Established in 1846, the Grimes County region was once part of Montgomery County, gaining and losing its first courthouse in 1838. The cedar log building burned shortly after construction. Once Grimes was apportioned from Montgomery, Grimes County citizens began construction of a new courthouse, only to see it collapse in a wind storm just a few years later. Further loss for Grimes County occurred soon afterwards when a portion of its northern territory was carved out to create Madison County. Grimes County growth, however, continued at a rapid pace, assisted by adoption of the plantation pattern of agriculture familiar across the “Old South”. The state’s first cotton gin, in fact, may have been constructed on the future site of Grimes County courtesy of Alabama cotton farmer Jared E. Groce who moved to the region in 1822.
By 1859 the county had a new stone courthouse and by 1860, Grimes County tax rolls showed a total population of just over 10,000 people. With 505 slave holders, over half the county population was comprised of slaves. Not surprisingly, the state’s secession at the onset of the Civil War saw no opposition in Grimes County and by 1861 county citizens were volunteering for the Confederacy by the hundreds. Equal numbers died from cholera and yellow fever epidemics at war’s end, conditions that were accompanied by resentment and lawlessness, particularly with the arrival of the Freedmen’s Bureau, designated to protect and implement the hard-won freedoms of former slaves.
Recovery through the second half of the 19th century would be slow for Grimes County, culminating in the loss of its third courthouse to fire in 1890. By December of the following year, the Grimes County Commissioners Court accepted a new and fourth courthouse, obtaining fire insurance in the amount of $10,000 upon completion. An additional $2500 was spent to insure the furniture (excluding the vault). On January 20, 1893, the new courthouse burned to the ground, leaving only the vault and foundation intact.
The fifth and current Grimes County courthouse, completed in 1894 on one of the seven hills in the county seat of Anderson, was designed by the Houston architectural firm of F. S. Glover & Company. The courthouse incorporates the foundation, hand-molded rick brick, and rusticated native stone trim of the surviving vault on the east elevation. The design, with its central wooden cupola, reflects the Edwardian style of architecture, a simpler, less ornamental offspring of the earlier Victorian style popular throughout much of the 19th century. A slightly elaborate, more Victorian exterior double staircase was added in 1910, giving the building a somewhat eclectic appearance, not quite Queen Victoria yet not completely King Edward VII, both representing the inspiration of their respective namesake styles.
The Grimes County courthouse received a rededication in 2002 after an extensive renovation courtesy of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. Over a million and a half dollars were spent to return the courthouse to its 1890’s appearance, including the exterior double stairway, a standout design feature that sets it apart from any other courthouse in Texas.