The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Barred Window
News from the county jail.

    The prisoners confined in our jail--five in number--took advantage of the somnolency (which, by the way, I am inclined to think is constitutional) of the jailer to make their escape on the night of the 2nd instant. They effected their exit from durance vile by means of a broom handle, with which they made a breach in the wall three times larger than was necessary for their purpose, the jailer, in the meanwhile, sleeping calmly in an adjoining room, undisturbed by the sound of the falling rocks and mortar. One of the fugitives was arrested a day or two afterwards, on Evans Creek, about twenty miles from town. The other four are probably wending their way to Fraser River, where they will perhaps find exercise for their skill in digging.
"Letter from Rogue River," Oregon Statesman, Salem, September 7, 1858, page 2

    PRISON BREAKING.--An outbreak occurred at the county jail in this place, on Tuesday evening last, under the following circumstances: The jailer, whose name is Howlett, went into the jail to give the prisoners their supper, about half past six o'clock. After they had eaten, he proceeded to lock them up for the night, and stooped down to pick up an iron used in fastening the door. Two of the four prisoners confined there now jumped upon him and held him fast to the floor, while a third proceeded to rifle his person of his pistol and money. The Chinaman, Lui Shing, became alarmed and cried aloud, when one of the breakers knocked him down. The other three then let go of Howlett, and darted outside of the jail door and locked it upon him. They then broke for the woods, having each taken a blanket. Howlett was soon released by Deputy Sheriff Foudray, who dispatched riders in every direction in search of the fugacious gentry. Klippel telegraphed to the north and south in search of them, and used every means to close all avenues of escape, but up to last accounts no sign of them had been discovered, save that on that night some unknown person slept in the shavings in an old carpenter shop owned by Squire Berry, at the east end of town. The names of the escaped men are James Good, Julius Warner and Charles Morrell. We believe that James is far from being good; that Charles' behavior is very immoral, and that Julius' conduct should be a warner to wrongdoers. Sheriff Klippel offers $100 reward for the capture of these "goners." Who will bring them back?
    LATER.--Since the above was in type we learn by a dispatch from Stephen Booth to Sheriff Klippel that the members of the "Can't-get-away Club" have been captured. They were brought in from Ashland by a posse of armed citizens on Thursday evening, and reinstalled in their former quarters as guests of the county. Too much credit cannot be given to our sheriff and his deputies for their alacrity.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 18, 1871, page 3

    THE PUBLIC BUILDINGS.--The grand jury, in its report, announces that they find the public buildings in good condition, but pass judgment on the county jail, which they condemn. They recommend the building of a new one.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 21, 1874, page 3

    COUNTY JAIL.--Sealed proposals for building the new county jail will be received at the office of the County Clerk until September 23, 1874. For particulars see advertisement in another column.

Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 11, 1874, page 3

    The boarder in Manning's hotel complains of being lonesome. He thinks it is a poor county that can't afford more than one prisoner.
"Random Jottings," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 31, 1977, page 3

The Ghost Story.
    A ghost story in these times is something of a rarity, and not to be passed by without due consideration by newspaper reporters. The spook of the county jail, mentioned recently by the Sentinel, should be written up in full. We have only a meager report of his doings, but will give that for the public benefit. The spirit is supposed to be that of a Chinaman who hanged himself in the jail several years ago, and is trying to induce somebody to send his bones to China. Several persons have been disturbed in the past by strange noises and other spiritual manifestations, and one man recently discharged complained that the pestiferous ghost came and slapped his face one cold and dismal night. Since the watch was put upon the condemned murderer, O'Neil, the ghost has been rampant, and in one particular cell of the jail has been playing such pranks as only spirits are supposed to take delight in. The cell has not been occupied of late, except by the ghost, but at night strange noises are heard there, the furniture has been moved about, etc. The night watch reported this to the sheriff, and one evening the latter had the room put in apple pie order and bed nicely made up, and then locked the cell and carried off the keys in his pocket. Next morning the room was found to be in disorder. The bed clothing had been tumbled about, the pitcher moved from the washstand to the bed, looking-glass turned to face the wall, etc., etc. That's all we know about it, and we can only say that if this will add to the terror of the jail and restrain evildoers from trespassing against the state statutes, the ghost may be considered a valuable acquisition.
Ashland Tidings, February 26, 1886, page 3

An Ex-Convict's Trouble.
    Frank Warner had no sooner concluded a term in the pen than he burglarized a store at Medford and was arrested and taken to Jacksonville. He tried to escape from jail by burning that structure down. A big fire was kindled by himself and two other prisoners a few days ago and they came near going up with the jail.
Capital Journal, Salem, June 3, 1889, page 4

