I have been hired to conduct an archaeological investigation in Scurry County near Snyder, Texas. During my conversations with locals about access to the project area and other things related to the project I learned of a calaboose in Gail, the county seat of Borden County. The county and county seat were named for Gail Borden, the inventor of condensed milk. I went to images for Gail and found a picture of the jail and it fits my definition of a calaboose. I called the courthouse and talked with a secretary who promptly told me that it had not been used as a jail in a very long time. I explained that it did not matter when it was used last. It was a calaboose and I want to document it. She is going to take some pictures for me and I hope to make a road trip there soon. Apparently, it was one of the earlier county jails. She said there were metal cells or cages inside.
Today, Rhonda K. Holley accompanied me to Sealy, Texas (Austin County) to document a small calaboose. We found it to be one of the more interesting of those visited so far – and they are all interesting. It was the construction methods that intrigued us. The boards that create the floor were measured at 1 x 12 inches (probably 1 inch thick). It consists of two rooms. The front room was for the guard and other officials and the cell was behind a very thick wooden wall and door that is four boards thick. The floor and walls of the cell were once covered with thin sheet metal but only the floor and some on the walls remain. There is a large metal ring in the middle of the floor that could have been used to chain the most unruly prisoners. The original calaboose was built in 1884 but it burned and the town rebuilt it in 1887 using much of the same lumber. The inside of the cell is only 7.5 x 9.4 feet. More information will be posted on the website at a later date.
Danny Gillespie is the City Secretary for the city of Frost in Navarro County. He visited the calaboose and took some photos for me. According to his research the building that was built later and attached to the calaboose was the old City Hall. The calaboose can be entered through the metal door in front or from inside City Hall. I don’t know if there was always two entrances. There is no page for Navarro County on the website and I don’t know how to make one. Therefore, a few photos are posted here.
This photo shows the original calaboose and part of City Hall behind it. The old roof was removed so that the roofline for the two joined structures would be the same.
This photo shows the side with one of the windows. The window on the building behind the calaboose also has bars. I don’t know if there was a cell inside that building.
This photo sows the inside of the calaboose and the door that allows entry into City Hall. The bars on the doors are our old friend “strap iron.” The lines in the roof testify to the fact that the original roof was poured concrete. There is something unusual about the unevenness of the ceiling. To me this suggests that there may have been two cells but the wall separating them has been removed.
I just talked with the City Manager in Frost and he confirmed that this was a calaboose. The bars are still in place in the door and windows. He is taking some pictures for me. It is privately owned and I hope to get permission to see the inside. This makes 76 calabooses that are still standing that I am aware of.
John Brooks has been working with me to save the calaboose in Burlington. Today, he and his wife were having dinner in Walburg (Williamson County) when they saw a suspicious structure. I think it is very likely that it was a calaboose but I can’t say for sure right now. I urge anyone who finds a similar building to let me know. For now, this building will be added to the website as a suspicious structure.