The Third Courthouse on Court Square
The third courthouse was built 1833–1834 for about $4,000. In 1832 the second courthouse was so rundown that it was seen as unsafe. The court decided to replace it with a 40 by 50 foot “plain, neat, brick building.” Isaac S. Pennybacker was assigned the job of superintending the construction.
By January 1833, Jacob Rush, David Henton, John Kenney, and Peachy Harrison, commissioners, advertised the old courthouse for sale. It was scheduled to be sold to the highest bidder on regular Court Day, the third Monday in January. The buyer had to remove the structure by March 15th to have the square cleared for the contractors who would begin construction of a new courthouse.
Philip Armentrout did the foundation work. Jacob and William Newman laid the brick, and Adam Lushbaugh, of Staunton, did the woodwork. James Payne plastered the interior and N. Sprinkle & Brothers did the painting. Strother Effinger and Daniel Piper installed the tin roof, while William Reherd performed the iron work throughout. Harrisonburg gun maker John Crummey, with assistance from George S. Logan, made the ball and fish weathervane for the brick courthouse.
"The great storm of 1840 or 1841, which darkened the whole land and left desolation in its narrow track, bent the rod on which the ball and fish were fastened, and Thomas Bassford undertook the perilous task of restoring the rod to its original erect position, which he did successfully and without accident. This fact was scarcely less daring than that of Fisher, one of the workmen engaged in building the Court house, who poised himself on one foot, on top of the pedestal, into which the long rod of the spire was to be inserted. He was a brother of your former townsman, Daniel Fisher, I think."
The ball and fish, obviously, was a weathervane to indicate the direction of prevailing winds. Someone once told John Wayland a little folkloric tale connected with the bent weathervane. It seems that a stranger in Harrisonburg once asked a local black man what had happened to cause the weathervane to be bent. The man replied, “Well, you see, Boss, one night the Devil come along with the toothache; he tried to pick his tooth with the fish and bent it over.”
The building, with four square columns supporting a projecting roof, lasted much longer than the previous ones. It was not replaced until 1874.
*Excerpt from Dale MacAllister’s Courthouse Square in Early Harrisonburg and Activities Connected with Court Days.