early jail prison whipping post. wood county parkersburg wv - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair



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While the court of the county of Wood, through long years, seems from the records, to have no abiding place, but was peripatetic, yet there were law violators sentenced and a prison was at once necessary. The Justice's minutes of April 15, 1800, shows: "On motion of Jno. G. Henderson that a jail should be erected agreeably to the order of the court appointing a place for erecting public buildings, and that it be sold to the lowest bidder at next court, the sheriff to be reimbursed at the expense of the court, when the levy can be collected by law. The session of May 12, 1803, has record, that the sheriff came into court, and upon an order to commit to his cost ody some criminal, "protested that the jail which must have been one only on paper was insufficient.

Whereupon it was ordered that "a jail be built of square hewed logs, 16x29 feet, 9 feet between floors, and that the floors be made of like hewed timber, with a sufficient door and window, and a good shingle roof, the logs to be at least 10 inches square, to be dowelled well, and to be finished on or before the second Monday in August next, and to be sold this evening by the sheriff to the lowest bidder.

The contract was so auctioned off, and sold to Andrew Vanvlare, for $279, and it was confirmed by the Court. April 6, 1801, John Stephenson, Jesse Bartlett and John Bagdley were commissioned to view the jail and report whether it had been built agreeably to contract. It was favorably reported upon, and July 6, 1801, accepted and put into use.

This was probably one of the cabins at Neal's Station, near where the Court held its earliest session.

For Feb. 1, 1802, the minutes read: Ordered that a jail stocks and pillory be built at the point of the Kenawha on the ground laid off for that purpose, and that Joseph Cook, John Stephenson and Thomas Lord, Esq., be appointed commissioners to superintead the business and carry the same into effect, and that the same be finished by June Court next. And that the jail do not exceed thirty feet in length, and twenty feet in breadth, and not less than twenty-five feet in length, and eighteen feet in breadth. And to be nine feet from the lower floor to the upper floor, with convenient doors and windows, with a partition through the same. In May, 1802, an allowance was made by the "Gentlemen Justices" for building this jail, $327.

There is no doubt that the first permanent court house was just below Rifle Kun, on Stokely property, in "Springville" or Newport, and was a two story log house. The second story was to be used for the sessions of the court, and was approached by a flight of stairs. It was too small to be comfortable, hence the justices adjourned first to one tavern, or ordinary, and then to another for several years. The first story was constructed for and used as a jail till the new one was built in 1815 of stone, on the public square. Ordered, That Thos. Pribble, Andrew Davisson, John Stokely and Jacob Deem be appointed to examine the jail of this county and report to this court, whether the same is built agreeable to the order of this court, at February court last, for building the same," who made their report as follows, to-wit:

In the minutes of 7th of September, of that year, the entry reads:

We the subscribers, having been first sworn, have viewed said jail, find the same insufficient, both in the body and roof, and are further of the opinion that the said work is not done by the undertaker according to the contract between him and the commissioners who were appointed by an order of said February court to superintend the same Witness our hands this 7th day of September, 1802.

Thomas Pribble, Andrew Davisson, Joha Stokeley, Jacob Deem. It is stated that, subsequently to 1801, a hewed log jail, 25x18 feet, with nine foot story, and divided into two rooms, was erected on the two acres located on the alley and Kenawha street, west of the court cabin.

The county jail was constructed of square logs, notched down and laid close together. In it were two cells occupying half the building, and separated from the other half and from each other by square log walls and covered and floored with the same material. The walls, floors and ceiling of both were lined with two-inch oak planks, spiked firmly to the logs. One of these cells was for debtors, the other for criminals. The latter was badly ventilated, having neither light nor air, except what was admitted through a very small window and the grating of the iron door, which opened into a narrow hall, separating the cells from the jailor's apartment. This consisted of two small rooms—one of which was kitchen, dining and sitting room for the jailor and his family, the other their sleeping room.

The salary of the jailor, in 1806, was $10.00 In August of that year Geo. D. Avery, after whom one of Parkersburg's streets was named, was allowed "further time, to the October Court next, to furnish another lock for the jail," and in September it was ordered that "the guard who stood over Peter Misner, a prisoner in the jail, be allowed one dollar and a half for a day and night, and after deducting what the State allows, the balance to be paid by the county out of the next levy.

