Gates County was formed in 1901 from the northern portion of Chippewa County. The new county was named Gates for Milwaukee land speculator James L. Gates. On December 5, 1901, the Gates County Board approved the bid of C.F. & C.A. Stanley of Chippewa Falls for the construction of the courthouse. The Gates County Courthouse was dedicated in June of 1902. In 1905, Gates County was renamed Rusk County to honor Jeremiah M. Rusk, a three-term governor of Wisconsin and the first U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, appointed by President Harrison. The courthouse remained in continuous use for nearly 94 years. The original building was razed in 1996 to make room for the new Rusk County Courthouse.
Many of the original furnishings were salvaged from the old courthouse and are on display in the Gates County Courthouse building at the Rusk County Historical Museum.