TEMPLE OF JUSTICE ON A SMALL-TOWN SQUARE
Leon County was named for Martin De Leon, founder of Victoria —though local lore attributes the name to a yellow wolf called the “leon.” This much is certain: Leon County was created in 1846 and Centerville became its seat in 1850. Early settlement was possible under the protection of Fort Boggy, established nearby in the 1840s, the grounds can be enjoyed today as Fort Boggy State Park.
Like many small Texas communities, Centerville takes pride in its past: Frederick Law Olmsted, who later designed New York’s Central Park, visited in 1853; Bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins was born here in 1912. But the centerpiece of Centerville is the 1887 Leon County Courthouse. Designed by architect William Johnson in the Renaissance Revival style, it’s the third “temple of justice” on the town square. The first was constructed of wood; the second burned in 1885. No sooner did the ashes cool than the county planned the existing structure, built largely with exterior brick salvaged from the fire. Restoration of the courthouse was completed in 2007 with grant funding from the Texas Historical Courthouse Preservation Program. There’s decoratively striped wainscoting and a non-working fireplace in each room. The District courtroom recalls a bygone era with ceiling fans, bare-bulb fixtures, original benches and black walnut trim.