McDowell County’s Register of Deeds office is now getting settled into its new and more spacious surroundings.
In June of last year, the McDowell County Commissioners agreed to purchase the building at 35 W. Fort St., located across from the First Baptist Church of Marion, to become the new home for the Register of Deeds office. Not long afterwards, workers started renovating the building for its new use.
On Monday, Register of Deeds Tonia Hampton and her staff supervised the final move of all of the large books, ledgers, documents and equipment into the building, which has undergone an extensive remodeling. The office was closed that day.
“You don’t realize how much stuff you have until you start to move it,” said Hampton the day after the move.
On Tuesday, the custodians of the county’s many volumes of deeds, birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates started operating in their new location.
The Register of Deeds is the county’s official office for all legal documents pertaining to real estate property within McDowell. The office has permanent storage for original subdivision plats, condominiums, land surveys and section corners. It maintains a user-oriented index system capable of retrieving any of the several thousands and thousands of documents recorded since 1842. There are also all the birth, death and marriage records for the entire county. The amount of these grows tremendously each year and they have to be maintained adequately, since these records are permanent, according to Hampton.
The main floor at 35 W. Fort St. has 4,880 square feet and this provides ample room for the Register of Deeds office. Hampton said all kinds of old books and documents, which were previously stored for decades in various rooms at the courthouse, are now brought together in one location and one level for the first time in probably 35 years.
“Now we have everything together on one level and one corridor,” she said. “I am just humbled we had this opportunity. It is a real asset to the citizens of McDowell County for parking, record searching and accessibility.”
The new location offers more parking for the disabled and people can park along the street right close to the building. They can also use the parking lot that is next to the building and behind Kirksey Funeral Home. Hampton said she and her staff still offer curbside service for those who need it.
The new office has two sets of restrooms, one for the public and one for the staff. The large rooms are totally modern with bright lights and climate control systems. There is plenty of space for the computers used by the staff to pull up documents.
The climate control is particularly important for the old and historic records that are in custody of the Register of Deeds. For example, the real estate records room contains books dating back before 1842. That is before McDowell County was even founded.
“By moving here, we discovered things the public hasn’t seen in many years,” said Hampton.
The vital records room contains the certificates for births, marriages and deaths. Along with climate control, it has a sensor for the amount of humidity.
One of the more intriguing books of records dates back to the 1890s. It contains documents showing where people were paid for bringing in wildcat carcasses. Apparently, the county paid a bounty for every wildcat that was killed.
There is also a book listing the amounts of county money paid to paupers for such expenses as food or even burials. This was probably the 19th century version of the Department of Social Services.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held by county officials Tuesday, Jan. 15 for the new Register of Deeds office.
Even more county offices could be housed in this building at 35 W. Fort St. County Manager Ashley Wooten said there is a lower level with an unfinished basement that also covers 4,880 square feet.
The county commissioners have indicated they would look at placing other county offices into the building at a future date, according to Wooten.
As for the former Register of Deeds space at the courthouse, it will be renovated for the new district attorney’s office.