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Century Old Jail Is Piece Of History

The old jail is filled with Yalobusha history-some notorious. The trap door used for hanging condemned prisoners is still visible on the second floor (lower right) as is the metal ring where the rope was tied. – Photos by Jack Gurner

District One employee Kenny Calder carries a box of county records down the stair passed the trap door. He and fellow employees Wayne Smith and J. R. Ingram (photo below) hauled the records to the new county building on CR 436. Also helping was Wade Woodard.

All the plumbing was located in the hallway. There was no hot water on the jail level.

District One employee John Foxx sorts through items stored in one of the cells.

Almost every surface is covered with graffiti.

An old chair sits where it was left when the jail closed.

An open hallway surround the metal box jail. The jail appears to have been prefabricated.

District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn wants to make sure that the historic structure is preserved.

A handwritten sign over the first cell at the head of the stairs reads, “Women Only.”

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – County workers began cleaning out the old Yalobusha County Jail last week as a step toward making sure the historic building is preserved.

Workers moved several truckloads of county property from the 100-plus year old structure on Blackmur Drive to the county owned building just south of Water Valley on CR 436.

“It’s a building worth preserving,” District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said of the brick and steel jail building. “It’s a real piece of Yalobusha County history.”

The jail is also considered a Mississippi Landmark and was given that designation by the Department of Archives and History in August of 1984.

District One workers spent the day last Wednesday sorting and loading old county records, books, and miscellaneous property that had been stored in the cells of the second floor jail.

Vaughn hopes to find grant money to finance needed repairs to the structure that was built in 1906 and replaced in 1966 by the current jail on Calhoun Street. He wants people to be able to tour the building and see the conditions under which prisoners were held.

Vaughn pointed out that the cells were no bigger than about eight by eight and were made to hold four people. There was no running water in the cells and the toilets were located in the hallway. And, there was no hot water anywhere on the second floor.

Almost every surface is covered with graffiti, some dating back to the 1950’s, which is probably the last time the jail was painted.

The only way in or out of the second floor is one set of stairs on the south side of the building.

Meals for the prisoners were cooked in the jailer’s living quarters on the first floor and sent up to the second floor in the dumbwaiter, a small freight elevator.

To the left of the dumbwaiter is the area where several convicted murders were executed by hanging. The trap door is still there, although the doors have been welded shut. The steel ring where the rope was tied is still attached to the ceiling.

The most notable executions to take place in the jail were for the murder of Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Wagner 80 years ago. The two men responsible were hanged on July 17, 1931.

According to a newspaper report from the time they died, “at the end of a rope in the little brick jail in Water Valley.”

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