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Rural Missouri Magazine

Ralls County Courthouse Sesquicentennial
New London, Mo.

by Jim McCarty

Since 1858, the old courthouse that is the most prominent feature of New London has served the people of Ralls County. It anchors the downtown of this city of 1,001 residents with stately, well-manicured grounds that include a World War I cannon.

This year, Ralls County residents invite others to celebrate the historic structure’s sesquicentennial with many activities centered around the courthouse.

The county located in northeast Missouri, south of Hannibal, was first settled by fur traders drawn by the plentiful salt springs. Later settlers came to plant in the rich soil, with agriculture remaining the chief industry today.

The county organized in 1820 and built its first courthouse from logs in 1822. The building shown on our cover got its start in 1857 when plans were drawn for a temple front structure. The Ralls County courthouse is one of only two Greek Revival courthouses still in use in Missouri (The other is in Lafayette County).

The two-story addition on the rear of the building was added in 1938 using stone from a demolished bridge over the Salt River. The courthouse was completely renovated in 2005, with the courtroom, shown at left, retaining its white pew-style seating and wood floors.

On July 22-27, downtown New London will host the courthouse’s 150th anniversary with a variety of events. One featured attraction will be the return of Ralls County native Helen Cornelius, a country music legend. Reenactments of famous Ralls County trials will be held, along with political stump speeches, a spelling bee, strolling musicians, a tractor show and queen, baby and beard contests.

For more information, call Ron Leake at 573-248-6147 or e-mail rleake@aol.com.

 

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