Along with the courthouse, the county jail is the one building in town that was generally meant to last. Its large stone walls and iron bars
made sure that those inside couldn't get out, and those on the outside wouldn't want to come in.

Not every crime was conveniently perpetrated in the county seat, however. So what could a small town law enforcement officer do when
he had to arrest a person for some nefarious act, but could not transport the accused until the next day?

He'd rely on the calaboose to hold those who strayed from the law. A calaboose is a free standing, one room concrete block usually
situated behind the town center (and in close proximity to the sheriff's office). The word "calaboose" stems from the Spanish word for
"dungeon," calabozo, but in the vernacular, they are referred to as the "hoosegow."  

Luckily for us, a few of these frontier-justice relics remain. I've made it one of my missions to photograph every calaboose I come across.
And although the name implies a rather sinister structure, I've yet to encounter iron spikes or thumb screws. Instead, all calabooses (or
calabice?) are concrete block houses, with a door and a small window, which would house a thief, cattle rustler, or drunk for a night. In
fact, the word "drunk tank" immediately comes to mind!
The most well-known (and well-kept) calaboose is
the one in downtown Grapevine. Once the
overnight home to associates of the Barrow Gang,
the structure was moved from behind the square
to Main Street once Grapevine became a tourist
destination.
Come on in, my pretty....!
If you have any photos of a calaboose, or know
where one is so I can photograph it, please
send the info my way!
robin@redriverhistorian.com
The calaboose in Kemp, Texas, has some
interesting history hiding behind its brick
walls. The first time
Bonnie Parker
accompanied Clyde Barrow on a robbery, she,
Clyde, and accomplice Ralph Fults found
themselves in a shoot-out from which only
Clyde escaped. Captured by local police and
townsmen, Bonnie and Ralph, who was
injured, were locked up in the Kemp
calaboose until they could be transported to
Kaufman, the county seat, in the morning.
Most citizens of the town peered into the
calaboose to get a good look at the two
bandits, who were rumored to be Pretty Boy
Floyd and his moll (since no one had heard of
the Barrow Gang at that time yet).
Eyewitnesses recall Bonnie hissing at their
prying eyes and yelling out for a doctor for
poor Ralph. This was the only time Bonnie
Parker ever spent in jail.
The Frisco, TX calaboose sits in an overgown
lot and is used mostly as a tool storage
shed.The city has since demolished it, but
wants to rebuild it at their heritage center.
Room For One: Red River Calabooses
Donna Walters sent me this great picture of a calaboose in Keota, Oklahoma (Haskell County, in the Sans Bois Mountains). Thank you so much
for sharing your photo, Donna! - "Just wanted to share a really cool calaboose with you which is in Keota, Haskell County, Oklahoma.I had a few
relatives who spent a lot of nights in this jail after having a few "choc" beers or white lightning made in the hills of the San Bois, Oklahoma
mountain ranges. I am including a photo which is fairly good. The jail is unkempt and the town of Keota doesn't seem concerned with saving this
historical building so maybe it can go online and will be remembered through photos. The last time I saw the jail it was overgrown with weeds
and trees were beginning to grow up through it and around it. This jail house is next to the Mill off of Hwy 9 which goes through the center of
Keota, OK. If you need any more information on the jail let me know. I have a couple of family stories about the jail and especially one from an old
timer Great Uncle of mine who slept in it quite often."
The now-defunct city jail in Boswell, Oklahoma had two cells and four bunks to make one's
stay as pleasant as possible. Or not. The jail was in use from 1905 until the 1960s. Diane
Tellez alerted me to this calaboose - thanks, Diane!
By most standards, Chillicothe is a small town, but it has always been a center for trade in
the far western reaches of North Texas. That explains why its calaboose had several jail
cells - it must have held a number of visitors.
The calaboose in Pilot Point, Texas sports adobe and a heavy iron door.
My favorite calaboose by far sits a block off OK
34 in Leedey. This well preserved jail looks like
it's still in use, too... because it has the facilities
to keep over-night guests! Leedey is situated on
the
Great Western Trail.
Reader Jean Cooper sent this great photo of a calaboose in the mud: "I seen your website and thought you might like this photo. This one room
jail sits in Reyno, Arkansas in Randolph County. I am researching it right now but it appears to have been in use from about 1910 to the 1940's.
There is also a similar one about 10 miles from there at Success, AR and another about 10 miles from there in Maynard, Arkansas."     Jean
Cooper, Jonesboro, Arkansas. Thanks, Jean!
Tammie Rudman and her daughter sent this photo
of a strange looking calaboose in
Waxahachie that
