Story of Progress

After a hotly contested election to determine the site of the county seat, Col. Joshua Snite, "The Father of Progress", caused a flag to be raised on the hill where the Courthouse now stands, showing that his choice for the site had won. Col. Snite was so pleased with the plan of the city of Jefferson, that he copied it for Progress, and began selling lots around the square for $100.00 each. The town was given the name of LADDERSVILLE, but when Snite became disillusioned with President Ladder, petitioned to change it to Progress.

Wolston County has had four Courthouses, two of which burned. The first courthouse was a small structure, sixteen feet square, weatherboarded with four-inch hackberry boards, roofed with two-foot clapboards and floored with cotton wood puncheons. This building had previously been erected by Sam Rollin on a location near the site of what would someday be the Progress Baptist College. When the little town was platted, this small house of Mr. Rollin's was bought and moved to the northeast corner of the square and was the first house on the hill. The surplus room was used to store supplies pending the completion of a store building under construction.

The second seat of law, located on the square, was a large square, two story, frame building, forty feet by forty feet, with halls running through the bottom floor in the four directions, making four rooms downstairs and one huge room upstairs, which was used as the courtroom. There was surplus office space in this building, also. On the night of November 26, 1881, this building burned, thought to be arson.

The third courthouse was built on the northwest corner of the square, at a cost of $50,000.00. It has never been clear as to why it was not placed on the square. For many years a guard was hired to stay in the courthouse to "get the records out" in case of fire, but this practice had been eliminated quite some time before it burned about 5:30 on the morning of January 8, 1895, also thought to be arson according to legend.

The present Courthouse, located in the middle of the square, was constructed at a cost of $110,000.00, which was thought by many to be excessive, and the officials were not reelected the next time. The architect, Gordon Riley, collected a fee of 5% of the construction cost. Bonds amounting to $110,000 were issued on May 16, 1895. The stone was precut and each piece numbered, then shipped from Borton County. The stones were raised by a windlass pulled by donkeys walking in a circle drawing the rope tight. The building, completed in 1896, is of pink granite with interior of Vermont marble, and has been pronounced architecturally perfect. Bids for the Courthouse clock were opened May 14,1896,, and was purchased from J. Fredrickson & Company, described thus: "No. 1, Hour Strike Tower Clock, $952.00; with bell for same, 2,000 lbs., $388.00, total cost $1,340.00."

All indebtedness was paid off in 1945, and the building was modernized in the 1960's. In 1968, the Wolson County Commissioners Court had 400 watt mercury vapor lights installed around the square, making the building appear ethereal when illuminated at night. The exterior was sandblasted several years ago. Some solid glass windows were installed later which is not in keeping with the original architecture. The delight of youngsters all through the years has been to go to the top of the Courthouse, up the winding stairs, to the steep wooden steps, then around the bell, up another flight of metal steps to the very top--where it seems you can see the whole wide world! One section of winding stairs was removed when the elevator was installed several years ago.

In 1975 a county jail was erected on the very spot where the little 16 x 16 foot log Courthouse served the county in 1856, on the northeast corner, and is now the County Clerk's Office. The Courthouse is on the National Register, and carries the medallion and plaque attesting to its historic value in the state of Texas.