Vernon County, Missouri was organized on February 27, 1855 and is named for Miles Vernon, a three-time Missouri Senator from Laclede County. In the same year commissioners bought 50 acres for $250 as the site of the county seat. The county seat was first called Fairview; later the name became Nevada City. Now known as just Nevada, it is geographically located in the center of the county.
The first courthouse was completed in 1857. The upper story was used for county offices and the lower floor held the courtroom and was also available for religious services of all denominations. This building was located one block west of the public square. Appropriations of $900 were made for construction of the building which measured 28 feet by 18 feet with the first story nine feet high, the second story seven feet. This building was burned with the rest of the town by Federal troops on May 26, 1863. For lack of a suitable building in Nevada, the first post-war sessions of the County Court were held at Little Osage.
The second courthouse was built in the center of the Nevada City square in 1868. The final costs totaled approximately $25,000. The 50-by-60-foot brick building had a 15-foot tower that rose from a 10-foot base. The building faced south. In time it deteriorated and was sold and razed in 1906.
The present Vernon County Courthouse was completed in 1908. The three-story, Carthage limestone, Romanesque Revival style building measures 80 by 100 feet and rises to 126 feet at the top of the dome. It was the first courthouse built in Missouri after the Civil War and for a time, viewed as the finest in this part of the state.
The original call for bids stated: “…that the said building be of a size to meet the wants and needs of Vernon County for fifty years. The size must not be so large as to sacrifice quality to size, that it should be proportionate to the perspective of the square, that said building complete shall not exceed the cost of $75,000.” During construction, rapidly rising costs caused alterations to be made to the original plans. An example of materials substitution was the change made to the main staircase from marble and iron to quarter-sawed oak. In actuality the final costs for the courthouse amounted to almost $80,000.
Our Courthouse was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places on June 27, 1997.
A life-size bronze statue, erected by the State of Missouri, was dedicated on the Courthouse lawn in Nevada in 1935 to the memory of William Joel Stone, a Vernon Countian who served Missouri as a Congressman, Governor, and United States Senator. From 1872 to 1874 he also served as Prosecuting Attorney for Vernon County.