Morrow County, OHIO

Court History

       In 1848, Morrow County was formed from the lands of Richland, Marion, Delaware, and Knox Counties. The first day of court for the newly formed county was held on May 31, 1848, in the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas, by the Honorable Ozias Bowen. With a population of 20,280 in 1850, Judge Bowen had three Associate Judges to assist him in hearing the cases before the Court.

During the last century the following Judges have served Morrow County:

Honorable C.H. Woods 1915-1927
Honorable W.P. Vaughn 1927-1933
Honorable P.H. Wieland 1933-1942
Honorable Benj Olds 1943-1945
Honorable Leland Rutherford 1945-1961
Honorable Harry Mettler 1961-1963
Honorable Gale Weller 1965-1986
Honorable Dean Curl 1987-1998
Honorable Howard Hall 1999- 2016
Honorable Robert C. Hickson, Jr. 2007-Present
Honorable Tom Elkin             2017 -Present                                          

       The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas became an all division Court in 1958 when, by a vote of the electorate, the Probate Court was combined with the Common Pleas Court. Since 1958, there have been many changes in Ohio's criminal and civil laws. Along with an increasing number of cases, the demands on the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas have risen due primarily to the increase in caseload which has gone in proportion to the increase in population, as well as, the increase in traffic through the county due to the construction of Interstate 71. Until 2006, the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas only had one Judge. Morrow County grew substantially in population and a second Judge was needed to serve the needs of the citizens of Morrow County. A second judgeship was added. Judge Robert Hickson was elected in 2006, as the second judge, and took office in January 2007. Judge Howard Hall served from 1999 until his retirement in 2016. Judge Tom Elkin was elected in 2016 and took office in January 2017.    


     The South courtroom, currently used by Judge Elkin, occupies a portion of the original Morrow County Courthouse. Completed in July of 1854, the brick and stone structure served to bring together under one roof the offices of a county government that was established six years previous, on March 1, 1848. As Morrow County has grown over the years, so has the Courthouse. Fifty years after the original rectangular building was erected, more office space was added at the north end. This is the part that we see today as the offices of the Auditor, Clerk of Courts, Probate and Juvenile Court, and the new Jury Room. The front of the Courthouse along High Street was changed around 1900 with the addition of the clock tower. Other significant additions were the North Courtroom and Annex, 1939; the elevator and office space, 1976, and the east entrance, 2009. The Morrow County Courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 1974.

       Morrow County, Ohio was created with the passage of an Act of the Ohio General Assembly on February 24, 1848. Four townships from each of four counties -- Delaware, Marion, Richland, and Knox – were joined together in a new affiliation. The name “Morrow” was chosen as a tribute to a former Governor of Ohio, Jeremiah Morrow, who served in that office from 1822 to 1826, and he retained his popularity as an elder statesman after his term had finished.

     Today there are 3,077 counties, parishes and boroughs in the United States, and there is only one other “Morrow County” -- and that is in the state of Oregon. It was organized on February 15, 1884.

     Our county newspapers are a valuable resource for information about the Courthouse. The November 18, 1920 issue of the Morrow County Sentinel recalled the saga of our county’s formation, and listed the other names that were considered in 1848 for aspiring counties: CHESTER,   BENNINGTON,   GILEAD,   -- these are all names of townships in Morrow County ------CENTER, TAYLOR, NATIONAL, JOHNSTON, ONTARIO, and WALHONDING. The 16 townships that became Morrow County in 1848 were already developed communities, functioning under township and county government rule for about 40 years. These were areas with farms, towns, cross-roads villages, churches, and one-room schools. There were also long-established cemeteries containing the remains of veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

   The South courtroom and adjoining office space that was remodeled in 2011-2012 is a portion of the original Morrow County Courthouse that was completed in July of 1854,   six years after the county was founded. It served to bring under one roof the several county offices that were scattered around the village of Mount Gilead.

   The 1880 Morrow County History book provides a description of the Courthouse

“The courthouse is a plain brick, rectangular building standing upon a natural plateau, about four feet above the grade of the street. The end fronts on main street, and on either side of the hall, which runs lengthwise of the building, are the offices of Sheriff, Auditor, Treasurer, Prosecuting Attorney, Clerk and Recorder. The upper story of the court house is reached by a double flight of stairs in the front end of the building. Here, a good-sized court room divided in nearly equal proportions for the accommodation of the bar and public, takes up the principal part of the building. Over the stairways on either side are comfortable jury rooms.”  

       A correction to that description should be noted here. The History book called the front of the courthouse to be located on “main street”, with a lower-case “m”. Today we know that street by the name as East High Street, but in the 1840’s and ‘50’s, it was called COURT STREET. When you gauge the space between the south wall behind me and the north wall in front, you are probably seeing the interior dimensions of that first courtroom. This courthouse was not the first building for Morrow County government. Believe it or not, about four years before the courthouse was built, the first county jail was completed – and that was in late 1850. The first jail was a two-story brick building, and it stood at the north end of this block, near the intersection of North Walnut and East North Streets, and was described in the 1880 History book as “ … looking very much like a dormitory attachment…” to a small college.   The history book further says that “……the barred windows, however, give it an ominous look on a near inspection…” The same builders who constructed the jail, William Miller and David Auld, were the builders for the courthouse.