Mahoning County was created in 1846 by combining townships from southern Trumbull and northern Columbiana counties. Canfield engaged in competition with several surrounding communities for the new county seat, and its success was attributed to its central location along with the state and local political influence of Judge Eben Newton and Elisha Whittlesey, Esquire, Comptroller of the United States Treasury from 1849-1857. To become the county seat, the State of Ohio required "a suitable lot and $5,000 toward public buildings." Judge Newton donated the land and spearheaded the subscription of the state required bond. Once attained, construction progressed rapidly on the Classical Revival style courthouse, completed in June 1848. The Italianate style West wing was added in 1862, but its government status was challenged when in the early 1870s, Youngstown, by now a city, resumed its earlier challenge for the county seat.
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To meet the challenge, Canfield hired future president of the United States James A. Garfield to defend it in the United States Supreme Court. The Court's 1876 decision favored Youngstown thus ending Canfield's era as the seat of Mahoning Valley government. With government records removed to Youngstown, the property reverted to Judge Newton, who donated it for educational purposes. For more than four decades, the old courthouse housed both private and public schools until a 1923 public auction by the Canfield Village Board of Education dispensed with the building. Now under private ownership, the former courthouse served many commercial enterprises, including the temporary return of a County District Court. An exterior restoration in the 1960s and the reconstruction of the missing bell tower returned the aging beauty to its present status as one of Ohio's finest examples of public architecture, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.