Caswell County Jail

Caswell County Jail

Caswell County Jail
  • Built Late 1800s/Early 1900s
  • Operational Until 1970s
  • Located Behind Caswell County Courthouse
  • Built-In Gallows
  • Restoration Plaque

Historical Sketch

The old Caswell County Jail building is located immediately southwest of the historic 1861 Caswell County Courthouse. While the exact construction date of the Jail is unknown, it was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The Jail is a two-story brick Romanesque Revival style building with segmental-arched windows and a rich brick corbel cornice. The back left room of the first floor and the entire second story were used to house prisoners. Here are found the original iron cells, gallows, and doors made by Stewart Jail Works Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The remainder of the building, consisting of the five rooms on the first story, served as the jailer's living quarters, with a metal food slot between the jailer's kitchen and the first-floor prisoners' quarters. The jailer often was the Caswell County Sheriff who, with his family, occupied the Jail along with the prisoners.

Here is an interesting entry from Amazing North Carolina, T. Jensen Lacey (2003) at 5-6:

"Just Hanging Around" in Caswell County

In the town of Yanceyville you can tour the Old Jail, which has a curious history.

Built in 1906, the Old Jail contains the only remaining hanging cell in the state. When docents open the great iron door to the cell, you can see a hangman's noose and a trapdoor beneath it. That trapdoor is controlled by an iron handle next to the stairs that mount to the floor where the inmates lived. There you'll get chills as you view the bare springs of the iron bunkbeds, the ancient plumbing fixtures, and the stark metal walls displaying graffiti left by prisoners of long ago.

The ironic part is that the hanging cell was never used, as the last public hanging in Caswell County was in 1902 and hanging cells were outlawed while the Old Jail was still under construction. The last ne'er-do-wells inhabited the Old Jail in 1977.

Besides being entertaining, the hanging cell may offer another, more pragmatic value. Parents can show their unruly children the Old Jail, and the sight of the hanging cell with its trapdoor can work wonders on the kids' attitudes.

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