Union County, Floridas smallest, was created in 1921 from Bradford County. Both were originally known as New River County and this name was supposed to have been resurrected in 1921. However, a last-minute legislative change substituted "Union." Supposedly this honors the "union of states," and there are Union Counties elsewhere in America, though the bills sponsor was quoted as saying the residents of both counties were merely "united in asking for divorce." The county seat, which formerly served both Union and Bradford, is Lake Butler. The town and nearby lake are named for Col. Robert Butler, who received the Spanish surrender of East Florida in 1821. Many Floridians probably recognize it instead as the site of several large prisons.
The original New River County Courthouse was located in Lake Butler. Built of wood, it stood on the site of the present Union County Courthouse, which dates from 1936. This building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration at a cost of $39,000, of which $7,000 represented county funds. The architect was John Pearson of Gainesville. Additions were constructed in 1967. A more detailed history of the various Lake Butler courthouses may be found under the entry for Bradford County
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