Ringgold County Jail
The County Jail
Although some of the earliest records of the county board of supervisors show authorization of purchase of materials to construct a county jail, actual construction was delayed for one reason and another for more than 20 years. In the meantime, prisoners of both county and town of Mount Ayr were kept in the jury room of the court house on the east side of the square or taken to the union county jail at Creston.
Finally, the board of supervisors appointed Mount Ayr Mayor E.G. Martin and Charles Arndt to draw up plans for a county jail. This they did, specifications calling for a building 18 by 20 feet and 10 feet tall with a flat tin roof, containing four rooms. Located on East Monroe Street, a block east of the square, the jail was built in the fall of 1875, with Charles Arndt as the contractor. Included in the jail, which cost $1,256, were two cells of half-inch boiler iron.
It was not long after completion that the jail had its first occupant, one Ben Hubbard, although there is no report of what his offense was.
The building was used for about 20 years, boarding a wide range of prisoners for both the county and the city. Never what you would call plush, the jail deteriorated until conditions became so intolerable that a special committee appointed by the district court inspected the place and recommended a new building. Consequently, the Ringgold county board of supervisors advertised for bids in mid-April 1895.
Specifications for the new jail called for the construction of a brick and stone two-story building, 37' 11" by 27' 2". The first floor contained an office, juvenile and bath cells and two large steel cages; on the second floor were to be two large rooms, and exercise room and cells for insane and female prisoners (an interesting arrangement). Specifications also called for a heating system to keep the temperature at 76 degrees at all times, a reflection on the apparently chill conditions of the former jail.
Contract for the building was let to James McCombs for $2,693 while the Pauly Jail and Iron Works Co. of St. Louis got the contract for the iron work at $1,420. The building was completed on August 20, 1896, but business was a bit slow. The fist prisoner was not housed there until October 8, 1896, when Sherman Fowler was a county guest following his arrest by Ringgold county sheriff Holland on orders received from the constable at Blythedale, Missouri.
This jail served the county's needs for about 30 years, but when the present county court house was constructed in 1926, jail facilities were included on the third floor. That made the old brick building surplus property. The county board of supervisors decided that it would cost more to raze the old jail and fill in the excavation than it would bring for building lots. Consequently, they turned the title over to Ringgold Post No. 172 of the American Legion on October 18, 1928 for the sale price of $1.00 with the provision that the post improve the building and lots and maintain them as a memorial to servicemen of World War I. The American Legion still maintains the building as its headquarters, making it available as a meeting place for various community groups and organizations.
The old iron work from the previous jail, however, continues to serve the county. In March of 1932, the jail in the attic of the court house was remodeled and reconstructed. Steel work of the old jail was used to line the walls.
As taken from...Centennial History of Mount Ayr, Iowa 1875-1975
The First County Jail
As early as April 7, 1857, there became an agitation among the county officers for the and the contract to Randolph Sry was let a county jail. Then at times it popped up, for forty-five perch of stone and to Thomas Marshal for plank, and to H. Crable for lumber at $20 per thousand feet, on September 8, 1857 with which to build a jail. But it was always voted down though the county had plenty of money with which to build it. After voting it down for years, the lumber and stone on hand that had not been used for other purposes were ordered sold in 1862. At first the prisoners were taken to Warren or Decatur counties. Later, the jury room windows were barred and they were guarded there.
June 1876, the board of supervisors appointed the mayor, E.G. Martin and Charles Arndt to draft specifications for a county jail and August 12, 1876, the contract was let to Charles Arndt for $1,256. It was 18 x 20 feet and 10 feet high. It was boxed up with 2 x 8's laid flat and spiked one on top of the other the entire height and distance around. The roof was made of tine put on by Owen Lesan, Webb George, and Jim Seevers. The jail was divided into four rooms and had two cells made of one-half inch boiler iron. James Ingram, a brother of Andrew Ingram, Sr. did the mason work. This jail was used until 1895 when the present worthless jail was built, then it was sold to and occupied as a dwelling by Mrs. Charles Waddell. It was weather boarded on the outside and painted when first bought, but recently it has been remodeled, painted and a porch added. No prisoner was ever known to break out of this jail though one man, a counterfeiter, took the hinges off the door and walked out.
The Second County Jail
At a meeting of the board of supervisors in April 1895, a proposition of the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company submitted by Thomas C. Lewis, agent, to make and furnish plans for a new jail according to plan No. 487. Such changes in said plan, and specifications, to be made as will adapt them, to the lot and location to be used. The price for complete plans and specifications to be $100 and in event the contract for the iron and the cell work, if at the time of awarding is let to the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company, the plans and specifications are to be used by the county without compensation.
The building of the jail was awarded to James McCombs for $2,693, with extra work done later, costing $73. Iron work was awarded to the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company for $1,420. Samuel McCombs worked on the building as mason and William Depew as hod carrier. The jail was finished in the fall of 1895, total cost $4,186. The size of this jail is 37 feet 11 inches by 27 feet 2 inches. The basement is located under the east end. The south part being the furnace room. The first floor contains an office, juvenile, and bath cells and two large steel cages. On the second floor of the jail are two more large rooms, which can be fitted with steel cages, an exercise room and cells for insane and female prisoners. It was usually unoccupied.
The lots on which this jail stood and the building was given to the Legionnaires for a hall when the new court house was built, as a jail was built in the third story of the court house.
As Taken From...Early History of Ringgold County by Mrs. B.M. Lesan
Return to the Courthouse
Come HOME to Ringgold County