By 1863, six years after B. F. Caldwell’s gift of four acres, the county raised enough money to build a two-story log cabin: Orange County’s first official courthouse, dedicated during the Civil War under the Confederate flag. Each story of the building contained only one room.

Hiram Beasley was the bailiff at the new courthouse and it was his job to stand on the portico and call out these words: “Hear ye, hear ye, Circuit Court of the 7th District of Florida is now open. Let all who have dealings or interests draw nigh and give their attention. God save the United States and this honorable court.”

He worked for a dollar a day wage and it’s said that after many years on the job, he was offered a 50 cent raise which he refused saying that he had had the job for so many years without opposition, that perhaps if his salary were raised, someone would try to get his job. He ultimately served the court for over 37 years.

That first courthouse however, didn’t last as long as Mr Beasley. In autumn 1868, a notorious cattle-rustling case on the circuit court docket had residents’ nerves on edge about possible retribution if they testified.

Late one night Mrs. Ed Speir awoke to see flames coming through the courthouse roof and men in nightshirts wielding wet blankets and buckets of water to try to save the building, but the courthouse collapsed into embers.

Investigators found turpentine bottles and other signs of arson in the ashes, but nothing could be proved. Almost all of the county’s early records were destroyed, and the case against the rustlers went up in smoke.