The first jail was built of hewed logs, and was twelve feet square. The logs were twelve inches square, and the floor was of the same material, as well as the loft. This was a rather formidable prison in those primitive days, but in this age of ” criminal perfection,” when burglary and house-breaking have become a science, it would exercise but a very slight restraint upon the class for whose benefit such buildings are erected. A new jail was decided upon at the time the first brick court house was ordered, which was to be built according to ” a plan drawn by John Clark, and now in his possession, and that John Clark, William Padfield, Bartholomew Wood and John Campbell be appointed Commissioners to superintend the building, by letting it to the lowest bidder, taking bond and sufficient security for the faithful performance, and to do other acts and things relative to building at any time they think it proper.” This jail when completed was a log pen, the logs hewed and fitted very close together, and outside of the pen a solid brick wall was built, with only small air holes.” This was called the dungeon, and was the repository of criminals. The upper story was more airy, and was called the debtors’ prison, for such a law (imprisonment for debt) was in existence here in early days.
A brick jail was built about the time of the second brick court house, and stood in front of ‘where the present one now is. It was torn down some years ago, and the present jail erected. It is a substantial structure, built of brick, with a jailer’s residence in connection. It is finished off with all the modern arrangements for rendering prisons safe, having iron cages and stone floors, and is otherwise secure and substantial. When prisoners enter within its gloomy walls, it is expected they will stay there until wanted by the proper authorities.
Crime and Lawlessness
As the rough and turbulent spirits of the pioneer period drifted away before the benign influence of civilization, society improved materially in the county. It is quite true that it was never worse here than it is in all new countries. But the history of our republic, from its earliest colonization, has shown bad men mingled among the first comers to a particular section, and that, as law and order are established, these characters are weeded out. So it was here. Shortly after the county was formed, and the different branches of the courts were organized and put in operation, Christian became as law-abiding a community as any in the State. And with the great mass of the population this has ever been the case.
But there was a period, dating back perhaps to 1835-40, when not only this, but some of the surrounding counties were afflicted with a species of lawlessness, that to the better class of citizens was extremely annoying. Horse-stealing became rather common, likewise barn-burning, and occasionally burglarious attacks, of an alarming nature, varied the monotony of the times, and led to the general belief that there was an organized band of men who made robbery their chief occupation. The whole Mississippi Valley seemed to be troubled in pretty much the same way. Depredations were committed in rapid succession at points widely separated, and yet with such characteristic skill as to create the belief that they were done by the same inspiration, if not by the same persons. Such a conclusion involved a belief in a wide-spread conspiracy, which so covered the territory with abettors and sympathizers that the ordinary officials felt powerless to thwart its plans, or arrest the offenders against the law. At first this was worse in other counties than it was here, but it gradually became too common in this county to be longer borne, without efforts being made to check the evil. The achievements of this confederated band of outlaws culminated, in 1845, in the murder of a man named Simon Davis.