    The most unfortunate occurrence that has called for comment by the press for many a day was the burning of the county jail at this place last Friday morning at about six o'clock, when three prisoners confined therein, in helpless agony, endured a thousand deaths in anticipation, before being suffocated by the smoke. The fire, when first discovered by persons on the outside of the jail, had gained such headway as to be beyond control, and as it was located in the front portion of the building, access to the cells was entirely cut off, and no help nor succor could reach the prisoners, despite their piteous cries. The first alarm was given by Sam Taylor, and the engine and hose were soon on the ground, but through mismanagement it was some time before an effective stream of water reached the fire. Much water was thrown by buckets, but did little good. The flames at the west window were partly kept in subjection by a small force pump in the hands of A. H. Carson of Josephine County, but the volume of smoke and flame steadily increased in the interior for full twenty minutes after the crowd arrived. An entrance was finally effected into the front room and, after a lapse of almost a half hour from the first alarm, the locks of the corridor were smashed with a sledge and an entrance gained to the cells, from which the dead bodies of the inmates were removed. In the first cell on the right was the corpse of Frank Warner, the young German who burglarized Mount's store at Ashland sometime in May last. He was lying on the floor with blood flowing from his mouth and nose, indicating a most painful death. He was clothed, but had evidently dressed hurriedly, and was doubtless aroused by the fire or smoke from slumber. The occupant of the second cell on the same side--Newt. Cook was the name under which he was committed, but which was supposed to have been an alias--was not clothed, and had thrown himself on his knees beside his couch, his face resting in his hands and his body partially on the bed. He had striven to exclude the smoke by hanging his bedding and blankets in front of his door, and many suppose that he was still alive from a fancied movement in the dropping of his arm from hs chest when carried out to the open air. Cook was the man who purloined Prof. J. B. Farley's overcoat from the U.S. Hotel some months ago, and was committed on a charge of larceny in a dwelling. The remaining victim was Harry Hoover, committed at Medford a few weeks since on a charge of larceny from the blind lady elocutionist, Miss Steinbach, at Talent. He was arrested at Portland, charged with the offense, when on his way to Michigan, from which state he came to Oregon, and where he is said to have a wife living. The testimony elicited at his preliminary examination was not conclusive as to the guilt of the accused, and his attorney, S. S. Pentz of Medford, had drawn up the necessary papers to effect his release on a writ of habeas corpus the day he met his death. His dead body, undressed, was found partially in bed, in the front cell on the left of the hallway, his head enveloped in the blankets, evidently having striven to keep out the smoke, and his knees resting on the floor. After the rescue of the bodies, it was some time before the flames in the roof were extinguished, and there was much apprehension lest the adjoining sheds and woodpiles should take fire and endanger the courthouse.
    In the afternoon Coroner Pryce empaneled a coroner's jury composed of Peter Elmer, A. H. Maegly, Chas. Prim, A. L. Reuter, F. R. Ne
il and H. Weydeman, and proceeded to hold an inquest over the bodies, District Attorney Colvig questioning the witnesses.
    The first witness, Philip Miller, testified that no one was at the jail when he heard the alarm and ran down; that the prisoners were still crying "fire"; that the blaze was coming out of both windows, but the heaviest from the east window; that the sounds from the inmates soon after ceased.
    J. A. Wilson testified that he assisted in removing the bodies from the cells and that he thought there was life in the body of the second one removed, Newt. Cook. Wilson testified as to the positions of the bodies when found, substantially as stated above. Also that he was at the jail at six o'clock and that fire was coming out of both windows and over the door at that time.
    Peter Boschey testified that he passed on the street in front of the jail at 3:30 o'clock in the morning, and that there was no sign of fire at that time.
    William Deneff testified that he was deputy sheriff; that it was his custom to sleep in jail when the sheriff was gone; that he did not sleep there the night preceding the fire, as he was called to his mines on Jackson Creek to fight a mountain fire raging about his claim; that he was in the jail and changed his clothes preparatory to leaving, between nine and ten o'clock on the preceding evening; that there was no fire about the jail at that time, except the candle he used; that the candle was not over three inches long and was in a candlestick hanging on the end of the wardrobe in his changing room; that he was sure that he blew out the candle before leaving, as he had trouble in finding the keyhole in the door when he came out; that he hunted for Birdseye to notify him that he intended to leave town, but was unable to find him; that he left word for him with the city marshal at the hotel and with several other parties to the effect that he would not be back that night and perhaps not the next night; that Birdseye's customary place of sleeping was in the building in the courthouse yard formerly occupied as a sheriff's office; that he looked for him there, but was unable to find him; that he asked Sam DeRoboam if Birdseye was at the hotel and he said he did not know; that he and the sheriff each had keys to the front door of the jail; that the keys to the corridor door hung in the sheriff's office, there being but one set of them. In answer to a question by one of the jurors, witness stated that he did not notice whether there was a coal on the wick or not when he blew out the candle; that the candlestick was about five inches in diameter; that there was a rim around the bottom about an inch and a half high; that part of the candlestick was hanging on the burnt part of the wardrobe that day when Mr. Maegly and he examined it, but the bottom had melted out.
    Sheriff Birdseye, being called, testified that he was sheriff and ex-officio jailer, and identified the bodies as being those of the prisoners, Frank Warner, Newt. Cook and Harry Hoover, confined in the jail, each being held under a charge of crime; that Newt. Cook was a native of Tennessee and supposed to have been a single man; that Hoover was from Michigan here; thought he had a wife there; was 55 years old; that Warner was a native of Hanover and about 19 years old and a single man; that he did not get word that Deneff had left the jail, and supposed he was sleeping there; had no means of knowing how the jail took fire; was up on on the street when he first heard of the fire; on arriving at the jail, as soon as buckets of water were procured, opened the outer door. First ran into the sheriff's office and got keys to the corridor door; that there was nothing to prevent his opening the door on his arrival; that his reason for not doing so was that it would increase the draft; that it was five minutes or more that he waited for the water; that he went in as soon as the flames were stopped and tried to unlock the door; did unlock one of them, but the locks were hot; the door was sprung, and the key stuck in the second lock and we had to break them--knock them off--because they were so hot they could not be handled; that we got in then, got the front door open and began knocking the locks off of the cell doors and packing the bodies out. Mr. Birdseye explained that the keys for the inner cell doors were kept in the bedroom and the partition had burned and fallen down on them; that he afterwards found one ring with two keys on it, one of them partially melted off; that he did not take hold of any of the bodies to help carry them out; that the did not hear anything from the prisoners after he arrived at the jail; went out beside the jail and called to them, but got no answer from them; that he was last in the jail and heard the prisoners laughing and talking about eight o'clock the preceding evening.
    Birdseye and Deneff both recounted the particulars of an attempted escape of two of the prisoners about two months ago, but as there was no evidence of the present fire having originated in the cells, we do not reproduce that portion of the testimony. The sheriff also stated what property the several prisoners had when brought to his keeping. In answer to a question of a juror, Birdseye stated: Did not sleep at my room last night; the bedbugs got too much for me, and I took up my quarters at the hotel. Sam DeRoboam didn't know I was to sleep there, but I spoke to the old folks about it. Deneff did not know I was to sleep at the hotel. I spoke to him about the matter yesterday afternoon and told him I guessed I would have to get out of there.
    Dr. Sommers, being examined in a professional capacity, testified that he had examined the bodies in the presence of the jury, and that in his opinion the cause of death of Harry Hoover, Newt. Cook and Frank Warner undoubtedly was suffocation by smoke from fire or asphyxiation. That neither of them was alive when taken out; that he examined them and was of the opinion that they had then been dead a full half hour.
    After hearing the evidence the jury rendered a verdict to the effect that the deceased men came to their death by suffocation from smoke, and that the cause of the fire was unknown.
    The damage to the jail consists principally in charred and smoked walls, burnt-out ceiling and rafters, and considerable damage to the floors and door and window casings. There was also some damage done to the outer wall, and a new roof will be necessary.
    The most effective work done at the fire was by Chris. Ulrich, J. A. Wilson, J. Nunan, Ed. Farra, A. H. Carson and some others, the two former being chiefly instrumental in breaking the locks from the corridor and cell doors and rescuing the bodies.
    It was very evident from the appearance of the jail and from the evidence elicited that the prisoners themselves had nothing to do with starting the fire, and there is absolutely nothing on which to predicate the theory of incendiarism. The generally accepted theory is that there was a candle left burning in the jail the evening before, or that matches in the clothing of the deputy became ignited when he was removing his clothes and smoldered through the night in the woolen cloth. It is difficult to conceive of anyone so fiendish or malignant as to willfully fire the building, knowing the prisoners to be within, and there was no testimony that any suspicious-looking strangers had been seen about the jail. It was an untoward train of circumstances which rendered the casualty possible, and the public must always hold the officers accountable for neglect in making it possible even under those conditions.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 18, 1889, page 2

A Sensational Item.
    The Ashland Tidings ingeniously conceals its failure to get an "item" in the following small-shot, while following up its advantage with the facts:
    A woman who claims to be the widow of Hoover, one of the prisoners who were suffocated in the burning of the county jail, arrived at Medford last week with a little daughter and the Mail has one of its peculiar, sensational, hydra-headed reports as a consequence of an "interview" with her. It is generally understood at Medford that S. S. Pentz, the attorney who is now figuring in the capacity of a defendant in a state case in circuit court, is largely responsible for the trip of the woman and her daughter to this place, he having held out to her the probability of money being obtained from the county as damages. The Mail said she would sue the county, but the nearest approach to it thus far is an appeal to the county court for money for the widow, and to pay the expense of removing Hoover's body from the Jacksonville cemetery to Michigan.
Medford Mail, September 7, 1889, page 3

    The inmates of the county jail, having been furnished with a banjo and harp, are holding soirees, to the edification of the county officials.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 25, 1890, page 3

March 10th 1891. Tuesday.
    I got up early and went to Talent took freight train for Medford, I found the Sheriff James Birdseye on board with two young Men prisoners who had broken a car open at Medford and taken each a pr of shoes and a blanket. He overtook them at Ashland and arrested them.
    He had William Mayfield to assist him the two officers looked harder Citizens than the prisoners The boys had got tired of Carrying the blankets and had left them in the brush below Pheonix and the train stopped for Birdseye to pick them up
Diary of Welborn Beeson, Talent, Oregon

    The anteroom of the county jail is being used as a storehouse for the effects of dead men and people who have fled from justice, and sometimes as a dissecting room. The late grand jury would not have made the report they did, in reference to the condition of the jail, if they had taken cognizance of these facts.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 22, 1893, page 3

    Sheriff Pelton has four prisoners in his charge, besides Black and Muse, the Josephine County contingent. If this sort of thing continues an addition to the bastille will be found necessary.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 1, 1894, page 3

    J. Lomas, committed to the county jail from Ashland for wife-beating, is busily engaged in trying to reconstruct the trimmings of the county bastille. He broke up all the portable furniture of his apartment one day last week, saying that it was not put together right, and that he proposed to do his share of reforming the administration of county affairs then and there.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 5, 1894, page 3

    There would have been an attempt at jail delivery Monday night, in which all the prisoners were interested, had it not been discovered and prevented. A case knife was made into a saw that did good work, and a hole had been cut in the ceiling, through which it would have been easy to escape. Joe French betrayed the secret in the afternoon, however.

"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 22, 1898, page 3

    The occupants of the county jail have been disturbed from time to time lately by the noisy demonstrations of a supposed spook. Several traps have been set for the ghostly visitor, but he always manages to elude them.

"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 15, 1899, page 3

    The county jail is being enclosed with a rough board fence. It cannot be commended for its beauty, but will prevent idle and curious people from lounging about the premises.

"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 29, 1899, page 3    The wood for the fence was probably repurposed from the privacy fence for the proposed hanging of Frank L. Smith.

    Chris. Keegan distinguished himself as an architect and builder in the construction of a substantial fence around the county jail. It should have been built long ago.

"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, June 8, 1899, page 3

    Hotel de Orme now has four boarders--one being a woman--for keeping whom the law allows the landlord $5 each per week. The addition of another customer would prove unprofitable to the sheriff, for he would be obliged to keep two prisoners free of charge, as he is allowed only $3 a week for boarding each where there are over four.

