day to his dog. I asked the man what I would get if I fed the dog each day. He told me that if I could feed the dog each morning and evening, he would let me ride the Ferris wheel any time of day or night that it was operating I told him to wait and let me see if I could get the scraps.

We had an old family friend, Mr. Pete Garza, Sr. that had a small meat market on corner where Bill Miller Barbecue is now located. I talked to Mr. Garza and he told me he always had lots of scraps and I could have them. The carnival was there a week and I fed that dog a lot of scraps morning and evening. I will say that the Ferris wheel owner kept his word. It did not matter whether daytime or night – if I walked up and told him I wanted to get on, he would stop the Ferris wheel and I could ride until I motioned to him I wanted to get off.

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