Courthouse history: County: Knox
Organized: Feb. 14, 1845
Named after: Gen. Henry Knox of the American Revolution
County seat: Edina
During the 19th century Knox County had only one courthouse. Edina became the county seat in May 1845, and for the first two years the county rented facilities. On Nov. 9, 1847, the county appropriated $1,600, which was borrowed from the internal improvement fund, for a 40-by-30-foot, two-story building to be built in the center of the square.
Apparently, the court drew the first plan, which was then elaborated by Martin Baker, Jr., who had been appointed commissioner in 1846. In May 1848 a $1,650 contract was given to James W. Baker. The building had been unoccupied for some time and in deplorable condition when fire destroyed it on Christmas Eve 1885; although arson was suspected, a contemporary report claimed that the county was not too concerned about apprehending the offenders.
Knox County continued without a courthouse, renting facilities for county business until 1934 when the county collector proposed the idea for building a new one; the court encouraged him to investigate grant possibilities. For several months a small informal committee worked surreptitiously making preparations (the county collector was accustomed to this; a few months later he was indicted after almost $30,000 was missing from county funds). The committee contacted an architect for preliminary sketches, which they submitted with a grant request to the Public Works Administration before making their actions publicly known in Knox County. The grant was approved, providing that the county pass a bond issue, which they did in August 1934. The grant was for $80,000; 70 percent of it was for a government loan. The court then formally approved architect William B. Ittner's design, which had accompanied the initial request for a two-story, brick building with stone trim. The courtroom and jail were on the second floor.
The building contract was let to J. E. Williams, St. Louis, for $61,882 in November 1934, and ground breaking took place Dec. 18, 1934; cornerstone ceremonies were conducted April 6, 1935; the building was dedicated Sept. 13, 1935. Total costs came to about $80,000. Ittner was a respected St. Louis architect known principally for his school buildings. This is his only courthouse work in Missouri.
Edina, the seat of Knox County, was laid out here in the glacial plains of northeast Missouri, 1839, by W.J. Smallwood. Scotsman S.W.B. Carnegy, who surveyed the new town, named it the poetic form of Edinburgh. The county, formed 1843 and organized 1845, is named for Revolutionary War General Henry Knox. An area rich in soil and water resources, Knox County lies in territory ceded by the Iowa, Sac, and Fox Indians in 1824. Some 70 Indian mounds have been found in the county.
The county was first settled near Newark, to the south, by James Fresh in 1833. Early pioneers coming mainly from Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and Kentucky were followed by a large Irish immigration and also a number of Germans in the late 1830's. One of the first Catholic parishes in northeast Missouri was St. Joseph's, formed here in 1837. Today's St. Joseph Church was built, 1873-1875.[construction actually began in 1872.]
Early schools in Edina were St. Joseph's Academy [which became a grade school then closed its doors in 1996.] founded, 1865; Lyon Academy, 1866; Edina Seminary (Knox Collegiate Institute), 1878; St. Joseph's College for Boys, 1883; and at Novelty, to the south, was Oaklawn College, founded in 1876.
Centered in rolling prairie land of Knox County, a grain and livestock farming area, Edina lies north of the South Fork of the Fabius (name probably derived from early trapper). Also in the county are North and Middle Fabius and the Salt and North Rivers.
During the Civil War, Edina was occupied July 30, 1861, by Colonel M.E. Green and the pro-Southern State Guards. At Newark, Union troops led by Capt. W.W. Lair surrendered to Confederates under Colonel Joseph C. Porter, August 1, 1862, after a sharp skirmish. In the railroad boom after the war, Knox County subscribed $184,000 in bonds by 1870 to the unsuccessful Mo. and Miss. Railroad. By 1899 the debt was paid. The Quincy, Mo., and Pac. R.R. (C.B.& Q.) reached Edina, 1872.
Edina was the birthplace of noted jurist George Turner (1850-1932). Union General T.T. Taylor edited an Edina newspaper, 1868-73, and Confederate Capt. Griffin Frost, author of "Camp and Prison Journal," edited another paper here, 1874-1905. Henry E. Sever, book publisher, born near Hurdland to the south, bequeathed $100,000 to Knox County for a Wildlife Sanctuary, 1941.