"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 17, 1899, page 3

Two Criminals Escape.
    Early last Monday morning M. M. Reed and Thos. Featherstone, who were confined in the county jail for burglarizing J. Nunan's store some time ago, took uninvited leave of that institution and have not been heard of since. From what we learned at the sheriff's office they must have received assistance from the outside of the prison. Both had been locked in one of the steel cells the night before, and when Sheriff Orme arrived on the scene after their departure the doors thereto and their locks were open. After getting out of the cell they gained their liberty through a hole in the roof of the building, which the officials think was cut from the outside.
    The other two inmates of the jail--Riley Noah and Mrs. Taylor--give unsatisfactory accounts of the affair. The woman gave the alarm, which was heard by Mr. Huffstater, who lives near the jail, and who immediately notified the sheriff.
    A reward of $200 for their capture and detention is offered by Mr. Orme.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 20, 1902, page 5

    The escape of Thos. Featherstone and M. M. Reed from the county jail at Jacksonville on Sunday night, where they were confined awaiting trial for burglarizing the store of J. Nunan, was evidently the result of a carefully prearranged plan on the part of the prisoners and friends on the outside. At the supper hour on Sunday evening the two men were in their cells, and were locked in by the deputy sheriff. All three of the male prisoners were seen in the cells by the deputy. There are four cells in the steel cage in which the prisoners were confined and are locked simultaneously by means of a bar operated from the outside of the cage. This bar is enclosed in a steel box, fitted with a lock claimed to be proof against ordinary lock picks. In the main part of the jail, outside the cage, was Mrs. Taylor, awaiting trial for adultery. She was the only person who could have had access to the lock. On Monday morning the cage was found unlocked, no bars or anything broken, showing conclusively that the prisoners had been released from the outside. A hole in the corrugated iron roof of the jail showed the manner of their escape from the building. A ladder, left standing against the wall of the jail by workmen engaged in repairing the roof, enabled them to descend to the ground and afterward scale the high fence around the jail. The hole in the roof also shows evidence of outside help. The edges of the iron are bent downward, proving that the cutting was done from the top. The two prisoners who remained in the jail refuse to say anything further than that someone unlocked the cage. Sheriff Orme is of the opinion that the woman released the men, and that they made their way through the ceiling and thence through the roof to liberty. Mr. Orme offers $200 reward for their apprehension.
Medford Mail, February 21, 1902, page 3

Escaped from Jail.
A Peculiar Jail Delivery at Jacksonville, Early Monday Morning.

    Thos. Featherstone and Mike Reed, who some two months ago were arrested for robbing Jerry Nunan's store in Jacksonville, and confined in the county jail at Jacksonville along with a woman and a man who are held on the charge of adultery, escaped during the early hours Monday morning, and no trace has been heard of them since. The prisoners were confined in the steel cages, where it is naturally supposed they were entirely secure, but it seems luck came their way and like the biblical story they were delivered from prison.
    How they succeeded in unlocking the cell doors is a mystery, but the doors of both steel cages were unlocked, and as soon as the prisoners secured entrance to the corridor it was an easy matter to make a hole through the corrugated iron roof.
    Sheriff Orme says the keys to the jail were in his possession that night as usual. The discovery was made by the two remaining prisoners making a disturbance; these prisoners probably know more of the delivery than they have so far told. Sheriff Orme is offering a reward of $200 for the recapture of Reed and Featherstone, but so far they have no trace of them.
Medford Enquirer, February 22, 1902, page 1

    Thos. Featherstone, the burglar, who, in company with M. M. Reed, escaped from the county jail at Jacksonville some time ago and was afterward captured and brought back from California, tells of the escape in this wise: Reed, his partner in crime, who (according to Featherstone) was the leader in their crime, had fashioned a key from a piece of wood from the back of a hairbrush to fit the lock of the steel cage in which they were confined. The key was passed through the bars of the cage to Mrs. Taylor, the woman confined in jail on a charge of adultery, who was allowed the liberty of the main part of the jail, and she unlocked the cage. After this, escape was easy. They reached Talent before daybreak and hid in the brush until nightfall, then proceeded on their way, making a wide detour around Ashland, striking the railroad several miles south. They crossed the Siskiyous, stole a boat at Hornbrook and made a perilous journey down the Klamath to Orleans Bar, where they left the boat and soon afterward separated. Featherstone laughs at the idea that infatuation for him led the woman to connive at the escape of the two men. Featherstone was found guilty of burglary in the circuit court this week, and sentence will be passed today (Friday) at 1 o'clock.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, April 18, 1902, page 7

Jail Break at Jacksonville.
    Friday evening the usually quiet town of Jacksonville was in an uproar, caused by the escape of four of the six prisoners confined in the county jail. Three of those who attempted to escape were the fellows who made so much trouble for the officers when they were arrested near Ashland, in June last. The other was Madison, who was awaiting trial for robbing Selsby & Magill's saloon in Medford. Howard and Keagan, two of the Ashland thugs, were captured quickly, while Wilson, the third man, and Madison made their escape.
    Art. Robinson and Chas. Irwin, the other two prisoners, made no attempt to escape. The break occurred a little after six o'clock. Deputy Sheriff Crawford had entered the jail for the purpose of removing the basket in which he had carried supper to the prisoners, when he was set upon by the gang, which attempted to put him in a cell. They failed to accomplish this purpose, however, but the four above named escaped from the jail and took to the hills. Pat Donegan, Jr., and Clarence Reames were returning from a deer hunting expedition and met Howard in the road. They covered him with their guns and marched him back to town. Keagan was caught a short time afterward in the Karewski barn at the edge of town.
    Tuesday Sheriff Rader received word from the sheriff of Linn County, at Albany, that he thought he had the men wanted. Accordingly Mr. Rader took the northbound train for the north that evening. The men held at Albany proved to be Wilson and Madison, and the sheriff returned with them on Thursday morning's train. The prisoners are not likely to have another chance to escape soon.
Medford Mail, August 19, 1904, page 1

Jail Delivery Narrowly Averted.
    MEDFORD, Or., Feb. 21.--(Special.)--Four prisoners in the county jail at Jacksonville made an effort to escape last night by removing the brick about the jail door. When discovered by the jailer, the door fell in with a crash. The jail is perfectly secure, but the prisoners were allowed the run of the corridor.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, February 22, 1907, page 7

Four Prisoners Escape, Three of Whom Are Soon Retaken.
    MEDFORD, Or., March 11.--(Special.)--Four prisoners escaped from the Jackson County jail yesterday evening by digging through the outer wall of the jail. The same prisoners were detected in an attempt to escape two weeks ago, since when they had been kept under close surveillance. On Sunday this vigilance was relaxed and the delivery was easily accomplished. Three of the escapees have been recaptured, two at Ashland and the third in the hills near Jacksonville. The officers are in close pursuit of the remaining fugitive.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 12, 1907, page 6

Prisoners in Jacksonville Jail Make Dash for Freedom.
    MEDFORD, Or., Oct. 15.--(Special.)--Five prisoners confined in the county jail at Jacksonville, awaiting trial at the present term of court, made a successful attempt for liberty tonight shortly after 6 o'clock, by sawing off one of the bars.
    They made their way to the corridor, from which they easily made their exit. Two of the prisoners, Charles and Richard Mow, are charged with stealing a calf near Ashland, and the other three are awaiting trial for robbing the Deuel & Kentner store in this city three weeks ago.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 16, 1909, page 2

County Jail an Eveless Eden During Year 1910--
Seven Sent to Penitentiary--Seven Inmates Now Confined There.
    To the fact that not a single woman prisoner crossed the threshold of the county jail during the year 1910 jailer J. W. Wilson attributes the fact that that institution successfully passed through the twelve months without having to weather a single tempest.
    Fifty prisoners, all men, were accommodated by the sheriff, of which number seven were transferred from there to the state penitentiary at Salem.
    Of the remaining number one was paroled, one was sent to the insane asylum, one, a boy, was sent to the Boys' and Girls' Society in Portland, and one, to quote the words of the jail blotter, "was sent after wood and forgot to return."
    All the rest were discharged by the tribunals before which their cases were tried.
    There are now seven inmates in the jail, three awaiting the action of the grand jury and four serving sentences for petty offenses.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 8, 1911, page 2

County Commissioners Vote To Erect New Bastille
And Call for Bids for Immediate Construction of Reinforced Concrete Building.
    Wednesday the county commissioners, with Judge Neil comprising the county court, voted to build the new proposed jail at Jacksonville for Jackson County.
    Bids are to be advertised for immediately.
    The plans will call for a reinforced concrete structure, costing not more than $12,000.
    The recent jail not only is too small and the necessary crowding not sanitary, but it is antique and cannot meet the present requirements.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 6, 1911, page 6

Jackson County Jail, May 5, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune
May 5, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune

Leonard and Goodhue Are Given Contract for New Structure--
Will Accommodate 25 Persons and Will Cost About $9000.
    Leonard and Goodhue, contractors of this city, were given the contract for the construction of the new county jail at Jacksonville at a meeting of the county commissioners in Jacksonville Thursday afternoon.
    Work will begin immediately on the structure, which will be two stories high, 42x44 feet, and constructed of reinforced concrete. It will accommodate from 20 to 25 persons and cost in the neighborhood of $9000. The cells from the old jail will be used. The building will be finished by September and will be a great improvement over the present jail, which holds only 12 persons.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 9, 1911, page 8

