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
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!
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.
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."
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, which sits along the Great Western Trail.
Wanna know why it's my favorite? Click on the picture.
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, Arkansas."    
Tammie 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 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.
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.
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:
Often, calabooses sit in ghost towns, like this one in Odell, Texas. The jail lies in the middle of a field.
The now-defunct city jail in Boswell, Oklahoma had two cells and four bunks to make one's stay as pleasant as possible.  
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!!!
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
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 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.
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.
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 Boswell jail was in use from 1905 until the 1960s. Makes me wonder who R.H. was? Diane Tellez alerted me to this calaboose- Thanks!
Ne'er-do-wells can contemplate their life's choices in a time-out chair at the calaboose in Wortham, TX.
Darryl captured the disused jail of Moore, Texas
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 (McKinney Street, east of town) at an estate sale. The closing mechanism was fascinating.
The  stone house in Decatur, TX was built in the 1850s to accommodate the warden and his family. Below the living quarters was the jail.
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!
A rather somber affair sits by the tracks in Sentinel, Washita County, Oklahoma.