A formal system of adjudication and punishment has existed in this county since the first court was seated in Germanna in ~1722. Through the years, the County seat and court building moved four times until its final location here at the intersection of Courthouse Road and Brook Road in 1839.
The land on which the complex sits was owned by Lewis and Ann Rawlings and offered to the County for the purpose of erecting public buildings. Mr. M.T. Crawford was the contractor and, when complete, the County had a new court house, an office for the clerk, and a jail (above right).
The Court House withstood several key Civil War battles, but was badly damaged. It was used during and after the war as a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. In the aftermath of the war, it was decided that the structural damage to the Court House was too severe to be renovated.
Escalating costs for red bricks forced the architect and builders to seek materials elsewhere. A quarry in Alexandria, Virginia provided the less expensive ivory-colored bricks for the building. Complete in 1901, it was the sixth court house used on four different sites.
In 1877, Massachusetts photographer W.H. Tipton was on assignment to document the progress of communities impacted by the Civil War. On a tour of Civil War battlefields, he took the only known photograph of the Spotsylvania County jail in use. Two young African American sisters, Mary D. WaIler and Jennie E. Boggs, had been awaiting trial for almost one year on charges of felonious assault, grand larceny and housebreaking when they posed for him on May 6, 1877. Ten months later, the attorney for the Commonwealth declined further prosecution and the ladies were set free.
(upper left) Red brick Spotsylvania Court House after the Civil War, c. 1866 courtesy Library of Congress
(bottom center) Courtesy Spotsylvania County brochure, undated.
(upper right) Spotsylvania County Jail (undated) courtesy Library of Congress
(lower right) Spotsylvania residents Mary D. WaIler (l) and Jennie E. Boggs (r) on May 6, 1877, in Spotsylvania County Jail awaiting trial. Courtesy Virginia Historical Society