Prisoner Are in Unsanitary Cage; at Jacksonville Temporarily.
    MEDFORD, Or., Aug. 20. (Special.)--"Conditions at the County Jail at Jacksonville are bad." said County Judge J. R. Neil after he had inspected the cage tn which 14 prisoners are housed while the new structure is being built. "Fourteen men are crowded into prison space for nine, and the air at night must be vile. There are three small cells in the jail, and they are meant to accommodate a maximum of three men each. To increase the number means to increase the unhealthfulness of the jail and to endanger the health of the prisoners, some of whom may be innocent.
    "We are building a good jail that will accommodate 36 prisoners in a sanitary way, but that will not be completed before October 1, and in the meantime the prisoners must wallow in the hole now provided for them."
    Provided with shower baths for the prisoners, steam heated and equipped with a reading room which will be furnished with good books, the new jail now being erected at Jacksonville is one of the most modern in the state. It is of reinforced concrete and will be plastered both on the inside and out. When completed it will cost $9000. On the upper floor there is a well-ventilated women's cell and a padded cell for insane persons.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 21, 1911, page 3

Medford Keeps "Lucky" or "Unlucky" 18 Suspended for Days.
    MEDFORD, Or., Aug. 31.--(Special.)--Suspended in midair, 13 prisoners slept in their steel cage in jail yesterday with nothing but two cables supporting them. The cage is being hoisted to the top of the new jail to make room for the $6500 cells that have been contracted for and which will be put in soon.
    Two long-eared, struggling mules lifted the cage, eight inches at a time, until it had reached the top of the concrete structure. The prisoners busied themselves washing their dishes and singing songs while the work was under way and trusted implicitly to the mules, despite the fact that their number had been reduced to 13 by the paroling of Crocker. The cell, with its human freight, will hang by the cables until the second floor of the jail can be placed in position.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, September 1, 1911, page 1    This article is about the new county jail in Jacksonville, not the Medford city jail.

    One of the county road engines is being used to heat the county jail. At the time the jail was constructed radiators were installed and steam pipes laid in the walls, but no furnace was furnished. One of the road engines has been placed near the rear wall of the jail, connected with the pipes and is being used to good advantage.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, November 9, 1912, page 3

John Walker Likes Prison Cell.
    John Walker likes his prison cell and has voluntarily returned to it after being released on probation. John says it is better to be sure of "three squares" and a bed than to be looking for work.
    Walker was recently convicted of raising a check and released on probation. For three days he tried to find work and then returned to the county seat, asking the sheriff to lock him up. He is now doing odd jobs about the courthouse.
Jacksonville Post, April 12, 1913, page 3

    The inmates of the county jail held a "kangaroo court" Wednesday. One of the inmates was charged with stealing two eggs, but on trial was acquitted, having proved an alibi. Jailer Stub Wilson was the principal witness.
    Sheriff Singler served a special Easter dinner to the prisoners in the county jail Sunday, and Monday he received a letter of thanks signed by the seven inmates of the bastille, in which they expressed their appreciation of his kindness.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, April 18, 1914, page 3

    J. C. Devereaux, held in the county jail under an indeterminate sentence of from two to 20 years for forgery, was taken to the state prison at Salem Thursday. Devereaux since his incarceration has sold magazine articles to Munsey's, the Review of Reviews and the Literary Digest, and during his prison term expects to be able to continue his literary work. Most of the articles he has sold have first passed through the hands of Circuit Judge F. M. Calkins for criticism. Practically all of his time in jail is spent writing, a typewriter being one of his luxuries.
    Devereaux is a young man, and before he landed in the county jail engaged in varied pursuits. Friends will ask the prison authorities to give him a chance to follow literary bent during his prison term. The sentenced man is also a poet.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 12, 1915, page 1

    Two prisoners, George Botts and Louis Lavinne, confined in the county jail on a charge of shooting at a brakeman on the S.P. railroad while stealing a ride on a freight train, made an attempt to escape Saturday evening, in which Botts got clear away and has not been heard of since, and Lavinne broke his leg and now is in a hospital at Medford. The break for liberty was made while the jailer, who is a new man in the position, was away at supper. The prisoners, being left outside the cells in the jail corridors, ascended to the top of the upper tier of cells, and with a couple of old knives and a jimmy cut a hole through the roof and escaped to the top of the building. Botts jumped first, alighting on the top of a low building alongside, and Lavinne, frightened by the appearance of a passerby, jumped off farther along the roof, landing on the cement walk and breaking his thigh. He was found about 6:30 and taken to Medford, where aid was given. Botts is still at large, although efforts have been made by the sheriff to locate him.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, January 13, 1917, page 3

Charles H. Basye Succumbed to Wounds Inflicted by Prisoner J. L. Ragsdale
in His Jail Break, Who Committed Suicide When Surrounded in Brush by Sheriff's Posse.

    On a marble slab piled high with roses and wildflowers, tokens from mourning friends of several decades' duration, reposed Wednesday afternoon in Perl's undertaking parlors the remains of Charles H. Basye, the Jackson County jailer, who died late Tuesday afternoon from a series of ghastly wounds inflicted with an old-fashioned 5-pound clothes ironer, in the hands of J. L. Ragsdale, the convicted prisoner, for whom Basye was endeavoring to perform a kindly office in telephoning Ragsdale's family when struck down by his prisoner.
    On another slab, less than four feet distant, the body of J. L. Ragsdale, of Lake Creek, the murderer, beshaven of his long Tolstoian beard, and wearing only his blond mustache for facial adornment, rests. Ragsdale committed suicide late Tuesday afternoon, while being surrounded by Sheriff Jennings at the head of a posse of 10, and by five squads detailed from I Company. Ragsdale is believed to have been 53 years of age.
No Inquest Held.
    It is not accurately known yet whether Basye or Ragsdale died first. It will not be necessary to hold an inquest over the remains of either man, declares undertaker Perl.
    Ragsdale killed himself with a bullet from a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver stolen from jailer Basye, which entered the right temple, passed almost directly through the brain, and came out at the left temple. The wound is a particularly clean one. The revolver had evidently been held close to the head when fired. Undertaker Perl is awaiting instructions from Mrs. Ragsdale as to funeral arrangements for the body of the man to whom she had borne a large family of children, and against whom she only recently brought suit for divorce. Ragsdale soon was to have begun a 20 years' sentence at Salem penitentiary for criminal assault on Bessie Downing, his stepdaughter, for which he had just been sentenced.
Gruesome Wounds.
    Basye's wounds, ghastly and gruesome, consist of seven separate gashes [illegible] on left forehead, one deep cut above right ear, the skull crushed in above right eye, four separate cuts at point where skull crushed in, and one and a half inches above right eye, skull again crushed in.
    The flat iron with which Basye was killed was without a handle, and had been used by prisoners for the purpose of pressing their clothes. Ragsdale must have "clubbed" or "palmed" the article while attacking the jailer.
Blacksmith by Trade.
    Basye, who was a blacksmith by trade, had resided in Jackson County since 1862, and in Jacksonville since 1894. His precise age is not known, but it is believed he was near 60. He is survived by two daughters--Cora, a nurse in Willamette sanitarium, Salem, and Zepha, of Portland, a brother, Luch Basye, of Applegate, and a sister, Mrs. James Cook, Applegate.
    Basye was a member of the Jacksonville lodge of Odd Fellows and the Yreka, Cal., aerie of Eagles. Funeral services will be held on Sunday and will be in charge of the Odd Fellows, and interment will be at Missouri Flat Cemetery, where the services will be held at the grove [sic] at 2 o'clock. The funeral party will leave Perl's chapel at 12 o'clock noon. Rev. Badger of Murphy, Ore., will preach at the grove service.
Rippey Gives Alarm.
    The first alarm concerning the jail break was given by Bert Rippey, a prisoner who called through his cell window. Employees of the courthouse rushed to the jail and found Basye lying in a pool of blood. County Recorder Florey and Carl Newbury jumped into an auto and started down the road to Medford in pursuit, armed with a .30-30 rifle. J. A. Norris, courthouse janitor, also started, armed with an automatic revolver. W. J. Kauffman of Forest Creek, who saw the escaping prisoners, directed the pursuers. A band of small boys, Archie Rock, Angus Walsh, Rulard Hartman and Clyde Walsh, followed the escaping prisoners, and directed Newbury and Florey to them as they were crossing a field into the brush on Jackson Creek. Newbury stopped the car so suddenly that it threw Florey out. He fell upon his head and did not recover consciousness until late Tuesday evening, but is on the road to recovery today.
Oehler Returned to Jail.
    Newbury covered one of the prisoners, who proved to be Irving Oehler, the convicted forger, who promptly surrendered. He claimed he had been forced at the point of a gun to accompany Ragsdale. Oehler was returned to the jail with Norris, while Deputy Sheriff Leslie Stansell and Sheriff Jennings summoned a posse and went in pursuit. Ragsdale's body was found in the brush near where he disappeared.
    Both Oehler and Ragsdale had attempted suicide ten days before, the former by poison and the latter by cutting his wrists.
    The authorities are of the opinion that it was J. L. Ragsdale's intention to break jail, force Irving Oehler to drive him to his home in Lake Creek, and there kill the members of his family and himself. There is abundant evidence of this intention. Ragsdale had repeatedly threatened to kill his family, and it was largely because of fear for their lives that led to his initial arrest on an insanity charge.
    It is also known that when Ragsdale returned to jail he told the jailer that there was only one thing he wanted before being taken to Salem and that was to see his family again. He repeated this request several times, and it is believed that it was his entreaty to be allowed to speak to his family over the telephone that led to the tragedy.
    Ragsdale leaves a family of seven children of his own, six boys and one girl, and his stepchild, Bessie Ragsdale, who was the complaining witness in his recent trial. The children include Thomas, 16 years old, the eldest, Tyranabo, named after an Alaskan Indian chief, Marvin, Raymond, Nannie, Wallace and Rodney. Rodney, the youngest, is three years old.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 13, 1917, page 6

