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Local History Database Record Detail

Folder Rock County Courthouse (Janesville) - History
Headline/Keyword Rock County's first courthouse and a log jail were occupied in 1842. The courthouse burned in 1859 and was rebuilt a decade later for $124,672. Early in the twentieth century, a smaller courthouse was built at Beloit. In 1856, Janesville had eight thousand people, five grist mills, five livery stables, a carriage factory, a woolen factory and three newspapers. Wheat farmers from New York were attracted to the fertile Rock County soil. The first circuit judge serving Rock and other southwestern counties was Edward V. Whiton, who later became Wisconsin's first chief justice of the Supreme Court. He also served in the territorial legislature and, according to one account, "Judge Whiton was elected largely because he had great personal magnetism and because he had won support of influential groups in the county." In the early 1950s, the county board was debating whether to build a new courthouse and whether it should be in Janesville or Beloit. The debate apparently grew too spirited for the old courthouse's county board chamber because suddenly a loud cracking noise was heard and a 1.5-inch-deep crack appeared in the ceiling. The meeting ended, the courthouse was evacuated and the ceiling was shored up with wooden posts. The ceiling crack quickly settled the courthouse debate and new courthouse was completed in 1955. An addition was built on the site of the old courthouse in 1997. (Includes Rock County. County seat: Janesville. Current courthouse: Year built: 1955, 1997. Historic status: Not eligible due to insufficient age)(photo Rock County's courthouse park in Janesville, circa 1910. Photo courtesy of State Historical Society of Wisconsin.)
Date WISCONSIN'S HISTORIC COURTHOUSES photos by L. Roger Turner, text by Marv Balousek, ©1998, 725.15 BALOU, p. 106

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