was built before 1890. It served as the city jail, with
the county jail a few blocks away. Thanks, Tammie!
The calaboose in Leonard, Texas kept inmates safe and in relative comfort from 1930 until the 1960s.
I like the little overhang over the door - that's a nice and cozy touch!
Trenton, Texas' calaboose is just downright scenic.
Reader Steve Quarrella sent this fantastic photo of the hoosegow in Tioga, Texas... so, so
pretty. Thanks, Steve.
The drunk tank in Wortham, Texas sits behind the police station. Ne'er-do-wells can contemplate their life's choices in a time-out chair.
The only way you know that this cute little place used to be Addington,
Oklahoma's drunk tank is by the sign. Otherwise, it looks like a doll
house. Too cute. (Addington's on the
Chisholm Trail)
Rosser, Texas sits along the Trinity River and was a plantation
landing before the civil war. After the war, the railroad came
through, bringing all sorts of characters with it. Many probably
spent the night inside this calaboose.
Terral, Oklahoma sits on US 81 and began as a town on the
Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Just to its east is
Fleetwood, a ghost town that served cowboys going up the Abilene
Cattle Trail/
Chisholm Trail. By the time this calaboose was built,
the trail drives were long over, however.
Fort Griffin Flat, Texas was a rough-and-tumble town set up along the
base of
Fort Griffin that also served as a supply stop for cowboys going
up the
Great Western Trail. From what I've read about the Flat, this
calaboose no doubt saw many visitors.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
Often, calabooses sit in ghost towns, like this one in Odell, Texas. The jail lies in the middle of a field. Inside the Odell calaboose, the frame of
an iron bed tells the story of utter boredom endured by those who were guests in this dubious hotel.
The now-defunct city jail in Boswell,
Oklahoma had two cells and four bunks to
make one's stay as pleasant as possible.  
The jail was in use from 1905 until the
1960s. Diane Tellez alerted me to this
calaboose - thanks, Diane!
The calaboose in Royse City, Texas looks like a "trailer with a bit of stucco
on it," as one of my readers pointed out. In other words, very homey!!!
Window to the cells in Chillicothe, Texas.
Claremont, which sits on US 380 near the Caprock in Texas, must have been a town with a lot of seedy visitors, because its jail is quite a
stunner. Click on the jail cell photo for a better look inside the jail.
The Frisco, TX calaboose sits in an overgown lot and is used mostly as
a tool storage shed.The city has since demolished it, but wants to
rebuild it at their heritage center.
Bill Moore, a south Texas archaeologist, discovered this beauty in
Milam county, Texas. Love the cross hatching on the windows! Bill's
blog is
http://www.tinytexasjails.com/
The diamond-shaped window adds a nice touch to the rather dim exterior of
the Washington, Oklahoma calaboose.
Reader Darryl Pearson found this fortress-style calaboose in
Stockdale, Texas. He is a veritable jail-hunter....
Darryl found this utilitarian design in Campwood, Texas...
... and  braved cactus to take a look at this iron jail in Spofford, TX...
... Darryl got two-for-the-price-of-one in Helena, Texas - the Helena cage and the Falls City jail...
Darryl captured the disused jail of Moore, Texas. He writes that in Moore, TX,  "on the right side of this road [FM2520], and just down from the
jail, are two huge oak trees that were used as hanging trees back in the 1800's."
Darryl found this beauty in La Coste, Texas. Is it wrong to think of a
jail as "cute?" Because this qualifies.
Darryl also captured this beauty behind a steakhouse in D'Hanis,
Texas. Visit Darryl on his Facebook page,
Images of Texas.
... Darryl convinced the police to let him into the old Sabinal, Texas
jail house, complete with outfits and nefarious graffiti.
The calaboose in Holliday (Archer County, Texas) also sports a stone marker fashioned by Jack Loftin.
Ida, Louisiana's jail is still very sturdy. On the back is a depiction of a
Caddo inscription rock, located somewhere near Ida on private property.
Beautiful brick hoosegow in Desdemona, Eastland County, Texas.
The former calaboose in Bennington (Bryan County, Oklahoma) is
now a storage shed for both detritus and trees.
The city jail for Durant, Oklahoma seems to have modern amenities,
like a satellite dish. Methinks this is not used to house criminals
anymore.
Situated (conveniently?) at the cemetery in Colfax, Louisiana, is an
old jail built in 1890. There are remains of a chimney, letting me to
ascertain it wasn't used for cold storage, if you get my drift. Ha ha.
Still unsure if this is a calaboose - at any rate, it's in the
now-defunct town of Mayers, Louisiana.
By most standards, Chillicothe is a small town, but it has always been a center for
trade in the far western reaches of North Texas. That explains why its calaboose
had several jail cells - it must have held a number of visitors.
A calaboose? Or really just an ice house? In Myra, Texas.
The fancy frieze above the cell door in Winthrop, Arkansas provides an air of elegance, at least I think so.