Crushes Skull of Jailer with Flatiron, Commits Suicide When Overtaken.
    One of the most sensational and tragic jail breaks in the history of Jackson County occurred Tuesday afternoon when J. L. Ragsdale, a Lake Creek rancher, smashed the skull of jailer Basye with a flatiron and, after securing the gun of the officer, left the jail in company with another prisoner, named Oehler, walked out of the jail door and started down Fifth Street toward Medford, when a couple of blocks from the jail they took to the brush along Jackson Creek and when overtaken were opposite the Elmer house, some five or six blocks from the jail.
    The alarm was given by Rippey, a prisoner in the jail, who secured the attention of the employees in the clerk's office, and an investigation revealed the body of the jailer lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the jail. Carl Newbury and Chauncey Florey jumped into a car belonging to Gus Newbury, and having been told by a bystander that "two men came out of the jail and went down the street," started in pursuit. When near the junction of Blockstone Alley with Fifth Street the car was hailed by some boys pointing across the creek to the northwest, where one of the escaping men was visible. In attempting to get out of the car while it was in motion Mr. Florey was thrown to the ground, where he lay in an unconscious condition. Young Newbury, however, promptly covered the man Oehler with his gun and held him until reinforced by Alex Norris, who came up at that moment. Ragsdale not being in sight, Oehler was returned to the jail, and a posse from the town went to the scene of the arrest, where the dead body of Ragsdale was found, a bullet hole in his head and the revolver of the jailer in his hand.
    Chauncey Florey was picked up after the arrest of Oehler and taken to the Norris home nearby, where he remained in an unconscious condition until about 10 o'clock p.m., when he recovered consciousness seemingly not much worse for the unfortunate tumble.
    The escape was made about 2 o'clock, while the circuit court was in session in the courthouse not more than 100 feet from the jail, people going in and out of the grounds in full sight of the jail door, and but one man saw the prisoners come out; no one, it seems heard any struggle or disturbance in the jail; it was worked almost too smooth for a one-man job.
    Mr. Basye, who died at 3 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, was a resident of this city and had been jailer since about January 1st and seemed to be pursued by bad luck from the very beginning of his term in that position. About three days after his assuming charge of the jail a successful attempt to escape was made by two men, Botts and Lavinne, in which Botts got away and has not been found. About ten days ago two attempts at suicide were made by inmates of the jail, and now the tragedy which resulted in his murder. Chas. H. Basye had been a resident of Southern Oregon for many years and was well-known to many citizens of Jackson County, who will be greatly saddened to hear of his untimely end. He leaves two grown daughters.
    Ragsdale, the slayer of jailer Basye, [who] was convicted in the circuit court of criminal assault upon his stepdaughter and had just been sentenced to a twenty-year term in the state penitentiary and would have been taken to Salem Wednesday, was of a violent and vindictive disposition, and it is thought that the attack on the jailer was prompted by a desire to get even with Mr. Basye for some fancied injury, whether real or not. Several persons who observed Ragsdale closely during his trial and also at the time sentence was imposed upon him declare that he showed strong signs of homicidal mania, which later developments have proven true.
    Oehler, the man who accompanied Ragsdale in his spectacular escape from the jail, denies any participation in the assault on jailer Basye and declares that he was released from his cell by Ragsdale after the latter had killed the jailer, and with a gun at his head was commanded by Ragsdale to accompany him in the flight. This version may nor may not be true.
Jacksonville Post, June 16, 1917, page 1

    An attempted jail break was frustrated by Sheriff Jennings Tuesday night. One of the prisoners picked the lock on the corridor, and the three men, Walters, Alden and Perkins, walked out into the corridor, where they were confronted by the sheriff and one of his deputies, who promptly returned them to their cells.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, August 4, 1917, page 3

Attempt of Inmate of County Jail To Gain Liberty
Stopped When Sheriff Appears on Scene.
    One of the most daring daylight jailbreaks known in Jackson County was attempted Monday evening at the county jail in this city.
    W. E. Carter, wanted at Los Angeles for
stealing an automobile, arrested at Roseburg last week and brought back here to answer for a burglary charge at Medford, had been permitted the freedom of the jail corridor to get some exercise, and when the jailer stepped out he quickly ascended to the top of the jail, where a hole used by a former inmate to make his escape had been unrepaired. He was ready to make his getaway when he discovered the presence of enemy guns. At the command to get back into his hole he quickly did so, and then found Sheriff Terrill awaiting him with a young cannon in working condition.
    This was the second attempt made by this man, the other being discovered in ample time also. The fellow is full of confidence in his ability to make his escape, but is at present located in the old "polly" cage, from where no one has ever been able to get out.
    He has told his jailers many stories of former depredations and promises them a lively time keeping watch over him.
Jacksonville Post,
September 6, 1919, page 1

Small Blaze in County Bastille
    An alarm shouted by prisoners confined in the county jail Sunday evening apprised passersby that fire had broken out in the attic of that structure. The alarm was quickly responded to and the blaze extinguished before any material damage was done to the building. The fire started by a defective joint in the stove pipe where it enters the roof. Owing to chilly weather a brisk fire had been started in the heater, and flames escaping this aperture in the pipe ignited the rafters. As the jail building is constructed mainly of cement and steel and is practically indestructible, but little apprehension as to their personal safety was manifested by the prisoners, who showed their unconcern, after giving the alarm, by resuming an interrupted card game, which continued while the fire was being extinguished.
    Damage caused by the fire is very slight, and repair work on the building is now under way.

Jacksonville Post,
September 18, 1920, page 1

    Jackson County jail, at the present moment, numbers among its inmates a literary gent of exceptional ability. If you don't believe it, read the following effusion from the gifted pen of Jack O'Donovan. Poetry is easy for Jack. Given plenty of writing material and a certain latitude in treating his subject and he will tear off anything from a rippling couplet to 97 cantos of heavy blank verse at a moment's notice. Jack announces his return to the hoosegow thusly:

Again in Jail I Lay

Once more a commitment has been passed;
Once more in jail I lay.
June 22nd these lines are cast,
As my timely pencil I betray,
And now a few do shout, "Hurray!"
They gave me a debt to pay;
And thanks they give, as well they may;
While in Jacksonville jail again I lay.

I hear the R.R.V.Ry. going past--
I see the lawn spray's scattered spray;
Where'er I turn, iron bars are massed,
The inmates a card game start to play,
For well they may sing and be gay,
They have learned what it is to be free.
June 22nd I write this lay,
As again in jail I am to be.

What awful luck and how vast
Does the law threaten with its sway,
And with what fear we stand aghast
As we see ourselves that monster's prey.
How calm the future we survey,
They have us whom their hearts have craved.
And so, June 22nd I say
Again in jail I am to lay.
                                                                  J. R. O'D.
"Behind the Bars," Jacksonville Post, June 25, 1921, page 1


My sympathy, I'd have you heed,
Is with a gentleman who's in need;
Who hastened, with the best intent,
To catch a convict with a finger-print.
He scratched his head and took a notion
To pass his trick of locomotion.
Then, think of his imagination,
When he has no combination.
His features will have a look of pain.
He'll try once more--he'll try again.
Hoping to make up a case
He'll try and try to win the race.
But in the end, with piteous raving,
He'll lose the case he thinks he's gaining.

