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
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!
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.
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 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 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
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 in Texas, must have been a town with a
lot of seedy visitors, because its jail is quite a stunner
The diamond-shaped window adds a nice touch
to the rather dim exterior of the Washington,
Oklahoma calaboose.
The drunk tank in Wortham, Texas sits behind the police station. In one of its two cells,
ne'er-do-wells can contemplate their life's choices in a time-out chair.
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 Darryl braved cactus to take a look
at this strap 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 got the police to let him into
the old Sabinal, Texas jail house,
complete with outfits and nefarious
graffiti. (Click on the image to see a
larger photo of the jail cell.)
Darryl found this beauty in La Coste, Texas. Is it wrong to think of a jail as
"cute?" Because this qualifies.
Darryl captured the disused jail of Moore, Texas.
Darryl also captured this beauty behind a steakhouse in D'Hanis, Texas.
Darryl documents the history of San Antonio on his Facebook site,
San Antonio, Tx - Photos of the past & present.
Here's Claremont's jail
again, just because I
find it so pretty. Click
on the photo above for
a better look inside the
Darryl 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 took the photo of the inside of the Moore jail, which
doesn't seem to be very comfy. I doubt it ever was!
The Bonham, Texas jail has been demolished. It wasn't a calaboose, of
course, but it's nice to be commemorated, anyway.
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!!!
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)
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.
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.
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.
Questions or comments? E-mail me:
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.
The calaboose in Holliday (Archer County, Texas) also sports a stone
marker fashioned by
Jack Loftin.
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.