The Jailor was then, as now, one of the Sheriff's deputies and appointees, and as soon as the county owned its prison building, he resided therein. Among those serving thus in early days are: Adam Ruble, 1800; William  Enoch, 1807; Joel Wolfe, 1815; James Foley, 1818; Nimrod Saunders, 1819; David Thomas, 1822; Allen Davis, 1823, who hung "Old Jack;" James Minear, 1825; Adam Ruble, 1827 to 1831; William Pool, 1842.

In the allowances of the Justices, 3 June 1811, John Dils, auctioneer, was granted one dollar for crying bids on Jail and clerk's office, and Thomas Neale, contractor, was allowed one half of his $784 on Jail construction and one half of $267, 99 for clerk's office erection. The commissioners of Clerk's office construction, in their final report, suggest an additional window; the court approves and orders the document to be filed.

James G. Laidley, George D. Avery, Isaac Morris and Joseph H. Samuels, commissioners, in June 1812 reported that "Thomas Neale had fulfilled his contract for the construction of the Clerks Offices, and moved that they be received. And 4 Aug. following, the same commissioners reported that they had examined the Jail built on the Public Square by Thomas Neale, and "are of opinion that it should be received also." The Court therefore ordered "that the same be used and considered the Public Jail of the County, and that the Sheriff use the same accordingly." To this sheriff Wolfe files an exception, protests against the sufficiency of the new Jail, and prays that the same be entered accordingly.

A plat and description of the boundaries of the Prison Rules as laid down around the new Jail was ordered to be recorded.

Nearly every year of the first and second decades the sheriff "protested against the safety and sufficiency of the jail. On the 4th Aug. 1817 sheriff John G. Henderson is quite emphatic in relation thereto.  On the 22 June 1841 Jno. G. Stringer, Jno. Stephenson William Tefft, David Hopkins and Jno. M. Prince were appointed Commissioners to report the condition, of the Jail. On that report the Justices decide a new one necessary, and authorized this committee to report plans, cost and site.

William Tefft, David Hopkins and Jno. M. Prince were appointed Commissioners to report the condition, of the Jail. On that report the Justices decide a new one necessary, and authorized this committee to report plans, cost and site.

William Tefft, David Hopkins and Jno. M. Prince were appointed Commissioners to report the condition, of the Jail. On that report the Justices decide a new one necessary, and authorized this committee to report plans, cost and site.

Tuesday 20 July 1841 the entry reads:

Four of the Commissioners appointed at last term of the Court to recommend a site and submit plans for a new jail this day presented their report, which is approved by the Court, and thereupon it is ordered that Jno. G. Stringer, Wm. Tefft, and Bennett Cook be appointed a Committee to prepare a plan and minute specification of the work upon the plan indicated in said report, and also to advertise for and receive sealed proposals for the work, until the first day of August Term next, after which time they are authorized

to contract with such of the bidders as they may judge best, without reference to the bids. The work to be completed in one year from the date of contract, and bond with approved security to be given by the Contractor or contractors for the faithful completion of the work within the said period, with penalty of $5,000. The said Commissioners are also appointed to superintend the work during its progress. One thousand dollars on account of the contract to be paid by the Sheriff to the Contractor, on the order of the Commissioners, on the 1st day of November next and the residue in two equal annual payments from that period.

George Thorp became the contractor, and in the levy for 1843 June Term was allowed to him as second payment $1725, and June next year 1175.60 for stone work beyond contract price. This would make the contract price $3450, and by adding allowance for extra stone work, a total cost of $3,822.60.

