Randolph County Courthouse
Starting in 1779 by splitting from Guilford County, Randolph County became it's own with a little log cabin serving as the first courthouse for citizens. Since that time, Randolph County has had a total of eight courthouses, and five of which have been in the town of Asheboro, which was established primarily for the location of the courthouse. The progression of courthouses has evolved over time to the current courthouse being built in 1998 and finished in 2002. One of the courthouses, built in 1909, still stands and is operated today, being recognized as a Randolph County Local Historic Landmark.
Backstory and Context
Randolph County was established in 1779 during the Revolutionary War when it annexed itself from its northern neighbor Guilford County. Many of the inhabitants of the previously southern half of Guilford County argued to the North Carolina General Assembly that the Guilford County courthouse was too far away to be engaged with. It was named “Randolph” County after Peyton Randolph, who had served on the Continental Congress as President. During that time, court was held at the home of Abraham Reese, who was commissioned by the North Carolina legislature till a court was built.
The first courthouse was built at that time on Stephen Rigdon’s property as a little log cabin. It was situated at the crossroads of Salisbury-Hillsborough road and Cross Creek-Salem road. This was an ideal location as it was located centrally to where the majority of traffic would be coming to the new county. Not long after, however, a two-story courthouse replaced this little log house, where Tom Dougan donated around a hundred acres to the county. The county seat was moved to this location, and the name of the town was Johnstonville, in honor of Samuel Johnston, then governor of North Carolina. Located just south of US Highway 311, Johnstonville is no longer, after population declined until fading away. The first county historian, however, J.A. Blair, had much praise to be said about it at the time. “It was a quaint two-story, hip-roofed house… The nails used in its construction were made in a smith-shop near the place, and the plank were sawed by hand.”
As people began to move away from Johnstonville and into other surrounding areas, they began to once again complain of the distance between towns and the county courthouse. It was decided that the new courthouse and county seat should be placed as close to the geographical center as possible, which is what today is known as Asheboro. This land was owned by Jesse Henley, who sold two acres to the county. A small building was built on the land at the intersection of now Main and Salisbury Street on June 12, 1793. On Christmas Day three years later in 1796, the General Assembly enabled the creation of a town at the location of the courthouse, making it the county seat. This seat was named for Samuel Ashe, governor of North Carolina. Asheboro remained primarily a business town, being slow paced until court was in session, when the town transformed into a booming hub of activity for people. By the mid to late 19th century, the railroads as well as surrounding goldmines produced much of the wealth for the town of Asheboro. Textile mills also played a crucial role in the community and economy.
In 1805, a large two-story building was erected for the courthouse. This was the first courthouse for Asheboro and the fourth for the county. It was replaced in 1830 by a smaller two-story brick building, but this fifth courthouse was labeled defective in 1838. In February of 1839, construction for the sixth courthouse began, but there is no record of the completion date, however it is known that in March of 1876 there was a new entrance portico added to the south, and an extension for the courtroom on the north. Due to space and location, however, the Board of Commissions decided on March of 1908 to build the county’s seventh courthouse. This building was modeled after the 1899 Iredell County courthouse, and construction began on July 8, 1908 and finished in 1909. Total cost was around $34,000, however this was a reduction of the original price, as residents of the county helped, as well as the Board stepping in to cut costs. Still, this was a large sum in that time, and the construction of Asheboro’s fourth courthouse was controversial because of this cost, as well as political factors surrounding the construction.
The 1909 courthouse had many additions added to it throughout the 20th century, but it was decided in 1998 that the eight and most current courthouse of Randolph County would begin construction once again, this time being located on the corners of Cox, Worth, and Salisbury Streets. The courthouse was finished on July 1, 2002. Remnants of the additions and annexes of the 1909 courthouse was removed, and the actual 1909 courthouse was renovated and put to use for various government departments. On December 4, 2008, the 1909 Courthouse was designated as a Local Historic Landmark.
- Ivey, Cheryl. History of Randolph County Courthouses, NCPedia. May 10th 2011. Accessed September 12th 2019. https://www.ncpedia.org/randolph-county-courthouse-history.
- Whatley, L. McKay. The Eight Randolph County Courthouses, Notes on the History of Randolph County, NC. July 21st 2007. Accessed September 12th 2019. https://randolphhistory.wordpress.com/tag/johnstonville/.
- Mills, L. Barron. History, City of Asheboro, NC. Accessed September 12th 2019. https://www.ci.asheboro.nc.us/About/history.html.
- Martin, Jonathon. Randolph County (1779), North Carolina History Project. Accessed September 12th 2019. https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/randolph-county-1779/.
- Whatley, L. McKay. Is Randolph County's Confederate Monument a Monument to White Supremacy?, Notes on the History of Randolph County, NC. August 18th 2017. Accessed September 12th 2019. https://randolphhistory.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/is-randolph-countys-Confederate-monument-a-monument-to-white-supremacy/.