In December, 1856, James McFarran was asked to plan a new stone jail to replace Daviess County’s first jail, the “pit” jail. Research in courthouse records during 1857-1860 reveals much about the construction of the stone jail as well as other physical developments of the Daviess County seat.
In addition to the courthouse (1842), public well (1842), and plank fence (1846), horse racks were put up by Frances N. Buckholts in 1857. The reapir of the board fences that enclosed the courthouse yard cost $129.37. A new clerk’s office building had been discussed since February, 1851. It was to be fireproof, but not to exceed $700. John W. Sheets’ plans for the new clerk’s office were approved in May, 1859, and contracted with Joseph L. Nelson in June, 1859. The builder was to be paid $1,500 plus $200 for the erection on the east side of the public square. The office was received by the county on Dec. 1, 1859. Drawings of the building show it on the east side of the courthouse, the distance south of center is not determined. James McFarran was asked to plan a new stone jail and estimate its cost in December, 1856. Plans were approved to be placed under contract the first Monday of May, 1857. In September A.C. Ball made drawings of the new jail and McFarran was Jail Commissioner. Shea Griffinand Company got the contract and received payments in June and September, 1858. The new stone jail was complete and ready for use in November, 1858. By March, 1859, Sheriff James J. Minor was using the jail as a residence. Plans were made in August, 1859, to add a kitchen and smokehouse to make a better residence of the facility. This was to cost $400 and $250 was added for a privy. Owings and Osborn were believed to have done the work. This was completed by Dec. 19, 1859, and again reported complete on May 9, 1860, with tin used for the roof. The court paid for a drawing of this building in March, 1867, but nothing of this drawing remains. This jail was reported to have been northwest of the courthouse. On Nov. 17, 1867, the John Reno Gang (five members) robbed the new clerk’s office building, taking the county’s treasury of $23,000. County Clerk Joseph H. McGee and Sheriff John Ballenger sought legal relief from lost funds caused by the robbers. The county provided funds for 10 guards to keep the gang in jail (owing to its poor condition) and Dr. Wiliam Folmsbee was paid $35 for care of the prisoners. John Reno was taken to the state penitentiary by Feb. 4, 1868 — but that’s another story.
Written by David Stark for the Gallatin North Missourian.