Located in the far northeastern portion of the Texas Panhandle, the Roberts County seat of Miami constructed its first courthouse in 1890 despite a battle over its official designation as county seat. Covering vast grasslands that once provided grazing for the Great Plains bison herds, Roberts County was organized in 1889 courtesy of two petitions by competing communities; Miami, a settlement along the newly established Southern Kansas Railway line, and Parnell, a cattlemen-dominated community along the Canadian River farther north. Both lobbied the state legislature for county government. Only one, of course, could become county seat. Soon after county organization, Miami was elected to the post but Parnell citizens claimed the election fraudulent and, as a result, was rewarded the seat. The controversy continued, however, created enough animosity at one point to require intervention by the Texas Rangers. The influential Cresswell Land and Cattle Company, with its proximity to Parnell, lobbied for one side and Miami citizens, along the railroad, insisted its location made the best sense for the county. The controversy lasted nine years until another election returned the seat to Miami. Most citizens abandoned Parnell after the second election, transforming it into a ghost town. Today, little evidence of Parnell remains.
By 1913, Miami citizens had a second courthouse, a Classical Revival monument of concrete and brick. This Texas Historic Landmark crowns a rise that overlooks the town and is considered one of the state’s best examples of the turn of the century Beaux Arts movement. The courthouse is one of six in Texas designed by Fort Worth architect Elmer George Withers and a nearly exact duplicate of the Marion County Courthouse in Jefferson – 500 miles away. Withers, born in Caddo Peak, Texas, received his architecture training from correspondence courses and apprenticeships, foregoing a formal education for real work experience. The architect spent his early years traveling the state advertising his talents, an approach to his business that succeeded in producing a number of public and commercial contracts. The Roberts County courthouse features the streamlined elements typical of the Classical Revival movement. The three-story reinforced concrete and brick structure includes monumental limestone columns at both the north and south entries.
The design remained relatively unchanged since its completion in 1913 with the exception of exterior aluminum storefront-style entrance doors and air conditioning units installed in some of the windows. Thanks to a major restoration, with funding provided by the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, the courthouse will continue to serve Roberts County constituents for another century in its original state. During the restoration, the interior color palette was discovered to include a variety of colors and, in fact, almost every room was originally painted a different color and featured decorative stenciling along the top of almost every wall. These unique features were restored, along with repairs and updates, and the courthouse was rededicated during a ceremony held on June 2, 2012.