The Old Cooper County Jail
OLD COOPER COUNTY JAIL
SHERIFFS RESIDENCE & HANGING BARN
614 EAST MORGAN
BOONVILLE, MO 65233
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
MEMORIAL DAY TO LABOR DAY
SATURDAYS 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
SUNDAYS 1:00 am to 4:00 pm
GROUP & SCHOOL TOURS
OWNED AND OPERATED
THE FRIENDS OF HISTORIC BOONVILLE
ARCHIVES LOCATED ON SECOND FLOOR RESEARCH & GENEALOGY SERVICE
P.O. BOX 1776 - BOONVILLE, MO 65233
Until its closing in 1978, the Old Cooper County Jail was the oldest continuously used County Jail in Missouri. The original Structure was completed in 1848 for $6,091.50. Slaves quarried the 2 2 foot thick limestone blocks which they used for construction of the two-story building. The original large room on the ground level was known as the Bullpen.@ Prisoners were shackled to the walls in this room with chains through 1 1/4 inch rings. Slaves destined for the auction block on Main Street were also held here.
In 1871, the appearance of the second floor was changed with the addition of iron box cells. Brought to Boonville by steamboat from St. Louis, these were installed using the occupants of the jail as laborers. The Jail itself was to receive no additional changes for another century.
The most famous of the many prisoners associated with the Jail was Frank James, brother of Jesse. James was brought to the Jail and charged with robbing the train in south Cooper county in 1876. James was never to spend time in the cells - sympathetic citizens of Boonville raised his bond in a matter of hours and later the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
In 1871, the County Court authorized the construction of the adjoining sheriff=s residence. Numerous improvements were made in this section. The last major construction on the grounds occurred in 1878 with the building of the stable/Jail barn@ designed to house the horses of the Sheriff it became the site of one of the last public hangings in the state in January 1930.
Each cell has its own history, its own story to tell. The graffiti carved limestone rock walls stand as silent witness to its former occupants. It takes little imagination to hear the footsteps and the clang of the huge jail keys. In 1978 a Federal Court declared the Jail cruel and unusual punishment@ and the cell doors closed bringing an end to another era of Cooper County history.
Produced by Jeremy Painter 1998