Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Montgomery County Jail

Mt. Sterling went through a series of jails. The conditions must have been horrendous. The community solicited bids for a new jail in 1861, but with the beginning of the Civil War, plans were delayed and eventually scrapped. In The History of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky there is this description:

During the war, the jail was used to hold Rebel soldiers as well as criminals, and conditions seem, if anything, to have worsened. In a letter written from Canada by Henry Stone of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry, Co. D, CSA in 1863, he says, "Got a letter from Cousin Sallie Johnson, who says three Rebels got out of Mt. Sterling dungeon the other night, prying bars in the widow loose. There was a tier of bars at each window, eight feet from the floor and nothing to pry with then I was there. I suffered in that place. It was dark at night; no candle; cold and damp, no fire, and for the first three nights I had no blanket. I had to eat, sleep, drink and answer nature in the same room. (p.106)
40 Broadway Street
After the war, and with Thomas' elected to become the new jailer, a new jail was completed by 1871 on Broadway on the present site of the City Building. According to the 1870 Census, the "jail house" consisted of living quarters for Thomas and his family as well as a "cook" and three inmates housed in the jail.

The 1870 Census lists Thomas and his wife, Kate, daughter, Lucy, young daughters Mary Lou and Lizzie, son-in-law, and Albert Story and his wife Atlanta (Addie). Addie was his oldest daughter, now married, and her husband was running the "confectionery" business.

The cook was a black woman named Rachel Regan, who undoubtedly had been a slave just five years earlier. The prisoners included two white prisoners, John Broth and Wm. Landsaw, and one black prisoner named Jim Wyatt.

Side Entrance to Jail and
Upper Story Living Quarters

Quoting the History of Mt. Sterling:
The jailer at this time was T. H. Probert, who was paid 75 cents a day (per prisoner) for "dieting" prisoners. The county also assumed the costs of fuel, medicine and doctor's visits for inmates. City prisoners in this period were used as labor at a rock quarry on Queen St., working out their fines at $1.50 a day, or were used by the jailer in cleaning streets.

This was to be Thomas' job until his death ten years later. It was probably not the best job, but one with a guaranteed, legal income in the tumultuous period following the end of the war.

Boyd, Carl B and Boyd, Hazel Mason. History of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, 1792-1918, pp. 106-107.

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