INTRODUCTION TO TEXAS JAILS
During my travels around the state to document calabooses I often encountered interesting jails that do not conform to my definition of what I believe to be a calaboose. Some are very close t that definition but instead are included here.
Old City Jail in Sealy
Interior (metal free-standing cage)
County Jail in Seymour
According to Ed Blackburn, Jr. (2006:32-33), this was the first jail in the county. There is a very good possibility that this jail was preceded by a calaboose that served the area in the interim. Seymour became the county seat in 1879 and named after a local cowboy, Seymour Munday. Blackburn writes that it was built in 1883 of local limestone and demolished in 1967. The Sheriff’s quarters were on the first floor. Blackburn says that details about the architect and builder are not available. Lauren Bush is the Economic Development Director for the City of Seymour. She provided the photo and some interesting facts. According to her, she talked with Tom Ferrier, who is a relative of the architect who built the jail.
This image was taken by Randy Reynolds. It is the interior of the old jail in Brownwood.
Photo courtesy of Randy Reynolds
This jail was discovered on a Sanborn fire insurance map dated 1929 (Sheet 20). Its location was given as 53 North Commerce Street parallel to the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks. It also appears on the 1950 Sanborn map (Sheet 20) and was still standing in ____ when these images were captured from Google Earth. This is a most unusual jail in that access to the upper floor was by an outside staircase. The second floor windows are barred and the door appears to be a solid sheet of metal.
The first county seat was Hayrick. In 1891, Robert Lee became the new county seat in a town named for Civil War General Robert E. Lee. This jail was built in 1907 by the Structural Steel Company. This building now houses a local museum. There is a very good possibility that this jail was preceded by a calaboose that served the area in the interim. (Photo courtesy of Barclay Gibson)
Randy Reynolds discovered this most interesting building next to the two-story county jail in Comanche. I visited it on June 15, 2016 with Nora Rogers. Christopher S. Till is an attorney in town and his office is in the old county jail at 302 West Central. He purchased this building along with the small three-room jail in order to prevent their demolition. According to Mr. Till, the calaboose was built in the 1940s as a place where women and children could be segregated from male prisoners. The two cells on the left were supposedly used for that purpose. Unlike any of the other calabooses I have seen, the cells for women not only had a toilet and sink but there was also a shower available. The cell on right may have been used solely for male prisoners.
Like many of the buildings in Comanche and other towns in the area, this structure was made of native limestone. The doors to the women’s cells open to a small entry area, behind which is a wall and door made of heavy metal bars. The door to the cell that was presumably used for male prisoners opens into an empty room. At the time it was being used there may have been cots for sleeping. No plumbing was available to the men and no electricity was provided for any of the cells. At the time of my visit, this building was being use for storage. The original roof has been replaced with tin. It was measured as being 34.2 feet across the front and 22.66 feet on each side (775 square feet).
East Side of Jail
I have no information regarding this jail.
This county jail was built in 1895. The photo is courtesy of Randy Reynolds.
On my search for calabooses on September 9, 2015, I found this jail quite by accident. A conversation with local fire fighters revealed the presence of a jail in the basement of the police building that was built in 1915. One of the police officers graciously gave me the tour. Since this jail is still being used, I could only visit it if there were no prisoners at the time. This iron cage could easily be 100 years old. These were commonly purchased from a manufacturer of such things in one of the larger cities in the north. I have found name plates for two cell manufactures. The cage in Montgomery, Texas was built by Pauly Jail Building Company of St. Louis) and the one in Sealy, Texas was built by E. T. Barnum Iron Works, Detroit, Michigan who advertise themselves as “Builders of Jail Cells.”
Before being put in a cell or wile being detained prisoners were often shackeled to one of the iron rings on the wall.
There are two cells against the wall. At one time, there was a window with bars to the outside about street level where passersby could converse with the prisoners and probably pass contraband but that was not told to me.
