Washington County was originally organized and established as Slaughter County, after William B. Slaughter, secretary of the Territory of Wisconsin. Residents of the county did not like the sound of Slaughter and therefore changed the name to Washington, in honor of George Washington.
The first county seat was located at Astoria. The only building present in the town was an unfinished log cabin that served as the courthouse. Locating commissioners were appointed to locate a county seat that would be suitable for present day, as well as future, county business. The town of Washington was chosen in the summer of 1839. A temporary courthouse, which lasted eight years, was erected at a cost of $759. It was two stories high, with native oak and walnut used in its construction.
A second courthouse was begun in February 1845 and completed in July 1847. It was a small brick building, complete with a center spire. This building was in use until 1868, when it was deemed unsafe and torn down. The county business was then conducted in the Everson’s Opera House until the third courthouse was finished in 1887.
This third courthouse cost a total of $75,000 to construct and furnish. It is constructed of pressed brick for the walls and stone for the large basement. It has granite columns and stone for trim, both of which came from Ohio. The courthouse also contains a large 181-foot tower, complete with the former Washington Academy clock. Over the years this clock became worn down and unreliable for the time. The Washington County Historical Society raised the needed funds, with the help of the Carlton “Tug” Wilson estate, to refurbish this 100-plus-year-old monument.