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
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!

Her message reads:

Hello Robin,

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!
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.
In Chillicothe, Texas, a calaboose sits facing an alley way. Beyond the alley
used to sit a bank, but all that's left of that is the vault.
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. It's also right next to the
downtown water tower.
My favorite calaboose by far sits a block off of 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!
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!
The recreated calaboose in Council Grove, Kansas sits in a small
historical park near the KATY depot. The jail was used from the 1840s
until the 1870s, and was made of wood, probably found around the
grove of trees that served as a landmark in the treeless expanse of the
Flint Hills. Council Grove is a wonderful town that served as the
most-western stop along the Santa Fe trail.
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 (note
the toilet above) 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.
Archaeologist Bill Moore took a photo of this calaboose in Gause, Texas
(near Bryan/College Station). Thanks, Bill!
Here's another find from Bill Moore, who discovered this beauty in Milam
county, Texas. Love the cross hatching on the windows!
Reader Steve Quarrella sent this fantastic photo of the hoosegow in Tioga,
Texas... so, so pretty. Thanks, Steve.
Claremont, which sits on US 380 near the Caprock, must have been a town
with a lot of seedy visitors, because its jail is quite a stunner
.
Try not to get locked in...