Courthouse History

Board of County Commissioners

The first minutes of the Board of County Commissioners of Minidoka County are dated February 10, 1913, and meetings were held in the Ash Building on the north side of the square in Rupert. Rent for the building was $56 a month. Records show that a desk for the judge cost $12. The first years of the county must have been very interesting and exciting. Determining the school districts, highway districts, election precincts and herd districts were a part of the duties of the board. Finances and the setting up of records were also necessary. The records show that a poll tax of $4 would be assessed for every citizen between the ages of 18 and 50. Revenue was also generated by property taxes and the issuance of bonds.

County Seat

An election for a permanent county seat was held in 1914. Paul also wanted the county seat, arguing that since the appointed county officials were from Rupert, Paul should have the county seat. Interest was high and campaigning was intense. It was rumored, but never verified, that Rupert transported railroad workers from the City of Minidoka to assist their cause. Right or wrong, Rupert won the election and was declared the permanent county seat for Minidoka County. Originally, the City of Heyburn, where the railroad met the river, was chosen to be the county seat. The building lots in Heyburn were priced so high that there were no buyers and as a result Heyburn was not a contender for the county seat.

New Courthouse

As the Ash Building, later called the Rupert Hotel, was no longer adequate for the courthouse, the voters in Minidoka County in February 1916, by a vote of 1364 to 516, approved a resolution to build a courthouse. The following month the City of Rupert donated Block 26 of the original Rupert town site to construct a new courthouse. A bid for the construction of the new courthouse was awarded in June 1916, in the amount of $24,000 to construct the building. One year later, in June 1917, the county officials moved into the new courthouse.

Law Enforcement Building

The courthouse housed the government offices until 1961 when a bond election was held to construct a new jail. The building was built right west of the courthouse and proved not to be adequate for a jail. There were several jailbreaks and it soon became too small. In 1972, with the aid of federal grants, a new law enforcement building was constructed to house the Minidoka County Sheriff Department, the City of Rupert Police Department, a joint communications center with modern equipment, the jail and offices for both departments. With the construction of the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center located in Burley, Idaho, and the City of Rupert Police Department at a new location, the Law Enforcement Building currently houses the Juvenile Detention Center and the Minidoka County Sheriff's Office.

The first court case was filed on July 26, 1913. A total of four cases were filed in 1913 and six in 1914, compared to 1,511 criminal cases in 2,000. In 1974, the Sherman J. Bellwood Judicial Building was constructed at an approximate cost of $400,000, primarily with revenue funds from the federal government. It provides all of the facilities for the court system.

Current Courthouse

The current Minidoka County Courthouse appears much as it did in 1917. The exterior has changed very little; however, the interior has been remodeled many times. The electrical system is new to accommodate the modern equipment, the roof has been repaired, and many necessary changes have been made. It stands as a tribute to the pioneers who labored so diligently to provide good government to Minidoka County.

(Much of this information was taken from an article by Gus Bethke, a former County Clerk.)