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.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken by Red River Historian.
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.
Room For One:
Red River Calabooses
My favorite calaboose by far sits
a block off OK 34 in Leedey,
which sits along the
Western Trail.

Wanna know why it's my
favorite? Click on the picture.
RRH reader Donna Walters
sent me this great picture of a
calaboose in Keota, Oklahoma
(Haskell County, in the Sans
Bois Mountains): "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. 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."
Often, calabooses sit in ghost
towns, like this one in Odell,
Texas. The jail lies in the
middle of a field.
Accommodation in Odell's
dubious hotel.
Trenton, Texas' calaboose is
just downright scenic.
The calaboose in Pilot Point,
Texas sports adobe and a heavy
iron door.
RRH reader Jean Cooper sent
this great photo of a calaboose in
the mud: "I saw 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,
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.
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 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
The now-defunct city jail in
Boswell, OK had two cells and
four bunks .  
It was in use from 1905 until
the 1960s. RRH reader Diane
Tellez alerted me to this
calaboose- Thanks!
RRH reader Steve Quarrella sent
this fantastic photo of the
hoosegow in Tioga, Texas... so,
so pretty. Thanks, Steve.
RRH readersTammie Rudman
and her daughter sent this
photo the 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 drunk tank in Wortham,
Texas sits behind the police
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!!!
Still unsure if this is a calaboose
- at any rate, it's in the
now-defunct town of Mayers,
Ne'er-do-wells can
contemplate their life's
choices in a time-out chair.
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
once sat in an overgown lot
and was used  as a tool
storage shed. The city has
since demolished it, but  
rebuilt it at their heritage
RRH reader Bill Moore, a
south Texas archaeologist,
discovered this beauty in
Milam county, Texas and
sent me this photo. Love the
cross hatching on the
RRH reader Darryl Pearson
found this fortress-style
calaboose in Stockdale,
Texas. He is a veritable
Darryl found this utilitarian
design in Campwood,
... 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 convinced the police
to let him into the old
Sabinal, Texas jail house,
complete with outfits and
nefarious graffiti.
Darryl captured the disused
jail of Moore, Texas
Fort Griffin Flat, Texas was a
rough-and-tumble town set
up along the base of
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 diamond-shaped
window adds a nice touch
to the rather dim exterior of
the Washington, Oklahoma
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. This
photo is the conclusion of
Darryl's contributions; thank
you so much, Darryl!
The only way you know that
this cute little place used to
be Addington, Oklahoma's
drunk tank is by the sign.
While Addington's on the
Chisholm Trail,  the jail was
built much later.
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
Chisholm Trail. By the
time this calaboose was built,
the trail drives were long over.
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,
The former calaboose in
Bennington (Bryan County,
Oklahoma) is now a storage
shed for both detritus and
The former city jail for
Durant, Oklahoma  has
modern amenities, like a
satellite dish, and is used for
other purposes than lock up.
Situated at the cemetery in
Colfax, Louisiana, is an jail
built in 1890. At first I didn't
recognize it as a jail, but I
noticed the remains of a
chimney, leading me to
ascertain this building wasn't
used for cold storage.
Denton, TX had a very stately
jail at one point, but it was
destroyed in the 1980s to make
way for a parking lot. Built in
the 1890s to compliment the
courthouse, the jail was
upgraded in the 1940s. Some
of the cells were sold to scrap
metal dealers and collectors.
In 2016, I stumbled on a set of
the cells in a field on old US
24 at an estate sale.
The  stone house in Decatur,
TX was built in the 1850s by
prison labor to accommodate
the warden and his family.
Below the living quarters, in
the basement, was the jail.
Decatur has the old stone jail
still standing around, but the
museum has also preserved
th jail cells and door from
the county jail on the
grounds of the Wise County
Museum, once Decatur
Baptist College.
Stuart, Oklahoma has
preserved their rock jail very
well. The door and hinges are
still original.
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.
This building is WAY to big
to be considered a
'calaboose,' but a jail this
fantastic is a rare find and
needs to commemorated.
This was once the Bowie
County jail in
Boston, now
New Boston, to differentiate
from Old Boston.
The calaboose from Van
Alstyne (Grayson County,
Texas) dates to 1947. Don't
believe me? Click on the
photograph for proof!
The calaboose in Sentinel,
Oklahoma stands next to the
railroad tracks. I guess to
make sure trouble makers
would catch the next train
out of there?