most counties in Texas merely had a jail, Collin
County had a prison, if only in name. One half block off McKinney's
Square, this simple, utilitarian fortress was the work of F.E.
Ruffini and finished in 1880. Written in stone above the
door are the words: COLLIN COUNTY PRISON. Until recently that was
the only door in or out.
Presently undergoing restoration, it wasn't long ago that this building
was on the Historic Commission's Endangered Buildings List.
courtesy Charles Schuler
of the Prison's History:
While new breath
is being breathed into the structure, this is the address where
E. Stepp breathed his last. Convicted of killing a man and sinking
the corpse in a well, Mr. Stepp was the last legal execution in
before the State assumed the task. The fatal day was November 17,
1922, and having no permanent gallows, an impromptu affair was set
up with a plank running through two windows of an upper corner.
"Mr. Ed" was the executioner du jour.
A detailed and entertaining transcribed oral history by the former
jailer is available in the McKinney Public Library.
Claude West was the jailer, and the son of a Collin County
Sheriff. For many years a jailer's job was seven days a week - 24
hours a day. Mrs. West cooked for family and inmates alike, although
Mr. West got more syrup on his hotcakes. Claude wore a medium brim
Stetson hat, carried a long barreled .38 and was proud of the fact
he wore dress shoes instead of boots.
Another personality was "Uncle Bud", who would arrive unannounced
and park his "coach" in the alley. He was sent to transport those
prisoners who had graduated to Huntsville.
was and continues to be the only town offering "bus service" to
all 254 Texas counties. A considerate man, Uncle Bud would wait
while prisoners sent a messenger to their families, so they could
be properly sent off. (This also gave him time to enjoy Mrs. West's
cooking and a visit with Claude).
was perhaps the Prison's most infamous 19th Century Guest.
In the early 20th Century, Ray Hamilton spent some time under
Mr. West's supervision. A member of the Barrow Gang, Ray proved
his criminal ineptitude by finding a way to get arrested usually within
five minutes of arriving in a town. The second floor of the prison
(to be the restaurant's kitchen) has a bar sawn halfway through by
Charles "Tex" Watson of the Manson Group (not an investment
firm) also spent time here awaiting extradition to California for
his part in the Tate-LaBianca killings. Charles went to High School
in nearby Farmersville.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
landmarks and recent or vintage photos, please contact