top of page

Old Warren County Courthouse

A Brief History: The town of Lake George was not settled until after the American Revolution. James Caldwell realized that this area could serve as a major trade route into Canada for industrialization to occur in this area. Once Caldwell realized that this area had a lot of value to it, he went ahead and purchased many acres of land and originally called the town Caldwell. In 1817 Caldwell donated a piece of land for the courthouse to be built on. Construction began and the courthouse was completed by the end of 1817. On October 26, 1843 a fire broke out in the courthouse and destroyed the entire building. The courthouse was rebuilt and completed in the fall of 1845, costing $3,975.00. Over the next 45 years there was changes to the courthouse such as in 1845 a jail was established in the basement of the courthouse. In 1878 the front tower was built, which was partially used as the judges chambers. In 1885 the expansion of the tower was built and was used for the County Clerk’s Office. In the 1890’s a new two-story jail was built. It is said that in 1858 during the Presidential debates, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated in the courthouse.

In 1845 the original jail was located in the basement of the courthouse, and could hold about 16 inmates. The conditions were called a joke. The prisoners could communicate with the outside world be cause there were open vents that led right out side of the jail. The prisoners were able to work in town to pay off debts owed, and while they were in jail, there were no real duties to be performed, so the prisoners would play cards, and hang out and smoke all day long. In 1890 the new two story jail was built behind the courthouse were conditions became more stricter on the prisoners.

The most famous trial that occurred in this courthouse was the Willett Trial in 1883. On October 10, 1883 George H. Willett was found guilty of murder by using a pistol to kill John Pair in the local barbershop. He was sentenced to be hung on December 2, 1883. While in jail awaiting his sentence he was able to raise enough money to have a 2nd trial with better legal aid. The legal aid was a huge help and Willett was found not guilty from the 2nd trial. After the trial he was let free and was never seen again.

In 1963 a new Courthouse was built several miles out of the main town and left the Old Warren Courthouse abandoned. In 1973 the Courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was turned into a museum of what you see it today.

Haunted History: Through the years there have been many unexplainable things that have occurred in the courthouse. There has been whistling heard from the courthouse when no one is there. Employees have claimed that radios will turn on and off on their own. There are chairs in the library that will suddenly have water on them. Visitors have also claimed to have seen an apparition of a prisoner in the jail cell.

bottom of page