« HOME  |  About the GCCS  |  About the Courthouse  

A bust of Charles Eitzen in the Hermann City Park bears a fitting inscription: "A tribute to the memory of Charles D. Eitzen whose life was a record of generous deeds and public usefulness."

One of Hermann's first settlers, Charles D. Eitzen arrived penniless in 1838 and died the wealthiest man in the county. At age 19, he went to work as a clerk in Wiedersprecher's General Store; two years later he owned the store.

The visionary Eitzen amassed a huge fortune as a merchant and shipping agent.

"Many of Hermann's first residents saw the river as a formidable barrier," wrote historian Dorothy Heckmann Shrader. "Charles Eitzen looked at the same river and saw rare opportunity."

Eitzen, who held a virtual monopoly on the Hermann wharf, bought and sold pine lumber coming out of the Gasconade River and its tributaries. At times, as much as 200,000 board feet of lumber were piled up along Wharf Street. In addition, he was the shipping agent for the Maramec Iron Works near St. James. Eitzen literally made money coming and going. The big ox-drawn wagons returned to the iron works filled with goods from his store.

Eitzen was generous with his fortune, leaving to his community a fine city park and to his county a magnificent courthouse.

 

Dedicated on July 18, 1898, the Gasconade County Courthouse is thought to be one of the few courthouses in the United States built entirely with private funds.

Charles D. Eitzen, a self-made millionaire, willed the sum of $50,000 to Gasconade County for construction and furnishing of a new courthouse.

The present structure is the second building on the same site to serve as the courthouse. The first was a square, two-story brick building with a hip roof that cost $3,000. Paid for by the City of Hermann, it replaced a 20 by 24-foot log hut at Mt. Sterling. The building was was razed in 1896 to make way for the present courthouse.

Original plans for the new courthouse building, designed by architects J.B. Legg of St. Louis and A. W. Elsner of Jefferson City, called for light-gray or medium-buff brick with terra cotta trim. The main roof was to be dark Pennsyvania slate, and the tin dome roofs were to be painted a copper color. The rotunda and corridors were to be tiled in Italian marble and mosaic.

After bids were opened, the plan was modified to eliminate some of the more costly specifications. Most notably, the new plan called for red brick with stone trim. More than 400,000 bricks went into the new courthouse. Bricklayers brushed bricks with beer (cheaper than vinegar in those days) to make them shine and even out the color.

On February 3rd, 1905, the building was heavily damaged by fire, which destroyed the dome, roof, and a large portion of the second floor. Repairs were completed in December 1905.

The courthouse today remains little changed from its original design. Murals by area artists depicting the history of Gasconade County were added as a part of a centennial celebration in 1998.

About Gasconade County

Named for the Gasconade River, Gasconade County was organized November 25, 1820. The word Gasconade probably came from the French word gascon, meaning boaster or braggart. One theory is that people who lived along the river may have been inclined to brag about their exploits when they returned to St. Louis.

Daniel Morgan Boone, son of the famous pioneer, was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Territorial Legislature in December, 1820, to locate the "most suitable place for the erection of a courthouse and jail in the County of Gasconade." Boone also served as one of the first justices of the Gasconade County Court.

The first county seat was in Gasconade City, near the mouth of the Gasconade River. Because of frequent flooding the county seat was moved to Bartonville, also on the Gasconade River, then in 1830 to Mt. Sterling. Hermann became the county seat after a countywide vote in 1842.