Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County

From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County


It is said by some that an old dry well served the purpose of the first jail in Fayette County.

The first jail built at Washington, was located near the present one, about sixty feet from Main Street, and about thirty feet southeast of the alley running along the northwest side of the old public square. It consisted of two square pens, one inside the other, the intervening space of perhaps one foot between the walls being filled in with stone, the outer wall being about twenty-four feet square. It was built of hewed logs, was two stories high, and was erected about 1811 or 1812. At the east corner a door opened into a hall-way, about six feet wide, that extended along the northeast side of the building to the north corner. About five or six feet from the entrance to this hall, a stairway led to the " debtor's room" above, where the impecunious delinquent expiated the terrible crime of being too poor to meet his financial engagements, thereby vindicating the "majesty" of the law—the relic of English barbarism—that thus confined him. The room below was about 12x18 feet, and was called the "criminal" cell, or dungeon. This jail was burned, in 1823, by an incendiary; and the sherifif's dwelling, a small frame structure contiguous to the jail, was also destroyed at the same time, with all the household effects of Sheriff Robinson, save a deer-hide trunk, containing some of the clothing belonging to his deceased wife.

In 1825 a new jail was built on the same square, a little nearer the alley, and also closer to Main Street. This was a two-story brick building, twenty-five feet square, and was arranged inside similar to the old log jail. The walls of this jail were only thirteen inches thick, and several prisoners escaped while it was in use.

On the 9th day of December, 1835, the auditor was ordered to offer the old jail for sale on the 15th of the following June, except such materials as the board might reserve.

January 15, 1836, at a meeting of the board, it was decided that. by reason of a lack of funds, the old jail sliould be repaired instead of building a new one. New walls of brick were to be built, the same height as the old ones, also one dungeon and one prison room, and the whole building to undergo general repairs; the contract for which was let to Benjamin A. Crone, for $350. On the 27th of the following August the work was reported completed.

March 7, 1838, James Fenton was ordered by the board to employ suitable hands to repair the jail, and make it strong and secure, on as "reasonable a condition as possible."

This jal was used until September 16, 1839, when public notice was given that a new jail was to be built, located on the public square, forty-four feet front, thirty-live feet back, and two stories high, with all the necessary cells and other fixtures for the confinement and accommodation of prisoners, all of which work was to be done by Edward Lamme, for $4,700, who entered into bond for the faithful performance of the same. After the walls were up the carpenter work was begun by Benjamin A. Crone, who was to complete the same for $1,000.

September 28, 1840, Edward Lamme, contractor, received permission to make an alteration in the gable end of the jail, and agreed to deduct twenty dollars from the original contract. He received one thousand dollars on the 1st of January, 1841, as part payment for the work performed. Thomas Holland, the contractor for the carpenter work, on the 7th of June, 1841, was allowed two hundred dollars, part payment, on his contract. July 19th, and 21st respectively, Lamme was paid four hundred dollars, and two hundred dollars additional.

On the 25th of August, 1841, the commissioners after a careful examination of the masonry of the new jail accepted it, the contractor being paid eleven dollars and sixty-seven cents in full, on the last payment. Two days later, the carpenter work was examined and pronounced satisfactory, and executed according to contract, except the roof, for a defect in which a deduction of one hundred and fifteen dollars was made. The contractor was paid two hundred and eighty-five dollars, the full amount due him. On the same day the board received the jail and jailor's house from the contractors, and delivered the same to Robert Cissna, Sheriff. September 18, 1841, the material of the old jail was sold to Joseph Bell for one hundred and eighty-six dollars.

James Pursell, auditor, was authorized to procure the necessary furniture for the county jail, according to the rules made by Judge Owen T. Fishback, for at least three rooms, March 5, 1844.

December 5, 1849, the cells were repaired so as to make them more secure, and in a better condition to receive prisoners.

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