Most jails provide some sort of bed. This particular one appears to be as old as the building. First one like it that I have seen.
The massive and very heavy cell door. I closed it for the picture but it was not easy.
EL PASO COUNTY
San Elizaio Jail in El Paso
(Photo courtesy of Barclay Gibson)
This photo was taken by Randy Reynolds during his quest to photograph all 254 Texas courthouses and other interesting buildings.
This jail served the citizens of Frio Town, now a ghost town. It was built of locally quarried stone. The remnants of the courthouse next to the jail also stands in ruin. The photos are used here courtesy of Darryl Pearson.
This photo was used courtesy of Portals to Texas History. It could have been in Gregg County or Upshur County, The caption reads original jail in Gladewater. Date of photograph, circa 1930.
Portable Jail in Seguin
This jail is located in a local park named Hertiage Village in the 200 block of East Live Oak Street in downtown Seguin. It was donated to the Seguin Conservation Society by Harriet and Dick Phillips on January 21, 1986, and it is protected and maintained by that organization. On December 23, 1893, the county purchased 31 acres to be used as a “Convict Farm.” This unique jail had wheels and was moved about as needed with horses or mules. It was used to transport prisoners from the local jail to fields where they picked cotton and performed other tasks in order to pay their debts. Graffiti created by the prisoners is still visible on the interior walls. The age and length of its use are not known. There are three windows on each side and one door on each end. The wooden doors and shutters cover metal bars. The above photo was provided courtesy of the Seguin Conservation Society. Because this jail did not have a permanent location, the insurance maps prepared by the Sanborn Company are not relevant. The age of this jail is not known This jail was recorded at TARL as historic site 41GU159. William E. Moore visited this jail on August 15, 2013.
State Prison Jail for Road Gang Workers in Memphis
This interesting jail does not exceed the size of a calaboose according to the definition I am currently using. However, the term calaboose normally applies to jails in towns that were used to house private citizens. This jail was used for prisoners.
I took a picture of the old Hamilton County jail while in town. The museum was closed and I was not able to see the interior or talk to any of the docents. The black and white picture was sent to me by Jerry Pool, a member of the Facebook page “Texas Lawmen, Outlaws, and Jails/History.
I visited this jail on May 9, 2016 and I was accompanied by Michael Lemmons, and employee of the city. At ____ square feet, it is too large to be referred to by me as a calaboose. Nevertheless, it is an interesting building and one that should be preserved. The interior consists of one big open room that supposedly housed two metal cages. The windows are larger than many jails but if the prisoners were in the cages the size should not matter. The exterior is in good condition except for the replacement of the regular doors by modern ones and the large door shown in the historic photo below has been sealed with modern concrete blocks. The date of construction and life span of this building is not known at this time. Nor is the location of the metal cages.
Side view showing an extra set of bars
The other side showing placement of windows
This picture was taken in the 1940s when the old jail was being used as a cannery by women volunteers to aid in the war effort. Photo courtesy of the Billy the Kid Museum in Hico.
I found this one by accident while surfing the Internet. I have no additional information at this time.
This 19th century jail is currently undergoing restoration. When finished, the two-cell wooden calaboose from Kyle will be placed here and restored also.
Hidalgo Jail Today
Hidalgo Jail and Courthouse Long Time Ago
Hidalgo Jail and Metal Cages removed from it
The bottom photo was taken circa 1980 and sent to me by Darryl Pearson, fellow jail enthusiast.
Within this building many notorious Texas gangsters spent time. Perhaps the most infamous was Clyde Barrow who later returned with friends and helped some inmates escape from an outdoor work detail. This building is still standing.
I found this picture on a website entitled “Texas Lawmen, Outlaws, and Jails.” Not sure who is the person responsible for the site but this picture was posted by Ginger Andrews.
