Hand-crank Makes for a Unique Antique

Unusual “squirrel cage” jail, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also serves as a visitors’ information center in Gallatin, MO.

Unusual “squirrel cage” jail, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also serves as a visitors’ information center in Gallatin, MO.

  • Only 3 of its kind left in existence
  • Octagon jail structure housing 8 “pie-shaped” cells
  • Hand crank rotated the “squirrel cage”
  • Unique design, outside cage area for exercise and dining; women’s cells upstairs
  • Original squirrel cage was dismantled in 1964 for safety; the jail was closed in 1975
  • Renovation project to continue with efforts now to focus on sheriff’s residence

Rotary jails, where a round “squirrel cage” divided into jail cells spins on a single axis inside a perimeter of stationary bars, are antiques. Six rotary jails are known to have been constructed, all variations off the patented design by the Pauley Jail Building & Mfg. Company of St. Louis. only three still stand as visual markers of yesteryear. The Daviess County Squirrel Cage Jail was completed in 1889. Its unique architectural design provided answers to concerns about prisoner security, worries about both prisoners breaking out and accomplices breaking in. Sanitation, winter heating, and hand-crank operation were problems. With modifications, the jail was in use until 1975. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As you visit, notice how authentic jail bars are beveled and metal plates riveted. Look inside the inmates? locker, secured by antique combination lock since it houses the hand crank which once spun the jail cells. Walk into the cramped pie-shaped cells many were forced to call home for various periods of time. Visitor literature and gift shop items available.

Seasonal operation of the facility as a visitors’ information center will be underwritten by proceeds from an endowment made possible through the estate of Helen Roosevelt in memoriam to her maternal grandfather, Henry Clay McDougal. Informational displays about significant historical facts about Daviess County and Northwest Missouri are on display.

Daviess County Sheriffs Who Used This Facility

  • 1888 Gabe W. Cox
  • 1890 O.P. Walters
  • 1892 E.S. Lankford
  • 1896 William A. Johnson
  • 1900 R.D. McCray
  • 1904 William T. Hutchison
  • 1908 J.A. Blair
  • 1920 J. Frank Gildow
  • 1926 B.B. Houghton
  • 1930 Frank Sweany
  • 1934 W.T. Hutchison
  • 1938 Frank Sweany
  • 1942 Harry Reeder
  • 1946 Frank Sweany
  • 1954 A.F. Clements, Jr.
  • 1958 S.L. Houghton
  • 1970 Harold Appley