County Seat: Gatesville * County Population: 72,667
The Coryell County Courthouse was designed by W.C. Dodson in a Beaux-Arts style with Romanesque details. The county capitol, fashioned of limestone and sandstone, was erected in 1897. The stones used to build the courthouse were quarried south of the Leon River and then shaped and numbered by Scottish stonecutters.
The county name honors James Coryell, a member of the Bowie Expedition in 1831, while the county seat of Gatesville refers to Fort Gates, located just outside of the present Fort Hood.
Initial county business was conducted in a wooden building on the southeast corner of the square, which the county rented for $100 a year before purchasing the makeshift courthouse in 1868 for $230.50.
The second county capitol was made of limestone and built for $12,130 in 1872. The courthouse was torn down in 1897 and replaced with the current temple of justice.
A remodeling project completed in 1988 included a new bronze eagle perched on the tip of the structure. According to Bill Morgan, author of “Old Friends: Great Texas Courthouses,” cowboys would get drunk and shoot at the original eagle, which eventually disappeared.
Morgan also wrote of the Coryell County Courthouse mystery: Why don’t blindfolds cover the faces of the “statues of Justice” on the roof? As Morgan reported:
In the 1960s, the late 2nd District Court Judge Truman Roberts, The Messenger’s John Frank Post, and Sterling Edwards embarked on a search for the answer. County officials in charge of the courthouse construction flew full into the face of custom and tradition by explicitly ordering the “Justice” statues be fashioned sans blindfold, Mr. Post revealed. Their premise: Justice is never sightless, but rather all-seeing, all-knowing. Another Gatesville native surmised: My guess is that a mask cost five or ten dollars more, so the commissioners bought the cheapest statue and called it “Justice.”
Along with its magnificent courthouse, the county seat of Gatesville is known for housing the last fully operational, full-time drive-in theater in Texas, opened in 1950. Located on Highway 36, the Last Drive-In Picture Show, originally called the Town & Country Drive-In, opens its doors seven days a week year-round.
The county offers a variety of special events including the Rattlesnake Roundup in Oglesby in February, the Shiveree and Rodeo in Gatesville in June, and the Ogletree Fall Festival in Copperas Cove in October, to name a few.
In addition, the county is home to several historical markers including the 1904 Leon River Bridge, which was restored and rededicated in 1994.
(Texas Almanac 2008-2009)