JEFF DAVIS COUNTY
This sturdy structure was built in 1910 before the elaborate two-story courthouse. In its early days, it stood alone in the vast reaches of Jeff Davis County. It was used as a jail until 1978. It was awarded historical marker #16485 by the Texas Historical Commission in 2010. The jail is located at 100 West Woodward Avenue. It was constructed with pressed concrete blocks that were plastered and scored to resemble Ashlar blocks. The top is adorned with a crenelated parapet. The interior consists of four rooms with the cell block occupying the entire rear portion of the building. The other rooms are a front entry way, kitchen, and bedroom for the jailer. This information was taken from the marker and the photo is courtesy of Randy Reynolds.
Kent County was created in 1876, but it was not organized until 1892. It was named for Andrew Kent, one of the defenders of the Alamo. Clairemont was the first county seat and it remained so until 1954 when it was moved to Jayton. The jail depicted above was the first county jail and it was constructed in 1895. Local red sandstone was used to create the walls. According to County Judge Jim White in Jayton, this structure originally had two floors. The Sheriff resided on the second floor and the cells were on the first floor. This venerable old jail still stands today with the iron cages still intact. It was no longer used after 1953 or 1954. There is a very good possibility that this jail was preceded by a calaboose that served the area in the interim. This jail is clearly visible on Google Earth. This jail is located on an empty lot at the corner of county roads 200 and 208. Clairemont today is a ghost town with only a few abandoned wooden stores and houses along the County Road 208. This jail was recorded at TARL as historic site 41KT172.
This is one of the more impressive jails that I have visited to date. In my opinion, it is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and definitely should be included. The door is left open for visitors to tour the inside and the graffiti is not as bad as I would have expected given the isolation of this building. It was a difficult task to take measurements without help but those presented below are very close. The distance across the front of the exterior is approximately 22 ft. The sides are approximately 17 ft. (264 sq. ft.). On the east side, there is a ceramic pipe inserted into concrete that probably was associated with the sewer. The door to the jail is solid metal and very heavy.
The interior consists of two cells on the west side that are open rooms that were probably secured by metal doors with no metal cages inside. Both doors are missing. There is only one window on that side. No toilets or beds were present.
The large open room contains a massive metal cage that has three rooms. The size of the cage is 13 ft’ wide and approximately 12 ft. deep. The height was not measured. There is an entry room that leads to the two cells. It is approximately 5 ft. by 13 ft. (60 sq. ft.). In the northwest corner is a concrete feature with a circular hole in the center that may have also served as a toilet. Otherwise, this room was empty at the time of my visit. Although it does not appear that this room was a dedicated cell, it certainly could have been used as one if there was an overflow of prisoners.
The two metal cells are equal in size at 8.5 ft. long and about 6 ft. deep. The exterior walls were constructed with flat metal bars that overlap allowing open spaces for light and ventilation. The wall that separates the two cells is solid metal. This allowed for privacy between the two cells and as a wall strong enough to support beds. At one time, each cell had two beds and the brackets that supported them are still present. The only furniture was a metal bucket in the northeast and northwest corners of each cell. These buckets probably also served as latrines. Additional ventilation and light was provided by a single windows on the north and east sides and two window on the south side.
Interior depicting the hallway between the metal cells and the other two cells on the left
Panel with levers used to open and close the cells
Metal bucket probably used as a toilet
Ceramic pipe encased in concrete, probably associated with the sewer system
A view of the jail in relation to the old Kent County Courthouse
Guard House at Fort Clark
This is the guard house (aka stockade) at Fort Clark. Although the size falls within the range of my definition of a calaboose, This is a military jail and calabooses were mainly used for private citizens. Guard house is a military term.
This is the old county jail. The county is considering using it for another purpose but I don’t know what their plans are.
I found this one by accident while surfing the Internet. The only information I have at this time is that it is for former Lipscomb County jail. An informant in that town has promised to share information with me. If it measures less than 300 square feet it will be moved to the discussion of calabooses.
This picture is from Frontier Times magazine.
