Our Town Durand: Old Pepin County Courthouse Museum and Jail

By  | 

A trip to the Old Pepin County Courthouse Museum and Jail is the way to a simpler time: the latter 1800's.

"It is the most important artifact in Pepin County," said Terry Mesch of the Pepin County Historical Society.

The building had no electricity or plumbing back then.

In 1871, Durand's founder, Miles Durand Prindle couldn't have known the building he traded to the county for a buck would become the last of Wisconsin's wooden courthouses.

"Most of the others were either torn down or burned down."

More than a century's use as a courthouse would follow, though Ed Maxwell's 1881 appearance in the courtroom would shape the city's reputation for years.

He was accused of a double-murder...a suspected cop killer.

"They were the first two law officers to die in the line of duty after Wisconsin became a state."

Police had tried to escort Maxwell out of the courtroom after he had been bound over for trial, but by the time they had gotten Maxwell down the stairs, an angry mob had formed at the landing. Some of them drove the officers back down the hallway, others gathered up Maxwell. They put a noose around his neck, and dragged him across the lawn, eventually stringing him up over a tree where an addition now stands. By the time officers could get back to him, he was already dead.

"It provides a really important historical event that we can kinda latch on to."

Now Durand's reputation as a "hangin' town" is years removed. Volunteers want their visitors to help them replace it with things like honesty and intelligence.

"We're the quiet beauty."

As is a former courthouse turned museum, one that brings a larger-than-life story, to those who find their way to Wisconsin's smallest county.