The order of the Court 11 July 1767, was: "In as much as this Board is satisfied that the present Jail of this county is wholly insufficient for the safe keeking of prisoners, it is therefore ordered, $10,000 be levied this year for the purpose of building a new jail on the same site of the present one, and that L. Dudley, F. C. Boggs, W. H. Mattingly, and Geo. K. Leonard be commissioners to contract for and superintend said work.


trangely enough, in those primitive days, legislatures and courts believed that prisoners should sometimes have fresh air of an open court yard, and limits to promenade within a 10 acre area, whose boundaries were often not even a bull-strong, horse high, or pig-tight" fence. So, under requirements of State law, the Court ordered: That the prison rules of this county be laid off as follows: to include the Public Grounds, and to extend with the North or Northeast line thereof to the Ohio river bank, and so extend with said bank and the course there of across little Kenawha river, and eight rods from Kenawha in the same direction, these to extend up Kenawha, south 45, east until a crossing line will include 10 acres of land to be laid off and marked.  

That prison bounds be altered and limited to the upper side of the mouth of the Little Kenawha river, to be bounded by the Ohio water in its common channel, at the north end by the little K. river, on south or west side still in its common channel, to extend up little Kenawha river 60 poles, and back from Little Kenawha river an equal distance from its mouth, and from the 60 pole station, so as to include 10 acres to be laid otf by the Surveyor, and that he erect sufftcient bounds. 

In 1807 the prison rules were three" acres on the south side of Little Kenawha river to include tan-yard and dwelling of Caleb Bailey. In Feb. 1810 rules were changed to  begin opposite the house of Lovett Bishop, then to extend across Little Kenawha river 6 rods wide, also to lay off 3 acres adjoining thereto, so as to include the tan yard and dwelling of Caleb Bailey, the remainder of the 10 acres, as prescribed by law, be laid off on the upper side of the Little Kenawha river.  

The Prison Bounds established Aug. 7, 1817, were: Beginning at junction of Julian and Harriet streets now southeast corner of Fourth—including Harriet street, to the junction of the same with Avery; thence including said street to its junction with Neal—now Second—thence with said Neal to the junction of same with Juliann street and to the beginning, including said street. 

In 1818 the Prison Rules were extended to include the house occupied by James Henderson. The bounds were extended Sept. 5, 1820, from the corner of Dr. Riggs' lot with the street to Ann, and on the south side of said street to Littleton; thence with the line thereof, 40 feet unto Our Lot No. 4, and by a line parallel with said street through said lot to the West line thereof; thence to Martin Bailey's corner; thence with the First street with the bounds heretofore laid off. 

Debtors, while being under sheriff's surveillance when unable to pay, were nevertheless to some extent privileged prisoners. For their convenience, and it must be said by individual partiality, the prison bounds, as the records show, were often modified and extended constructively to include, if prominent pioneers, their dwellings, even miles away to the utmost limits of the then broad county. In one case an Ohio river farm, twenty miles from the prison was included, so as to permit the debtor to conduct his extenstve acreage and live comfortaby and unguarded with his family.  

The following incident is related by an old pioneer of the county, aged 90 years, who now resides in Ohio: When the first court room was the upper story of a cabin, and the prison the lower one, the building facing the current of the Kenawha, one of the subordinate officials of the county, whose name began with W., had- been put in confinement for some trivial offense and upon doubtful evidence. He was a jolly bachelor, inclined to frequent  sprees, a great favorite and not watched very closely in his quarters. Having grown tired of incarceration a few days after incarceration he observed to a friend who was permitted to look in upon him, that 'if he was furnished a saw he would break camp. 

The next day by the intrigue of another visitor to whom the wish had been communicated, the saw a short one and exceedingly dull—was received and hidden away, save in deep midnight hour, when, as no one of the deputies slept about the court-cabin, it could be readily used. The saw-teeth from constant use having lost their edge needed a resetting, and the prisoner at the beginning found it hard labor. But the donor had anticipated this and to lighten the efforts held a cake of mutton tallow on the outside to grease the blade as it was pushed to and fro. The work at once became so easy that the surprised W. exclaimed in a suppressed voice, "Who in Tarnation Halifax is greasing my saw?" Ere long his release through the opening made enabled him to know the cause and thank his benefactor. 

June 6, 1803, James G. Laidley was appointed by the Justices to contract for the erection of stock, pillory and whipping post on or near east corner of the public grounds, to be completed before the August court. At the September term Andrew Davisson was allowed $24 for the erection of these means of punishment.

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