'Tis thus with me, I will admit,
The finger-print part will never fit.
But, with all truth, I am telling
I am a wiz at good guessing.
I never holler, balk or squeal
At an amateur's finger-print spiel.
I never pause or bat an eye,
But watch this snob with head so high,
And if I had a son with no more sense,
I'd shoot him sure, in self-defense;
It's a sure sign he has no sense
And no print for evidence.
He's trying to show the public he is smart,
But only shows the ignoramus part.

And so it is at times like these
That finger-print snobs need sympathies.
His brain and nerves in wild confusion
Must be victims of base collusion.
He's not filled with righteous indignation
To try to start a finger-print dictation.
It seems to me, at such a time,
To smash such snobs is not a crime.
He sure doesn't know he's living or dead
With all those finger-prints in his head.
                                                               J. R. O'D.
"Behind the Bars," Jacksonville Post, July 2, 1921, page 1


The miser thinks he's living when he's hoarding up his gold,
The soldier thinks it living when he's doing something bold,
The sailor thinks it living to be tossed upon the sea,
And upon this very subject no two men of us agree.
But I hold to the opinion, as I walk my way along,
That living's made of laughter and good fellowship and song.

I wouldn't call it living to be always seeking gold,
To bank all the pleasant gladness for the days when I'll be old.
I wouldn't call it living to spend all my strength for fame,
And forgo the many pleasures which today are mine to claim.
I wouldn't for the splendor of the world set out to roam,
And forsake my laughing children and the peace I know at home.

Oh! the thing that I call living isn't gold or fame at all,
It's fellowship and sunshine and it's roses by the wall;
It's evenings glad with music and a hearth fire that's ablaze,
And the joys which come to mortals in a thousand different ways.
It is laughter and contentment and the struggle for a goal--
It is everything that's needful in the shaping of a soul.
                                                                                J. R. O'D.
"Behind the Bars," Jacksonville Post, July 2, 1921, page 1

    Robert Bull and Eugene Kidder, two of the quartet who escaped from the county jail on the morning of October 14th by poking a hole through the roof of the bastille with a stick of wood, have been indicted by the grand jury on a charge of larceny, to wit: the theft of a Chevrolet car belonging to Miss Patton, nurse at Dr. Dow's hospital, for use in their flight. They were in jail for the same offense.
    L. A. Neslor was indicted on a charge of pointing a gun at another.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 13, 1923, page 3

    It is cheaper for Jackson County to send its prisoners to Portland and pay Multnomah County 60 cents a day for each offender than to try to look after the prisoners at home, according to County Judge Gardner of Jacksonville, who has been attending the state chamber of commerce and is now attending the sessions of the highway commission. Jackson County is not equipped to take care of prisoners serving a sentence, so it is considered more economical to ship them to Multnomah County, where they can work on the rock pile, than to establish a rock pile in Jackson County and furnish guards.
"Those Who Come and Go," Oregonian, Portland, January 9, 1924, page 8

or Drippings from the Jail-House Roof
By I. M. Here
A Fool's Advice
When the day looks dark and gloomy,
And you are feeling kind of blue;
Remember fellows, after the rain,
The sun will shine on you.
For sure the day is coming,
That you may go again,
In a world that's mighty tricky,
And sure is full of sin.
So fellows, be mighty careful
For whatever you may do;
Let it be an honest living,
And your words be ever true.
And never let your tongue tell lies,
Or let it be your master;
It won't help you anywhere you go,
For truth will travel faster.--C.W.
    John Law is no respecter of persons, it seems. One of the boys who was a temporary guest of Jackson County served his country during the Spanish-American War and was with General Pershing in France at the very start of the United States' participation in the world war. During the late unpleasantness he was attached to the Intelligence Department of the A.E.F. and penetrated behind the second-line trenches of the Boches in the line of duty, bringing back valuable information that aided the A.E.F. in planning decisive action. He remained in Germany with the army of occupation after the signing of the armistice. He was struck in the head and one shoulder with fragments of a German shell and carries a silver plate in his skull, besides having a stiff shoulder. But he found his way into Jackson County jail on a traffic charge.
He battled his way through jungles,
    He braved the frozen spaces--
Won a name in the Hall of Fame
    In the war of many races.
He never knew the word defeat;
    His was a courage fine;
But the poor man fell an easy prey
    To the state traffic cop's line.
    We don't know where he got them and we are not going to inquire too closely, but those watermelons that Sheriff Ralph Jennings rolled in to us last Saturday and Monday were certainly raised by someone who knew how: "Billy the Slav" has been digging seeds out of his ears ever since Sunday.
    "Slick" and "Red" are practicing a double dancing act that they hope to peddle to the Keith or Orpheum circuit in the near future. The only trouble thus far is that "Slick" has one Methodist foot.
    Flowers again adorn the dining room table, the gift of one of the Salvation Army lassies Sunday. Such thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated and proves that there are other ways of reaching a man's head than through the medium of the products of a kitchen.
    There was a small insurrection in Mexico Sunday morning. Villa and Obregon put on the gloves, and for a time it looked like the good old days after Diaz. Obregon received a bloody nose, but outside of that everything was lovely. It was their first tryout with the boxing gloves, and windmills in a windy country did not having anything on them.
    The Kangaroo Kourt purchased a pair of boxing gloves Saturday, and thus far only two black eyes and several soppy noses have been the result. Even the shepherd has announced that he may don the gloves. Tunney, please take notice.
    "Ike's" dad is a prime favorite of the boys on the occasions that he pays the county bastille a visit.
    We had two Sundays this past week. On Saturday the Seventh Day Adventists held forth and one of their number told the story of the Crucifixion in modern language. Sunday morning the Medford Salvation Army came over and held services. A reformed lawyer was the principal speaker and made a good impression on the boys.
    A Challenge--The Jackson County Hoosegow Athletic Club hereby challenges any visiting pugilist weighing up to 175 pounds for a ten-round bout, same to be pulled off preferably in the club room at Jacksonville. The color line is not drawn too fine, but serious objections are made to Chinese. Seconds and towel holders will be furnished. Dempsey and "Terrible Terry" preferred. Address all replies to secretary, Jackson County Hoosegow Athletic Club, Jacksonville, Oregon.
Jacksonville Post, October 1, 1926, page 1

or Drippings from the Jail-House Roof
By I. M. Here
With Apologies to Tennyson
The shepherd's window is empty,
For he has gone away;
But others now are using it--
Using it the livelong day.

The shepherd used this window,
From eight to five each day,
Except upon the Sabbath
When he stopped to eat and pray.

No longer will the damsels
In the house across the way,
Be subject to close scrutiny
For the shepherd has hit the hay.

He kept close watch on the turnkey,
When Ike would sing his lay;
But now everything is lovely,
For the shepherd has gone away.

We'll miss him, yes we'll miss him
The shepherd strong and gay;
But others are here to take his place
While the shepherd at the moon will bay.
    The water shortage has struck the denizens of Sheriff's Jennings' hotel during the past week, and some of the boys missed their Saturday night baths. Although a new pump and tank have been installed, it seems that the level of the water in the well is receding. It is hoped that the fall rains will replenish the supply of aqua pura before some of the boys start to accumulate barnacles.
    The business college closed last Thursday evening with the departure of the shepherd.
    There was a run on the barber shop last Friday. All the sheiks wanted a new Charleston bob. This particular tonsorial creation is a cross between the Zulu pompadour and a crossword puzzle.
    Peanut brittle has been cut out of our bill of fare for reasons best known to ourselves. "Slick's" friends please take notice.
    Help! At the present writing there are thirteen inmates in this jail house.
    "Vern-acular" has made his old cellmates several welcome visits of late. He is doing well on the outside, and strange to say has no disposition or desire to come back here as a guest. Anyhow, he is the salt of the earth, and he has the best wishes of his old pals.
    This is official notice that Perry, the traffic cop, owes this Kourt one round simoleon as his fine for October.
    Three of the boys ran up against the boxing gloves with their lips, and all they need is some burnt cork to qualify as negro comedians.
    The jail house roof is like the lazy man's roof. When it was dry weather it did not need fixing, and when it rained it could not be fixed. At any rate, the durn thing leaks.
    The shepherd has left us, and we miss his dissertations on the origin of man and other weighty subjects. He was high sheriff of the Kangaroo Kourt, to which position "the man who swallowed the whale" has been elected his successor. The shepherd is an authority on female loveliness, and is classed as one of the most successful tenders of the woolly flock in southern Oregon.
    "Billy the Slav" and the "Texas Kid" have succeeded "Jesse, the man with the large appetite" as the knights of the dishrag and mop. With his experience Jesse should be a great help around the home. He left us Wednesday.
    The Medford Salvation Army visited us again Sunday and conducted a very interesting and profitable service. The lady violinist assisted wonderfully with the music. The sobbing notes from the king of instruments found an echo that evening when one of the boys reviewed his past life with a great deal of remorse.
    At last four of our guests are grooming themselves to appear before the grand jury during the next few days. All of them are hoping they will draw a blank.
    Evidently the pear, apple and grape crops in the Rogue River Valley were below par this year, as none of these luscious fruits have found their way into the jail house during the past two weeks.
    Everything is set for a venison feed--all that is lacking is the venison. Our accomplished cook has promised to prepare the steaks for the boys if "Ike's" hunter friends provide the raw material.
    Neither the "Rum Runners Association" or the "Moonshiners' Center" met during the past week. Cause--dearth of members.
Jacksonville Post, October 8, 1926, page 1

