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Lewis County - Courthouse History


Lewis County's First Courthouse

The first Lewis County Courthouse, now the Martinsburg Town Hall, is located on the east side of Main Street (NY Route 26) in Martinsburg.

In use by 1812 as the first Lewis County Courthouse, the Martinsburg Town Hall is the earliest public building in Lewis County.

Martinsburg Town Hall

The first documented County Court was held January 7, 1812. The first execution to take place in Lewis County took place in this building in 1839, a death by hanging for murder.

Competition for the County seat came from the citizens of nearby Lowville, founded in 1800. Lowville citizens erected a wooden building with the intention of offering it as a courthouse, but the offer was not accepted. By 1847 the question of the location of the County seat and its relocation to Lowville was again discussed. The rapid growth of Lowville to the north of Martinsburg, its greater population base and increased commerce contributed to making a case to move there. However, the erection of a new clerk's office by the citizens of Martinsburg temporarily dampened the movement to relocate.

By the 1850's a movement to move the County seat was again underway by the citizens of Lowville. They raised funds and began to erect a building which would serve as a town hall and later become the new County Courthouse.

In 1859, Martinsburg suffered a setback from a fire that destroyed many buildings. In an attempt to keep the County seat in Martinsburg, the citizens of Martinsburg rebuilt a block of stores and a hotel destroyed by the fire. However, it was a fruitless endeavor. The political clout of the Lowville community had increased. In 1863, without submitting the question to the people, supervisors of the County passed resolutions to the State Legislature relocating the County seat to Lowville, ending the Martinsburg building's reign as Lewis County's Courthouse.

Despite the fact that the County seat had been removed from Martinsburg, the community continues to acknowledge the building's significance and potential. In the latter part of the year 2000, and early in 2001, the first Lewis County Courthouse, now known as the Martinsburg Town Hall, was entered on both the New York State and National Registers commemorating the structure's significance in the history of Lewis County, New York.