Allen County Jail Museum - Iola, Kansas
The Old Allen County Jail in Iola, Kansas was built in 1869 and operated continuously until 1958. During part of its active life, the second floor housed the jailer and his family, but for most of the 90 years the jail was in use, there were cell blocks on both the first and second floor.
The Allen County Jail was officially completed on October 7, 1869 and cost $8,400 to construct. It is 30 feet across by 47 feet deep and the limestone walls are over 2 feet thick.
Although the Allen County Jail was described as being "strong enough to hold the strongest, slipperiest, and most expert of law breakers," in less than a year, six prisoners escaped by sawing off two of the bars of a window grate. There were several other jail breaks over the years.
In June of 1870, Elsy Dolson, who was charged with murder, was taken from the jail by a mob and handed in a barn southwest of Iola.
The Allen County jail was used continuously from October 1869 until December 2, 1958, when the five prisoners then in the jail were transferred to the jail constructed in the new Allen County Courthouse across the street on the square. The old jail was opened as a museum on May 20, 1962, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Today the first floor's solitary confinement cell and steel cage cell block are much as they were when the jail was closed in 1958. The second floor has rooms furnished with artifacts from the late 1800s. Photos are only permitted on the first floor, but that is the most interesting part of the museum.
copyright 2007-2020 by Keith Stokes