    An incessant pounding that has been going on at the county jail for the past several days is explained by the fact that over 20 new cots are being installed in the county jail on the first floor. A number of the cots were brought over from the old jail at Jacksonville, and the remainder are new. New blankets are also being furnished with the cots, which take the place of beds that had to be made on the concrete floor of the jail.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, March 29, 1928, page 2

    After having been at low ebb for some time, the county jail again has a good-sized population, with 21 prisoners reported in the jail today held on a variety of charges, including bootlegging, car theft and larceny. Up until yesterday, there were 23, but two prisoners, Harlan Tremaine and Patrick Bishop, were taken to Salem to serve sentences in the state training school and in the state penitentiary.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, February 27, 1929, page 2

Old Jail at Jacksonville Serves as Morgue for Confiscated Booze
    Thousands of gallons of "evidence" are stored in the old county jail at Jacksonville--an accumulation of many months--some of the stuff dating back to "Sailor Jack," one of the most widely known bootleggers who ever operated in Jackson County, according to Federal Prohibition Officer Terry Talent, who transferred the 135-gallon haul made early this morning to the "morgue" at Jacksonville.
    Alcohol predominates, but there is moonshine of every variety, in every stage of fermentation, included in the big stock.
    Then there are stills--several of them confiscated during the last year, all stored in the old jail, which housed many famous prisoners, but  now is used solely for storage purposes.
Ashland Daily Tidings, September 17, 1929, page 1

Jackson County Jail, September 27, 1953 Medford Mail Tribune
Jackson County Jail Listed among Top Two in State;
Handled 605 Prisoners in 1952
    The thought of being jailed flabbergasts the average citizen. Luckily, the percentage of inmates to total population is extremely small.
    If and when a citizen's time comes to spending some "time" in jail he probably will have visions of some dark, dank and smelly place, dating to pulp magazine descriptions and Class "D" movies.
Good Example
    However, everything considered, he should be surprised with the clean surroundings, as pleasant as any confining room with bare bars can be. A high-type example is our own Jackson County jail in Oregon. It is rated second only to Rocky Butte jail in Multnomah County, and this only because Rocky Butte has a rehabilitation program. With this one exception, Jackson County has an equally good jail.
    The jail, located on the top floor of the courthouse, is a remarkably complete unit. It includes a kitchen, outdoor clothesline, laundry facilities, jailer's apartment, felon block, "bull" pen (drunks), trustees' lobby and quarters, lawyer's conference room, extra help apartment, "mug" room where prisoners' pictures are taken and developed and fingerprints taken and a multiple-cell block for various types of cases. Shower and toilet facilities are included in each individual unit.
    Inmates include all persons turned over to Sheriff Howard Gault's custody. These can be those processed via a state justice or district court in violation of a state statute and also those held for federal violations.
605 Last Year
    In a year's time, this makes quite a number. In 1952, a total of 605 inmates were held. However, the monthly totals are running much heavier this year than last, averaging about 70. The 1952 total included 205 felons, or persons committing more serious crimes, 291 misdemeanors, 60 juvenile delinquents (in for either misdemeanor or felony), 13 mental observations and 12 AWOL from the military.
    Although no radios are allowed in the cells, up-to-date magazines are available from time to time for inmates. Commissary privileges for purchase of tobacco and candy are available if the money is in the men's possession.
    In charge of the jail is R. L. (Smitty) Janzen with Mrs. Janzen acting as matron for the female prisoners. They reside in a comfortable apartment on the same floor with their minute Chihuahua "Bill." Mrs. Janzen does the planning of the week's menu, while the group of "trustees" does the cooking a modern kitchen. These prisoners are those in for a year's sentence on misdemeanor or lesser felony charges, who are considered trustworthy. They have the run of the main lobby, which is 25 by 35 feet, kitchen, laundry and outdoor clothesline, which, incidentally, also has protective bars, just in case.
    The trustees' quarters can accommodate eight persons. Just off these quarters is the lawyers' conference room and extra help apartment.
    The south wing includes two separate units, the drunk tank and the felon block. The top security felon block is 21 by 42 feet, and includes three cells operated by a remote control setup. A larger room is available to the prisoners, besides their smaller bunk cells. An impressive door system connects the unit with a hallway, with screened talking units and special slots for serving food (see picture).
    The other section is 35 by 42 feet and includes 24 bunks and tables and benches. In it are housed a variety of cases, the great majority being drunks, either in public or while driving. A few others are also held here, when considered not too great a risk. This unit is the only one from which escapes from the jail have been made. In each case, the window bars were broken, but the county court has strengthened the enclosure.
Juvenile Quarter
    The north wing includes two cells with six bunks each, one single cell for solitary and mental cases, and two more cells: one-bed and two-bed setups for women and juvenile cases. The photo and fingerprint room is also in this section.
    A weekly break in the monotony is the almost every Sunday visit by a different church organization. A sermon is given and the group sings for the benefit of the prisoners. They tour the felon, drunk and trustee sections, staying from an hour to an hour and a half.
    At the entrance to the jail proper in the trustee lobby room is the visiting room. Here prisoners can visit with friends and relatives through a double wire thickness for a 15-minute period on Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m. and on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 27, 1953, page 12

A Reporter's Notebook: Visiting the Jackson County Jail
Mail Tribune Staff Writer

