I have finished writing biographies of the jailers of the fourth jail and now I will discuss that building. I remember seeing this jail and many of you may also since it was not torn down until 1975. It was located on Broad Street near the last two jails. The third jail was condemned after a suit was brought against the County Judge B. G. Reams and others (probably the magistrates). I discussed this in my column of November 27, 1919. Until the suit the Fiscal Court had been dragging their feet on the building project but they were now better motivated to get started. The Sentinel-Echo addressed this on the front page of their June 8, 1905, issue.
Laurel County is to have a new jail. The Fiscal Court met Tuesday and levied a tax of 25 cents on each $100 worth of taxable property and 50 cents poll to be used toward the building of the new jail. By this method the county can build a jail and pay for it in two years and no one will be hurt very badly. No bonds will have to be issued. The members of the Fiscal Court and the County Judge are to be complimented for this act in the right direction. If the court will place this matter in the hands of three good commissioners and let them go to work at once we will have a new jail and a good one within a year. By taking this matter up as the court has, the county will save several thousand dollars. No bonds will be issued and there will be no interest to pay, and there will be no large debt against the county. We admire a court which has some push about it and the nerve to back up its judgment. No one will say that we have not needed a new jail, and needed it badly, for many years. The county has paid out many hundreds of dollars for repairs on the old jail in the last ten years, besides spending much for guards and transportation of prisoners from this to other county jails for safekeeping. In our judgment there has been half enough spent in these ten years because of the insufficiency of the old jail to have built a good new jail. With a new jail here we would not only keep all our prisoners here but would get prisoners from other counties where they have no safe jails. There are many other good reasons why we should have a new jail, but it will be readily seen from those cited that we need and should have a new jail at once.
The Fiscal Court did choose Commissioners and a Building Committee to plan and supervise the building of a new jail. I do not have details about the committee but I know it existed because I have read a letter from Commissioner E. O. Chilton to the Building Committee. I hope to share that letter in a future column. In the County Court Clerk’s office there are several small boxes which contain various papers filed in that office from 1826 through the 1900’s. Unfortunately most of them are not labeled adequately. I found his letter in one of those boxes which contained other papers connected to the building of this jail including the contract. This 33 page contract dated November 10, 1905, was between the Champion Iron Company of Kenton, Ohio, and Laurel County, Kentucky, by its Commissioners duly appointed by the Fiscal Court.
These papers provide valuable information since The Sentinel-Echo newspapers for 1906 and the first half of 1907 are missing. The October 10, 1907, issue reported Jailer Granville Johnson would soon move from the old jail which would be torn down. The jailer’s residence was attached to the jail in the third building but the new jail had a detached home. According to Chester Scoville “ a frame house near the street corner served as the jailer’s residence until 1930.” [Source: a Xerox copy we have on file of a newspaper article entitled “Laurel Jail Construction Uncovers Old Well’ by Susan Phelps]
Next week I hope to share additional information from the contract.
You may contact me through the Laurel County Historical Society by calling 606-864-0607. The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 West 3rd Street in the old Health Department Building. Weather permitting we are open on Mondays & Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We will open on other days by appointment. Please contact us far enough in advance to schedule a volunteer to open the library.