Side A: Opened on May 1, 1885, this is the third Fayette County Court House building. Ohio artist Archibald Willard, who is best known for the patriotic painting, “The Spirit of ’76,” was commissioned by the firm Cooks Brothers to do painting and fresco work for the interior walls of the courthouse. Willard did not sign his work and the artist’s identity remained a mystery for nearly 75 years until confirmation was made in August 1956. The artist’s name was cleverly disguised in the delivery address of the letter in “The Spirit of the U.S. Mail” mural. The other primary murals, “Spirit of Electricity” and “Spirit of the Telegraph,” adorn the third floor corridor.
Side B: On October 16, 1894, a crowd gathered outside the courthouse with intent to lynch alleged attacker William “Jasper” Dolby. Governor William McKinley ordered Ohio National Guard troops sent in to subdue the crowd. The mob was initially thwarted, but on October 17, while Dolby awaited transportation from the jail to the courthouse, the riots intensified. Despite Dolby’s guilty plea to rape and a 20-year sentence, the crowd sought vengeance. They rushed the courthouse doors, and were warned to “disperse or be fired upon.” They ignored the warning and continued to batter the doors. Colonel Alonzo B. Coit ordered his troops to fire through the courthouse doors; five men were killed. Colonel Coit was indicted for manslaughter and was acquitted at trial. After the trial, Governor McKinley stated, “The law was upheld as it should have been…but in this case at fearful cost… Lynching cannot be tolerated in Ohio.” The bullet holes are still visible in the south doors of the courthouse.
Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Fayette County Travel and Tourism Bureau, and The Ohio Historical Society