1410 Captain O’Neal Drive
In 1868, after the town of Blakely on the Tensaw River was completely destroyed by the Civil War and Yellow Fever epidemics, the Baldwin County Seat of Government was moved from Blakely to Daphne. While the Daphne County Courthouse was being built, official gatherings were held under the shelter of a large oak (“Jury Oak”) on the grounds of the Howard Hotel. 32 The new Daphne courthouse was grand with a beautiful spiral staircase. A two-story jail was built behind it. The courthouse was also used for many social gatherings, so it quickly became the center of town. In 1901, the State Legislature and citizens of Bay Minette voted to move the County Seat to a more central location in Bay Minette, where a new courthouse was then constructed. Citizens of Daphne were reluctant to give up the County Seat. Finally, after three years of waiting, 15-20 citizens from Bay Minette traveled to the outskirts of Daphne in buggies and wagons, carrying shotguns and pistols, and waited for night. Under the cloak of darkness, they gained entry into the Daphne County Courthouse and jail (using the ruse of locking up a violent adolescent), packed up all the courthouse papers, including the judge’s desk and the one prisoner, and moved lock, stock and barrel to Bay Minette.
Daphne citizens were irate; they took the issue to the Supreme Court. The Court agreed that the County Seat belonged in Daphne, but a judge later reversed this decision. Bitter arguments lead, in some instances, to fisticuffs involving some prominent citizens. All efforts to return the County Seat to Daphne failed. It remains in Bay Minette today. When Daphne citizens recovered from the loss, they raised funds for renovation of the building and, in 1907, opened a boarding school of higher learning, the Daphne Normal State School.
Tuition was free; other expenses totaled $115.50 (board $90; laundry $9; textbooks $7.50; and incidentals $9). The primary and elementary grades were taught in the Annex (the old jail) behind the main building. The Annex became the Model School where seniors, aspiring to become teachers, honed their skills while preparing to sit for examinations for teaching certificates. The Junior High and High School classes were taught in the main building. The large flat field west of the school was used extensively for athletic events, student activities, and ball games. The Daphne Normal State School replaced the Courthouse as the center of town activity. When State funding was lost in 1940, the school closed. The building was demolished in 1958. The present community center was built by the estate of George Albert Nicholson.