On April 4, 1846, an act was passed by the Legislature of the State of Texas to locate the county seat of the newly created Lavaca County. Arthur Sherrill, who owned a league of land in the newly created county, donated 350 acres of land to Lavaca County for the location of the county seat. The location was named Petersburg and it remained the county seat of Lavaca County until June 21, 1852.
In the beginning ….there was Petersburg.
1846 - 1854
On April 4, 1846, an act was passed by the Legislature of the State of Texas to locate the county seat of the newly created Lavaca County.
Samuel Berry, James Brown, Beverly Greenwood, John Clark and Gabriel Zumwalt were appointed commissioners to locate the county seat. The act directed the commissioners to select a site located not more than 5 miles from the center of the said county and that the commissioners were authorized to receive any lands that may be donated to said county or purchase such lands as they may deem proper for the location of said county seat, not to exceed 640 acres.
Besides acquiring funds for the county treasury, the next most difficult problem was providing housing facilities for the county offices and court. Upon its organization in 1846, the home of Franklin Clark was selected for the meeting of court and the office of the County Clerk.
From 1847 to 1851, the County Clerk and District Clerk offices were housed in the home of Josiah Dowling. Court attendants and the Grand Jury were housed in the neighboring homes. County prisoners were guarded by private citizens who usually locked them in their homes or barns.
In April 1847, the county purchased from Josiah Dowling a log house located on Lot 3 in Block 16 for the sum of $45.00 for a temporary courthouse. On January 10, 1851, this lot was sold to Thomas Bishop. The deed excluded the courthouse which stood on that lot.
After Hallettsville was awarded the permanent county seat, Petersburg lost it purpose. County offices and many businesses moved from Petersburg to the new county seat.
The property that made up the town of Petersburg was sold in a series of sheriff sales ordered by judgments issued by the Lavaca County District Court.
On August 17, 1854, the District Court issued an execution in favor of Baldridge Sparks & Co. against Augustus Jones to satisfy a judgment issued on April 17, 1854.
The sheriff placed a levy on the old courthouse in Petersburg, five acres of land and the buildings on that property then occupied by W.B. Davis as the property of Augustus Jones. The sale was held on October 3, 1854 and W.R.B. Wills was the highest bidder at $51.00.
While it is documented that William A. Sheppard (William Austin Shepherd) was employed to survey Petersburg, no copies exist of the survey notes or survey map showing the location of blocks and lots in Petersburg.
Below is a PDF with a list of property sales in Petersburg from 1847 to 1854 that used blocks and lots in the description of the sale.
During its short existence, individuals with varying backgrounds and stories became part of the history of the first county seat of Lavaca County. Some stories are truly clear cut, some extremely vague and some just down right intriguing. The biographies do not tell the story of an entire life, just where this individuals life intersected with the development of Petersburg. I hope you, the reader, will find their collision course with Petersburg as fascinating as I have.
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