As restoration of the 1889 Squirrel Cage Jail in Gallatin was underway but not yet complete, financing to operate the unique facility as a visitors’ center and community museum got a big boost.

Daviess County has been named as a $125,000 beneficiary in the settlement of the estate of Helen Roosevelt. The Daviess County Historical Society will act as the trustee of the new endowment fund. Interest revenue from the endowment fund is designated for use at the jail as a memorial to Henry Clay McDougal, maternal grandfather of the late Mrs. Roosevelt.

The incredible link of the Estate of Helen Roosevelt to Daviess County’s squirrel cage jail is described on this plaque on display in the jailhouse. Gallatin attorney Henry Clay McDougal was family relation to Ms. Roosevelt, leading to an endowment for the historic jail’s use as a visitors’ center.

The surprise announcement was made Saturday evening during Chautauqua activities. The legal transaction is expected to be completed soon, climaxing effort made during the past 13 months.

“We are extremely pleased to be among the beneficiaries of the Helen Roosevelt estate,” Daviess County Historical Society president Dan Lockridge says. “Only interest revenue from the endowment can be expended, but this will provide perpetual funding for operating the jail after restoration is completed.”

Connecticut connection

The trust funds derive from the sale of a 6-acre estate located in Connecticut. Although Helen Roosevelt’s father was a cousin of President Teddy Roosevelt, her will directed that proceeds of her estate be given to not-for-profit entities in ways honoring her mother’s side of the family.

Other beneficiaries of the estate include the Missouri Bar Association, the historical Morose House in Michigan, and a medical foundation.

Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Arnold provided legal assistance in setting up the trust fund for use here. The Davies County Commission and the board of directors of the Daviess County Historical Society have endorsed the proposal.

Terms of the trust fund mandate an annual report to be publicly available at the county clerk’s office with annual review by the Circuit Court. Should the Historical Society discontinue, the county becomes trustee of the endowment. Should the jail facility be destroyed or discontinued, the Historical Society will have access to both the interest and principal of the endowment for activities furthering the purposes set down in the endowment agreement.

The $125,000 gift is the largest ever received by the Historical Society, probably among the largest ever received by any not-for-profit group in the county. The 1889 Squirrel Cage Jail attracted the interest of estate executor Renee Tackett Grant since it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Restoration continues

The new trust fund comes at a time when work to install a newly fabricated static display of the circular jail cells nears completion. Inmates at Western Missouri Correctional Center are now assembling the last panels in vocational classes at the prison in Cameron. Reassembly of the rebuilt rotary jail in Gallatin could occur within the next month.

Gallatin Rotary Club is presently selling engraved bricks for construction of an exterior sidewalk with proceeds to benefit the jail project. Brick sales will pay for painting the squirrel cage once it arrives in Gallatin and interior lighting. Brick sales currently total half of the announced goal of 75 engraved brick.

“It’s going to take continued fundraisers like that done by the Gallatin Rotary Club and plenty of volunteer work to restore the jail and residence,” Lockridge says. “The endowment will not finance restoration expenses, but it will provide an annual operating budget once the jail project is complete.”

To date approximately $28,000 has been spent on the jail, mostly for rebricking the jail’s exterior layer of brick. The jail account is nearly depleted. Reconstruction of the squirrel cage is a community service provided by WMCC and prison inmates, the only expense being for materials.

After installation of the refabricate jail cells this fall, restoration work will be renewed next spring focusing on the interior sheriff’s residence. A target date for grand opening festivities has yet to be announced. When that occurs, Renee Tackett Grant will be among those invited.

— written by editor and publisher Darryl Wilkinson for the Gallatin North Missourian