Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at the origins of the formation of Bulloch County.)
When the Bulloch County Commissioners were finally named by the Georgia Legislature, the men responsible for “fixing a proper place to erect a Court House and a jail” were Drury Jones, John Mikell and Israel Bird.
Apparently, tempers were growing short with those who misbehaved, for the 1813 Grand Jury report stated that a horse thief was publicly whipped 39 times three days in a row before being carried to Chatham County’s jail.
This caused the Grand Jury to set aside the grand sum of $500 to build a suitable building to contain its criminals. This, the first jail, actually served as a stable most of the time, as it was a mere log cabin.
When space was needed for a lawbreaker; a stall was cleared out for the miscreant. By 1843, they needed a more secure location to house evil-doers. A planked structure was built by W.H. DeLoach on Court House Square.
On May 30, 1879, Bulloch County Commissioners advertised in the Excelsior News for bids for a larger jail on Hill Street. It was to be 22 feet by 23 feet in size; and the walls, floors and ceilings were to be made secure.
The rooms were to be 7 by 10 feet in diameter, and were to be separated by a 6 1/2-foot corridor, and it had one 18 by 20 inches wide window. The jail itself was built 10 inches off the ground.
The Statesboro News of July 5, 1901 revealed the city was accepting sealed bids for the construction of a new brick jail along with a certified check” for $100. The specifications were for a 2-two-story jail.
It was to "have a tin-roof (and be) about 38 ½ feet wide by 42 ½ feet long (with) 6 rooms on the 1st floor. There will 3 rooms on the 2nd floor, 1 of which is to be furnished with a large cage with 4 cells and a corridor.”
The Statesboro News of Dec. 13, 1901 reported that under “the management of Mr. Andrew Nicols, the Superintendent (the jail will) be ready for the retention of those who obey not the mandates of the law.”
The Statesboro News issue of Jan. 10, 1902 announced “the carpenters are now engaged in putting in the gallows in the new jail. The trap door is on the 2nd floor (and) any criminal (will) be hung inside (the) jail.”
The Statesboro News issue of April 18, 1902, had an article, which stated that “Men have grown in charity (towards) their unfortunate fellows who (are) imprisoned.”
The author believed, “A man can be held in jail and not be unduly punished by being confined in jail.” According to this story, “The first (jail) after the war was a little old log jail which was (also) used as a barn.”
The county commissioners set aside $500 to erect this structure. “Next was a plank jail, built up on North Main Street, by Wm. H. DeLoach Sr., (that) was moved later to the court house square.”
Another article in the Statesboro News of April 18, 1902 reported "a modern, handsome structure has been built which will be sufficient for the needs of the county for many years to come, (completed) for $7,750.”
Continuing, “The building cost $2,500 and the cells $5,250. It is a roomy building, and arranged with water works and a system of sewerage. The front is used by the jailor as a residence.”
The cells for prisoners were in the back of the building. It had jail cells downstairs used for women and children, and cells upstairs used for men and boys. It also had separate cells for black and white.
And, “Many (prisoners) have escaped from every jail that we have had. Only three persons have ever been brought to the gallows (although) some of the 99 guilty ones that have escaped that ought to have been hung.”
Finally, the article revealed “The new jail has a trap door, with the necessary outfit, to hang a fellow, inside the jail, and hereafter all executions will be private.”
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.