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Washington County's 5th & current jail:  Built in 1893 & still houses the Washington County Sheriff's Dept. Esther Carroll's great aunt, Ida Martin Cooper, cooked for the prisoners in this old jail during the term that her husband, Jim Cooper, was sheriff of Washington County in 1947.  A new modern addition (not pictured) built in 1988 now accomodates the jail.  Photographed: Spring of 1997. This building is at the corner of High & Mine streets in Potosi. 


4th JAIL: Another jail was constructed in 1868.  It was a one story brick building with iron cells, and was about 15 feet north of the 2nd courthouse on the same lot (High & Missouri Streets). 

On November 26th, 1870 an attempt was made by outraged citizens to lynch Charley Jolly & John Armstrong who had brutally murdered five members of the Lapine family.   About 12:30 at night a mob of 75 people appeared in front of the jail.  The sheriff, having heard rumors of the possibility of an attempted lynching, had organized a posse of 25 men armed with revolvers and double barreled shotguns. The sheriff and four men were stationed on the second floor of the courthouse and the rest of the posse were stationed at the windows and doors. Sheriff Clark firmly told the mob that it was his duty to defend the prisoners from violence and to enforce the law, and this he intended to do at all hazards. The mob was then ordered to disperse or be fired upon, but they kept yelling, "Keys! Keys!" and howling and shouting.

The sheriff commanded his posse to fire a volley over the heads of the mob. The mob immediately fired four or five shots at the posse. Those stationed outside dodged into the courthouse and escaped unhurt. Sheriff Clarke then ordered his men to fire indiscriminately down at the crowd, sending the mob fleeing in all directions. A young man named Mainwaring was killed and six or seven others were wounded.

The next morning the sheriff summoned every person he could find on the street to strengthen the defense of jail. Later in the day the prisoners were removed to St. Louis for safe keeping. The defeated lynching affair caused almost as much excitement as the murder and a strong feeling was created against the sheriff and his officers.

This jail was burned by an insane prisoner, Joachim Bayer(Boyer?), early in the spring of 1893.


3rd JAIL: A building that later became a private residence was used as jail until 1868.  From:  Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri

Washington County Journal ~ 7 Nov. 1867:  On Sunday the last prisoners, to the number of four, confined in our rickety county boarding house, were detected in preparation to absent themselves.  In a vault attached to the cell was found suspended a crowbar, ready for night operations.  The bar had been passed through the grated window by a friend of some one of the prisoners.  An hour or two of night work, & this interesting quartette might have gone unwhipped of justice.

Washington County Journal ~ 12 Dec. 1867:  The necessity of a new jail never appealed more directly to the tax-payers of Washington County than at present.  Today we have no less than five prisoners, as a public charge, in the jails of neighboring counties.  The tax of conveying these prisoners to other quarters & returning them at the time of Circuit Court is very considerable.  We are well aware where the difficulty lays with our County Court;  they do not desire to incur any unnecessary responsiblity in the urging of this public necessity.  Yet as a measure of general good our people should, & we believe would, endorse the necessary appropriation for an ample & substantial jail.  The matter should be acted on promptly at the next session of our County Court.

Washington County Journal ~ 2 Jan. 1868:  Our County Court have taken steps for the erection of a suitable jail.  Plans are in progress & a call will be made soon through the advertising columns of the Journal for bids on the contract.

2nd JAIL The second jail, a small two-story brick building, was near the first courthouse.  During the early 1830's it was set on fire by a prisoner, an insane negro, destroying the jail and himself along with it.

1st JAIL In March, 1815 Lionel Browne was appointed to supervise the construction of a jail.  It was a temporary one room, thirteen foot square hewed log structure near the public square in the original town of Potosi.  It was used only a few years when it was abandoned.  It very likely resembled Bismarck's first jail.



1804 - Joseph Decelle Duclos was police commissioner at Mine Au Breton in the year 1804.  This information is from the book:   Colonial Ste. Genevieve  by Carl J. Ekberg

1819 - Abraham Brinker became coroner of Washington County, Missouri on 17 Oct. 1819 - From: Abraham Brinker deed record


Past sheriffs of Washington County, Missouri:



Lionel Browne - 1813 - 1815
(nephew of United States Vice President Aaron Burr
Lionel Browne was killed by John Smith T. in a duel 20 Sept. 1819)

Daniel Dunklin - 1815 - 1821
(tavern owner in Potosi and fifth governor of Missouri)

Andrew Miller - 1821 - 1823

Samuel Brown - 1823 - 1829

Andrew Miller - 1829 - 1831

Jesse McIlvain - 1831 - 1833

James C. Johnson - 1833 - 1834

William W. Smith - 1834 - 1837 

        A. C. Hinkson -  1837 - 1841

P. P. Brickey -  1841 - October 

W. A. Mathews - From October 1841 - 1844

S. E. Roussin - 1844 - 1846 

Luke W. Burris - 1846 - 1850 

Samuel A. Reyburn - 1850 - 1854 

M. A. Todd - 1854 - 1858 

James Long - 1858 - 1863

Thomas D. Castleman - 1863 - 1865 

James C Libby - 1865 - 1867

John C. Breckenridge - 1867 - 1871

John T. Clark - 1871 - 1873

John M. Anthony - 1873 - 1877

Harrison Wallace - 1877 - 1881

L.B. Higginbotham - 1881 - 1885

John O. Long - 1885 - 1887

L. B. Higginbotham - 1886




Sheriff Casey - 1911

L. W. Casey - 1919

W. J. Simmons -

Stephen Richards - 1936

James Cooper - 1947

Thomas B. Allen - 1949

Sonny Richards - 1980's

Ron Skiles

Chris Harmon

Gary Yount

Kevin Schroeder - 2004 - 2008

Andy Skiles - 2009 -



















Potosi, Missouri     ~ ~ ~      The Indepentent Journal     ~ ~ ~    February 6, 1997

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Look similar?  When Gene & Esther Carroll were in Lynchburg, Tennessee back in December to visit the Jack Daniel Distillery they did a double-take when they drove by The Old Moore County Jail as it looks very much like our old Washington County Jail. It was even built the same year that our old jail was built - 1893. The Moore County building (left picture) was used as the jail & sheriff's office until 1990.  It is presently operated as a museum by the Historical Society.  Our Washington County building (right picture) which was renovated in 1988 still houses the Sheriff's Department & a large new addition now accommodates the jail.


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SOURCES: Goodspeed's History of WashCoMo;  Newpaper articles;  Deed records;  Colonial Ste. Genevieve; 


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