San Saba County (San Saba)
Architect: Walter Chamberlain
Year Built: 1911
Contractor: Falls County Construction Company
San Saba County was created in 1856 as one of several new counties carved from the giant Bexar Land District. Its earliest historic-era inhabitants were nomadic Native Americans, specifically Tonkawas, Apaches, Lipan Apaches, and Comanches. Although a portion of the county was included in one of Stephen F. Austin’s colonization grants, permanent settlement did not occur until about 1854, when the Harkey and Mastler families settled along several of the county’s creeks. The population grew sufficiently to establish the county in February 1856. The county’s configuration was set at that time and has not changed. It was named for the San Saba River that runs through the county.
The first commissioners’ courts met in various homes in the county until a courthouse could be constructed. Convening on October 10, 1856, the court authorized the construction of a courthouse to be completed by April.
Although the courthouse was begun in October 1856, it was not until August 17, 1857, that the court first sat in the new building. At that meeting the court granted the local Masonic lodge use of the second floor and set aside city blocks for Methodist and Baptist churches.
About 1877 the county’s first (1857) courthouse was destroyed by a windstorm, and a stone courthouse was built. The new building (the second courthouse) was accepted by the court about February 1878.
When the railroad announced it would extend a line to San Saba, population and wealth grew, and it was decided in 1910 that a new courthouse would be built.
Several architects and builders responded to the county’s solicitation to design the new courthouse, and on June 29, 1910 the commissioners looked in detail at the two finalists: the firms of Churchill & White and Walter Chamberlain. With the help of local architect and builder, Walter R. Smith, the court selected Chamberlain and Company of Birmingham, Alabama, and Fort Wort
January 6,1911 saw the cornerstone laid on the northeast comer of the building “under the directions of San Saba Lodge No. 612, A. F. and A. M.” The Masons placed various fraternal symbols in an iron box which went inside the stone, and the commissioners and county officers also offered memorabilia, including “pecans, coins, key rings and family records” (San Saba Star January 13, 1911). On August 1, 1911, the commissioners’ court convened in its new home for the first time.