As squatters, convicts and other settlers came to Yass Valley in the early 1830s, so too came the demand for policing, then the appointment of three magistrates to the Yass Bench in 1834.
The first Courthouse opened in 1835 in a slab and bark hut, previously a blacksmith’s shop, near the corner of Pritchett and Warrumbalulah streets. Law and order was harsh, and convicts got harsher penalties than free men. A drunk convict could get 50 lashes; a free settler, a five shilling fine.
As the population grew, and the numbers appearing before the court increased, it was clear a larger purpose-built structure was needed. So, in 1836, tenders were advertised to build courthouses in Yass, Hartley and Braidwood, using the design of the colonial architect Mortimer Lewis.
Sittings in the new Yass Courthouse, near the current police station, began in 1837. A large gum tree out front was used for floggings, and a set of stocks on the Rossi and Comur street corner. The only significant building in town, the courthouse was also used for church services, community meetings and the first meeting of the new Yass Municipal Council in 1873.
In time, the courthouse was too small for the population, fell into disrepair, then demolished in 1878. Government architect James Barnett designed a new courthouse in Roman Doric style, which opened in 1880. It was a huge contrast to the modest design of the previous one. An axe to the old flogging tree felled the final traces of the convict era in Yass.