Chouteau County was one of the nine original counties created February 2, 1865. At that time there was a sporting disregard for assessors, taxes and the law. For example, in 1872 when the jail burned, all the peace officers were in Canada trading whiskey to the Indians.
Taxes were first assessed in 1873 to the tune of $1,172.55 for the county. The original courthouse, a block over on Main Street, burned on January 5, 1883. The new construction was originally priced at $12,000 but, like government today, the ante was soon raised to $50,000.
Gus Senieur got the bid at $43,300 and the architects Kees and Fisk from Minneapolis designed the structure. The last brick was laid July 4, 1884 but it was not until September that everyone moved in. Some additions have been made to the rear but its integrity remains intact. The most recent upgrade to the building was the installation of energy efficient windows that were built to match the old windows. It is the second oldest courthouse in Montana still in use.
The photo below illustrates how the courthouse looked around the turn of the century. To the right of the photo is the old school that burned down. In the background you can see the Episcopal Church and one of the old water tanks up on the hill.
|Chouteau County Courthouse
1308 Franklin Street
Fort Benton, Montana