By Shannon Gillette
The magnificent Denton courthouse stands as the back drop to the bustling downtown area. Although it has watched over the town square for 118 years, it is the last in a long line of predecessors.
Denton County was formed in 1846. The newly created county was named after Indian fighter John Bunyan Denton. The town of Alton was originally chosen as the county seat. For the first two years, the legal transactions of the county were handled under a tree before a courthouse was finally built. A small unassuming log cabin was constructed as the first courthouse. It served the county for nine years.
The town of Denton was created in 1856 and named the new county seat. In 1857, a new and larger courthouse was constructed on the north side of the present day square. It was a two story wooden structure of approximately 800 square feet. The courtroom was located on the first floor and county official offices were on the second. On Christmas Eve of 1875, the courthouse was lost in flames. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson. The prime suspect was an outlaw named Henry Underwood. Underwood was a suspected ally of Sam Bass. In an attempt to destroy indictments filed against friends of his, Underwood allegedly burned the courthouse to the ground. He was arrested and held for several months, but he eventually released. To read more pick up the December 2016 issue of NTFR.