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A Courthouse for the New County The 1860 Courthouse at Manatee Village

Civic buildings often have many different uses over time. The 1860 Courthouse is no exception. It has served Manatee County in many different ways. Shortly after being built, it became a focal point of controversy between Manatee County residents. This controversy was only concluded after the Civil War several years later.

In 1858, land was offered to the county for a courthouse square. A committee formed to look over plans for a courthouse and jail. The committee consisted of Reverend Ezekiel Glazier, N. P. Hunter, and J. G. Williams. On December 17, 1858, the committee agreed to pay Glazier $5 for plans and $700 for the construction of both buildings. The land was about two and a half blocks north of Manatee Village Historical Park, where the Courthouse is now. It was finished in April of 1860 but the jail was never built.

Left: 1857 map of Florida showing Manatee County. The county contained parts of present day Hardee, DeSoto, and Sarasota Counties. Map Courtesy of: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College.

Courthouse Controversy!

Left: Rev. Ezekiel Glazier. Green derided him being from “Yankeedom.” Image: Manatee Village Historical Park Collection. Right: James “Cracker Jim” Green. In 1864, Green became leader of a Union guerilla unit. Image courtesy of Florida Memory.

Late in 1860, Ezekiel Glazier and James D. Green began a heated back-and-forth over the location of the county seat. It was featured in the newspaper. Glazier, who had just completed the Courthouse’s construction, wanted it to remain in the Village of Manatee. Green, who lived east, wanted it in Pine Level (current-day DeSoto County). There were calls of corruption and personal attacks on both sides.

“...In my humble opinion, if he had condensed them still more and said nothing it would have been as well for him.” - Glazier on Green’s campaign promises.
“He is also one of the City Preachers and a wide mouthed politician…” -Green, an elected official, describing Glazier.

The Civil War put their feud on hold. Glazier served in Florida’s Secession Convention voting in favor of leaving the Union. Green joined Union forces in 1864. After the war, Green used his influence with the Reconstruction Government and finally got his wish to relocate the county seat to Pine Level. Due to this, Glazier’s Courthouse was sold at auction. In 1887, Pine Level became part of DeSoto County. Manatee’s county seat moved back to the Village of Manatee.

The Courthouse as a private home. Image: Manatee Village Historical Park Collection.

After it was auctioned, the Courthouse became the property of the local Methodist congregation. They used it as a church from 1866 until 1888, adding a steeple and a bell. After the new church was built, the Courthouse remained church property and was remodeled for use as a parsonage.

Exterior restoration work. Image: Manatee Village Historical Park Collection.

In 1975, the Courthouse was moved and became one of the first buildings of Manatee Village Historical Park. Despite its alterations, Glazier’s original framing was found intact and the placement for walls, windows, and doors were easily located. With a community effort the Courthouse was restored.

Installing the new floor. Image: Manatee Village Historical Park Collection.

George Fincken, a local carpenter, built furniture based on those found in a courthouse of a similar age located out west. The Courthouse was rededicated on November 16, 1977 with Chief Justice Richard W. Ervin of the Florida Supreme Court making the key note address.

The 1860 Courthouse is both a witness to and valuable piece of local history. It is just one of the buildings you can visit at Manatee Village Historical Park.