JWC Courthouse celebrates 110th birthday

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

The Jim Wells County (JWC) Courthouse turned 110 on Thursday, March 11.

Back on March 11, 1911, Texas Governor Oscar B. Colquitt signed legislation creating Jim Wells County. The area was taken from territory formerly part of Nueces County. 

Early view of the Jim Wells County Courthouse
Photo circa 1930s or 40s, courtesy texasoldphotos.com

The new county was named after prominent Brownsville attorney and business leader James B. Wells Jr. The first county elections were held two months later, and in January 1912 the citizens of the new county approved a bond election to finance the construction of a courthouse and jail. The county commissioners hired San Antonio architect Atlee B. Ayers to design the courthouse. 

During the summer of July 25 1912 the laying of the cornerstone of the courthouse began, history notes the day drew a large crowd of more than 2,000 people. Celebrations and activities included performances by the Alice Concert Band and the Alice Symphony Club, as well as a barbecue, rodeo events, and a baseball game.

A special effects photo shared by Jim Wells County Attorney Micheal Guerra during the JWC courthouse 100-year birthday celebration. ( A ten-year Facebook memory.) 

"Courthouse employees (Richie) dressed in 1911 era clothing. "I happened to be walking out of court, having just done my part to spring a miscreant back into the free world. Note County Judge Saenz aka Sir Topham Hatt in the background," said Guerra in the Facebook post.

Fast forward to the oil industry era when the discovery of oil in JWC in 1938 led to increased economic development and a population boom. The courthouse was remodeled in 1948-1949, and annexes were built nearby at a later time.  

As time has passed, its original appearance has been altered, although the JWC Courthouse stands as a significant structure in the county's history.

The Texas Landmark continues to serve as the center of county government.

The Jim Wells County Courthouse turns 110, on Thursday, March 11.