Old Johnson County Jail

category : Pioneer Life
Old Johnson County Jail The historic Johnson County jail was constructed in 1872 of native limestone. The huge blocks for the jail proper were secured from a quarry on Yankee Creek, 4 1/2 miles west of Tecumseh. The stone was transported from the quarry by wagons, three stones making a heavy load. The stone blocks were all hand hewn and dressed to the desired size at the construction site.

A unique feature in constructing the walls was that a pocket was hewn in the center of each block and a cannon ball fitted between the stones. This prevented the loosening or pushing out of the stone, even if the mortar should be removed.

The stone for the top story was secured from a quarry one mile east and south of town. The ceiling of the jail proper was made of solid steel plate, thus making the cell block fireproof. The windows were set with durable steel bars. The top floor of the building served as the sheriff's residence.

The steel cage, or bullpen, was added to the front of the building some years after the original construction, partly to relax some of the extreme confinement. Originally a safety device was built into it, consisting of a round steel cage in the doorway, which rotated on a pivot. It was operated by a lever on the outside, allowing the sheriff to enter or remove a prisoner, without subjecting himself to the danger of being overpowered by other prisoners.

For a century the old jail hosted hundreds of law breakers of all degrees, from felony to simple misdemeanors. Over the years, the jail also hosted many harmless hoboes and tramps as well. They would request the sheriff lock them up for the night, and then would be on their way the next morning.

Hours: Open by appointment
Address: 4th Street, between Broadway and Jackson

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