DescriptionBefore the Civil War, states across the north began passing personal liberty laws to protect their free black citizens from kidnappers. New York was one of those states. Under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 a white agent had to personally appear in court with other sworn testimony to prove an accused person's free status. Lawyer Henry B. Northup, whose family had owned and later freed Northup's father, was approached by Northup's wife, Anne, with the letter Bass mailed to store owners Cephas Parker and William Perry. Because of the 1840 anti-kidnapping law, the state of New York provided the authority and funds to appoint Northup as the agent in the case of Solomon Northup. He was given a document signed by the governor certifying Solomon's free status as a citizen of the state of New York. Once in Marksville, Henry B. Northup employed John P. Waddill to secure Solomon Northup's freedom. Judge Ralph Cushman issued the order granting Northup's freedom. The documents concerning the legal proceedings freeing Northup are still filed at the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse in Marksville.
Marksville itself was founded by an Italian named Marco Litche who became known in the French district as Mark Eliche. He donated the land that is still the courthouse square today sometime before 1815. The first record of a physical courthouse was a simple two room building in 1823 standing in the current courthouse square at the location of the law office of Rodney Rabalais. In 1856 a larger courthouse was built by Masters Couvillion and C.D. Stewart and an addition was built in 1894. The present day courthouse was built in 1927 by Architect Herman Duncan and Contractor Caldwell Brothers. A few blocks down from the courthouse, the street Waddill was named for the lawyer that represented Northup and later died in a yellow fever epidemic.