|A local history
published in 1975 stated: “The old jail may one day become a museum
and landmark.” The jail was in use up until 1985. Now, in 2005 – the
121 year old structure is indeed a landmark. One of handsomest and
best preserved 19th Century jails in Texas. It currently houses the
La Grange Chamber of Commerce.
people of La Grange in
1837 either believed in before-need planning or else they had a serious
crime problem. They organized the county in December of 1837 and had
their jail completed by the next July. After this first jail wore
out prisoners were then farmed out to be kept in private homes for
The county paid the keepers the munificent fee of $3 per day and there
was probably a list of people willing to house and feed cold-blooded
killers for serious money like that. The total expenditure for this
experiment came to $622 – fully one half of the county’s entire annual
A prisoner named John Vaughn (crime unknown) had his trial date set
so far in advance that when the arithmetic was done, it was realized
his stay would cost the county $800. He was moved around to other
jails – to get a lower bid. Finally, Vaughn was parked at the Travis
County jail for a mere $111.
early 1880s, the county issued twenty-two bonds at $1000 each to build
a new first-class jail. An iron fence was ordered from Philadelphia
for $2,074. It managed to survive the scrap drives of WWII
and it's still keeping livestock off the lawn 120 years later. So
far, that comes to only $17 a year.
photo courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum & Archives
| One post of
the $2000.00 Fence
by John Troesser,
The jail is also said to be haunted. One of the suspected
spirits is said to be that of a Fayette
County woman who murdered a hired
hand and then committed suicide by staging a successful hunger strike.
Another legend says the skeletons of several hapless prisoners remain
chained to the walls under sand and silt from a flooding of the Colorado
River. The sheriff couldn't - or didn't - get them out in time. They've
been telling that story around cub scout campfires for years.
| One of the two
matching round windows that flank the main door
by John Troesser,
Another convenient feature were the two exterior “drunk blocks.” These
freestanding cement cells on the jail lawn came with their own “bath.”
These cells were for prisoners too drunk (or rowdy) to climb the four-step
staircase of the entrance. One of the cells has been kept for display.