This fine old jail sits next to the courthouse. No attempt was made to view the interior or talk to locals about its history.
A local informant in another town told me about a little calaboose in Daingerfield. I went there and saw a two story jail with a small building attached. I wondered if the small building could have been a calaboose prior to the construction of the two story jail. According to the librarian at the local library, the small building was built later as an office and the jail is now used by the fire department for drills involving entering buildings full of smoke.
PICTURES COMING SOON
This interesting cell is housed in City Hall in downtown Naples. I want to thank Marilyn Williams for sending me these photos. I plan to visit it someday and take measurments.
Guard House at Fort Stockton
Photo by Darryl Pearson
Photo by Randy Reynolds
This is the guard house (aka stockade) at Fort Stockton. Although the size falls within the range of my definition of a calaboose, This is a military jail and calabooses were mainly used for private citizens. Guard house is a military term.
City Jail in Hearne
This brick jail is located in the 200 block of South Cedar Street in downtown Hearne between city buildings and the water tower. It faces the parking lot of the DaVita Hearne Dialysis Center at 106 South Cedar. It was constructed sometime between 1911 and 1925 based on a review of fire insurance map prepared by the Sanborn Company. It measures 9.17 meters across the front and 4.90 meters on each side (483.4 square feet). It is not included as a calaboose because of its size. There are two large windows on the front and two similar windows and a solid metal door on the back. The presence of a door in the front and another one in the back suggests that there were two rooms or cells. According to Robert Nelson (City of Hearne employee), the cells have been removed and used for a newer jail. According to architectural historian Adam Alsobrook this brick building does not have a definite architectural style but he considers it as a possible example of the Late Victorian Period with both Romanesque Revival and Italianate details. The brickwork around the windows is elaborate and the brickwork that extends above the roof (front and back) is defined as a parapet. There is an inscription on the door shown in this picture that reads ” … nor talk to prisoners. Violators will be … ” It is owned by the City of Hearne. This jail was recorded at TARL as historic site 41RT576.
Palo Pinto County
Front of county jail in Palo Pinto
This two-story jail was built in 1880 to replace a small log jail. The contractors were Martin Bryne & Johnston of Comanche, Texas. At the time J. C. McQuerry was the sheriff. The first floor was used for county offices until a new courthouse was constructed. It housed the jailer’s family with the cells being on the second floor. It was used as a jail until 1941 and became property of the Palo Pinto County Historical Association in 1968. Its architectural and historical significance has been recognized by the State of Texas as it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
This jail is located on the grounds of the Old Jail Museum in Palo Pinto, Texas at 5th and Elm streets (21 miles west of Mineral Wells). The museum is open to the pubic the 1st weekend of March to the 2nd weekend of December every Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information call (940) 325-2557 or visit their website at www.palopintohistory.com. This is one of the better outdoor museums that contain historic buildings. One of the major attractions is an old stone fort that was taken apart stone by stone and put together in a very professional manner on the museum grounds. The focus of this site is jails and calabooses, but this fort is so special in my opinion that I have included a photo.
Detail of Door and Historical Marker
Rear of Jail
Photo courtesy of Randy Reynolds
Entrance to Museum in Albany
This two-story county jail is now part of the Old Jail Art Center at 201 South Second Street in Albany. It contains a fine collection of paintings, sculptures, and art in the form of pre-Columbian and Southwestern United States pottery. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 a.m. The museum can be contacted at (325) 762-2269. The jail is a fine example of 19th century architecture.
