The Territory of Wisconsin was made up of a few very large counties, as a state these were divided into smaller units as the population grew and more efficient government was needed. Brown County covered an eminence amount of real-estate, from which Marquette County was formed and in 1858, Green Lake County split from Marquette with Berlin as the governmental seat of the embryonic county. Some growing pains were to follow. In 1862, by a vote of the citizens the seat was moved to Dartford a more centrally located; all be it smaller community. The following year a courthouse was built there and the matter seemed to be settled. In 1866 a faction favoring Princeton seized county records and moved the seat to that city but the state Supreme Court ordered the return of government to Dartford. Attempts to bring Ripon into the county and make it the county seat failed as well.
Dartford survived as the home of county government and in January of 1899 a newspaper article announced the intention of the county to build a new courthouse and jail as planned by William Waters. The drawings had been done by architect Waters sometime earlier but no action was taken until 1899. The plans called for a two story structure with basement, 81' x 43' of red pressed brick and gray limestone trim, steam heat and all modern improvements. The total cost of the courthouse was to be $15,000, the separate jail and sheriff's residence adjacent to the courthouse was priced at $10,000. Both buildings were of a similar style; the courthouse was neoclassical with a front portico replete with ionic columns. The fenestration was symmetrical, with the first floor window featuring jack arch lintels and the second floor with roman arches and keystone of limestone. The buildings' hip roof was capped by a demure bell tower of an appropriate style.