Front of Jail
County Jail in Glen Rose
Somervell County was created from Bosque and Hood counties in 1875. The first formal county jail was built in 1884 by the Pauly Jail Manufacturing Company of St. Louis. It was made from concrete, rocks, and locally quarried stone. It was one story and had a dirt floor and barred windows. The size of this jail is not stated in Blackburn’s (2006:304) discussion of Somervell County, but it might have fit the definition of a calaboose. It was demolished in 1934 and replaced by a two-story concrete and stone building built by workers paid by the Works Progress Administration (depicted above). The Sheriff resided on the first floor and prisoners were housed on the second floor in the metal cells that were used in the previous jail. (Photo courtesy of Barclay Gibson)
Old Customs House and Jail in Roma
According to City Manager Crisanto Salinas, this building was used from about 1974 to 1987 as a Police station. He is not to sure if it actually housed prisoners for more than a few hours at a time. They would have been transferred to the Starr County jail from Roma.
An article entitled Historical Starr County by Jesus Correa (source not known) states that the customs house is located at 301 West Lincoln and Water streets. It occupies the highest point on the bluff above the Rio Grande in town and it faces away from the river. No windows are present on the sides or rear walls of the building. The architecture is described as “A three-bay primary facade punctuated by a window/door/window pattern detailed in segment arches.” The structure is capped by “modest molded-brick cornices.” The jail was added as an extension to the rear and is made of concrete blocks. It has one barred window on each side and three on the back. The interior of the building has been completely remodeled and today it is the office of the Roma Chamber of Commerce.
County Jail in Aspermont
Back of Jail
This is a very interesting jail. It is owned by the city and is being used for storage. Its age is not known to me at this time but I believe it could easily have been constructed in the 19th century. It is too bad that these kinds of structures are not appreciated by the community leaders for their historic and architectural significance. This jail was recorded at TARL as historic site 41SN81.
Guard House at Fort Phantom Hill
This is the guard house (aka stockade) at Fort Phantom Hill. Although the size falls within the range of my definition of a calaboose, This is a military jail and calabooses were mainly used for private citizens. Guard house is a military term.
County Jail in Throckmorton
This two-story jail was build circa 1893 and made of native sandstone. It is owned by the Throckmorton County Historical Society and open to the public. It’s architectural and historical significance was recognized the the State of Texas as it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is located on a vacant lot at the corner of East Chestnut Street and South Eagle Avenue three blocks west of State Highway 183 in downtown Throckmorton. The fireplug was an obvious addition but it is a very interesting type.
Closeup with Museum Sign and Historical Marker
Fire Plug adjacent to the jail
City Jail in Trinity
This unique jail is located in the 100 block of North Railroad Street in the old downtown area of Trinity, Texas and is owned by the city. According to Mayor Lyle Stubbs, it was built sometime around 1895 and was the city’s only jail until 1975. There is a door on the inside of the jail that allowed passage to City Hall. Stubbs believes that this allowed prisoners to and from trial in City Court. The inside is unusual in that there is a separate cell that was used solely for women while the male prisoners occupied the rest of the jail. This jail measures 7.47 meters across the front and 7.60 meters on each side (610 square feet). Because of its size, it is not included as a calaboose in this study. The women’s cell measures 3.13 meters by 3.57 meters. The height is estimated at 15 feet. Overall, the jail is in very poor condition. The front door, some of the windows, and the roof are missing. The door to the women’s cell is present but barely attached to the frame. At one time, the interior walls were covered with plaster. In the 1927 photo of North Main Street (on file at TARL), the jail is visible as the building next to the old City Hall. To the right is the Bijou theater and the Holcomb House hotel. The building in which the Bijou theater was located later became a liquor store and saloon. Today, it is Stubbs Chemicals and Feed and is owned by the Mayor. The building that housed City Hall also was the location of the fire department. It is owned by the City of Trinity. The only Sanborn map available during this study was drafted in 1909, and does not show North Railroad Street. This jail was recorded at TARL as historic site 41TN183.
I lived in Huntsville as a student from 1962 to 1967 and from 1974 to 1977. When I left in 1977 this jail was still being used. I saw the inside once briefly and I recall that the jailer’s area was on the first floor and the cells were on the second floor. There may have been some cells on the first floor also but I did not notice and I was not looking for them.