    You don't have to read the signs to know you are approaching the county jail.
    You push the button for the jail elevator while you stand in the small entranceway painted a drab gray. You wait, then try the handle on the door. It's so loose you are afraid it will come off in your hand. Still the elevator doesn't come. After waiting five minutes you climb up the long flight of narrow steps.
    Upon arriving at the jail door you automatically try the handle as a matron and jailer look up. The brightest thing about the jail is the woman's bright blond hair and the brown uniforms of the sheriff's deputies.
    "Just a minute, please," the jailer calls through the speaker system. He tells you to push. You push, and the door swings open. You have already identified yourself as a newspaper reporter and announced you want to tour the jail facilities.
    A young blond blue-eyed deputy with sergeant stripes on his sleeve thrusts himself halfway through the door and tells you nobody can visit the jail without the sheriff's permission. Hal Tune, nurse with the Jackson County Health Department, had previously arranged with the jailer for the visit. An older deputy with jet-black hair combed straight back squints at you suspiciously and prepares to back up the sergeant if you should try to force your way in.
    The sheriff comes in as you are talking to a deputy clerk in his outer office.
    He flashes a big white grin as you tell him you want to visit the jail.
    "Why are you picking on the jail? Everyone wants to write about the jail. Why don't you write about the hospitals? Maybe they aren't providing the kinds of services they should, either."
    You tell him you have already written about hospitals. He complains about some recent articles in another paper. You reply you think he has been treated fairly by your paper. He admits he has. Finally, after some joking back and forth for 30 minutes you get up thinking this contest you have lost.
    He leads the way to the door and says, "Okay, let's go visit the jail. I"ll take you on a tour you will never forget." He did, too.
    As you step through the main door of the jail your first impression is the complete lack of odor--not even a cooking odor from the kitchen a few yards off. Everything is an antiseptic gray. Prisoners--most of them in the white uniforms of kitchen help--are lounging on wooden benches. The main room is spacious.
    Turning to your left you walk down a corridor. You look in cell windows. The cells seem small for the three to four men in them, but from the outside they look and smell clean.
    You glance in through another barred window. There are three men in there. Two are bearded. One of them is dressed only in shorts. Thick hair covers his chest like a broad, dark brown mat. The third man has the lithe, hairless appearance of youth.
    As you turn away to look at another cell, one of the men quickly turns to the window.
    "Hey," he calls. "Are you from the health department?"
    "Indirectly," you reply. You are afraid if you tell him you are from a newspaper he will give you a long, sad story. You have had that experience before.
    "They cleaned this place up just before you came. They always do that." A man with a pleasant face has thrust his beard right up against the bars on the window. "They just sprayed the place, mopped it up and straightened it up. They do that every week just before you people come," he said.
    The youngest of the trio holds up a small garbage can, neatly lined with a plastic liner, and complains that it was left open all week and was finally emptied that day. The sink and floor are not mopped often enough, the older man complains. The third man jigs up, his massive, hairy body almost too big for his shorts. He rolls his eyes and jigs around as you talk to the other two.
    Your original questioner says he is Neil Vallotton, originally of San Jose. He is in on charges of robbery and kidnapping.
    Vallotton said he was brought back from San Quentin. It is hard to believe from his manner and appearance that he could have robbed a motorist in Jackson County then taken the man's money and car after leaving him tied to a log. But that's what he is charged with. He said he had been in jail a few times before.
    As he continues to complain you ask if he thinks San Quentin is better.
    "In some ways it is and in some ways it isn't," he replies. The sheriff stands patiently by, after calling the sergeant and another deputy to hear the man's complaints.
    "In San Quentin they put you in 'the hole' if you complain. Here they don't always listen to your complaints. It takes them a long time to get somebody back here to listen to you. In Quentin they do listen to you. 'The hole' is solitary confinement," Vallotton explains.
    "At least there they give you a cotton-filled mattress. It is easier to clean. There are several ways to clean it. This sponge-rubber mattress can't be cleaned. The dirt is absorbed through the rubber." He yanks a mattress off a metal bunk. You smell it. The sheriff smells it. You don't smell anything.
    "It's not really better than San Quentin here," he continues. "At San Quentin, you have your own TV--in your own cell if you can afford it."
    "What's that back up on the shelf there?" you ask, pointing to a medium-sized TV cabinet.
    "Oh, yeah," he says. "But here they control you with TV. If you don't clean up your cell when they tell you, they turn off the TV and the lights."
    Jim Reich, 16, Medford, leans forward and says he is "up for burglary and theft charges."
    "I'm here as an adult, but they don't always give me cigarettes," he complains. "My mom lets me smoke. Some of the guards give me cigarettes. They gave me these sacks of Bull Durham," he said. The man in shorts jigs back to a bunk and hurries back again with his hand outstretched. He is holding four small sacks of the roll-your-own tobacco.
    A jailer sternly replies: "You're not of age. The judge says you cannot be given cigarettes. It's illegal."
    Harold Orr, the man in shorts, tells you he is from Riverside, Calif. He says he is in jail for possession of marijuana. This was reduced to a misdemeanor, he says.
    The man from San Quentin complains that an American Civil Liberties Union representative came to hear his complaints but only stayed 15 minutes. He complains that his mail to and from the jail was lost. Some of his letters were returned due to his language, he said. It took six days to get a letter across Medford to his attorney, he adds.
    You reply that people on the outside have the same complaints about delayed mail.
    "I have no complaints about the food. I gained weight," Vallotton says. "It doesn't always taste so good, but I guess it's okay if you like plenty of paprika pepper."
    The trio argue that they should have a trusty assigned to their cell to keep it clean as they keep the other cells clean.
    A jailer says later that a broom, mop and bucket were placed in the cell that morning and they handed them out.
    "I finally cleaned the cell out myself," the sergeant says. "They had a mess of paper under that lower bunk," he points. "I cleaned all that out and mopped up the cell."
    Under questioning the trio answer that their laundry is picked up twice a week after they take their showers. The 16-year-old points to a soiled sheet and said the bedding isn't always picked up. He admits that he didn't put it in the laundry bag.
    The youngest man complains about the dirt under the wood planking in the shower. We look. It looks clean. The shower curtain looks brand new. We ask the sergeant to lift up planking. He can't get it up. The sheriff says they have to check the hooks on the shower curtain after each shower or the prisoners will take them back to their cells. The shower hooks have sharp points and could be used as weapons. He said the prisoners had recently ripped up a curtain and it had to be replaced.
    We check the two women's cells. They are spotless. A young woman is stretched out on a lower bunk in one cell. We ask her what she is in for. She replies she is serving out a $75 fine, but won't say what the fine is for. The sheriff points to an overhead TV camera which can swivel around to cover all angles of the women's cell and corridor. A viewer is in the first-floor office of the sheriff's department. Other TV monitors are in the corridors.
    You look at the "felony tank"--a large cell with individual cells opening off from it. You don't see any toilet paper by a toilet. The sheriff says individual rolls are issued to single cells where they are kept. The toilet paper is only issued when the prisoners run out, or it would be stuffed down a sink and the water left on to flood a cell, he says.
    You look at the "misdemeanor tank" with several prisoners stretched out on bunks or sitting up reading. This is where the drunk drivers are placed, the sheriff says. Blankets are stretched over the lower half of the bars to reduce the light. Everything in this large cell is neat. Here the kitchen help stay, and so do the men on the work release program. They may even go out to work for swing shifts at nearby mills. The outside light is screened so they can sleep when they want to. Eighteen men are on the work release program.
    The kitchen is spotless. You see the same large electric mixer you saw when you toured the jail with the county commissioners 10 years ago. A milk dispenser in shiny stainless steel stands against a wall. Prisoners get milk once a day. Diabetics and others requiring special diets get special food, the sheriff says. Other equipment looks fairly new. The whole area is odorless and spotless.
    In one corner of the large entrance room of the jail. Hal Tune, male nurse, is examining a prisoner's leg. Tune comes twice a week.
    The heavy steel door with bulletproof glass clangs shut behind you. You are glad you can walk out.
    Downstairs in the sheriff's private office, the law officer settles into his chair. He says he has 80 prisoners in a jail designed for 52. Last summer he had 110. Getting the "bad ones" away from the others is a problem in such crowded conditions, he admits. Average stay in the jail is seven days.
    Asked about establishing a misdemeanor farm, he snorts and says lawyers, doctors and a sheriff have been fighting for this for a long time.
    "The trouble is you never know from year to year what kind of facilities you will need--ideas about handling prisoners change that fast. Now, authorities say all you will need is minimum holding facilities--work release programs will be the big thing."
    "No, I will not guarantee that prisoners will not get drugs (marijuana and the hard drugs like heroin). Prisoners will make a rope out of strips of blanket, lower the rope out a window and a friend will tie on a bottle of liquor. The county commissioners were having a meeting one night and somebody in the meeting saw a bottle being pulled up past the window," he said.
    County Commissioner Henry Padgham agreed with the sheriff that "people change after being in jail." County Commissioner Padgham says the new justice building will include plans for separating misdemeanants and providing better facilities for them.
    Meanwhile, people just sit in their cells day after day with little to keep them busy. And that's where the trouble is, the sheriff says. But nobody seems to want to change talk into action and do something about it.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 17, 1974, page 6

County's New Jail Fills Its Staff with a Feeling of Pride
of the Tidings

    MEDFORD--"It was ludicrous," Sgt. J. R. Miller of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department says, remembering conditions in the county's old jail.
    "We used to have wall-to-wall people in the bullpen." ("The bullpen" was the nickname used to describe the misdemeanor cell of the old jail.) "We used to average about two major riots a year."
    The 24-bed cell sometimes held 60-70 people, Miller recalls.
    But that was two years ago--before construction on the county's new $8 million jail facility was completed.
    It was also before a federal class action suit was filed against the county, charging the jail's substandard conditions violated prisoners' constitutional rights.
    "That was the straw that broke the camel's back," says Miller.
    Now, despite the sharpest budget cuts the Sheriff's Department has ever experienced, things are different at the jail. And the new facility is at least partially responsible for the brighter outlook, according to Jeff Maldonado, administrative sergeant for the department.
    "We did a lot of planning and we're pretty pleased with this facility," Maldonado says.
    The planning he refers to is evident in the new jail. The three-level, 170-person-capacity detention center, staffed by 34 sheriff's deputies, was built with the idea of expansion in mind. Maldonado says the structure is designed to have two more floors added, and the jail kitchen is already equipped to accommodate the extra mouths that would need feeding if the jail were enlarged.
    Currently, the jail has 16 single-man maximum-security cells, four four-man day rooms, 10 eight-man day rooms, 80 medium-security one-man cells and two dormitories, each one able to house 29 prisoners. There are also 16 single cells for women and juvenile and detoxification cells.
    The latest in modern design ideas are employed at the facility--special hard-to-break glass, for instance, separates the cells and allows prisoners the sunlight the Supreme Court has ruled they must have. It also allows jail workers to see into the cells, further protection against unexpected trouble.
    For some time, the county came under heavy fire for using the glass, rather than conventional steel bars. For now, though, Maldonado says the department has ruled out installing the bars because of the costs involved.
    The glass, he admits, can be broken, but sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment acts as a guard against such an occurrence.
    That equipment includes the futuristic-looking control room located on the main level, which makes the building seem like something from the set of a James Bond movie. The room is a humming center of flashing television screens that monitor the movements of people in any area of the jail, audio devices with the capability to sense sounds as loud as coughs in each of the facility's living areas and electronic locks that slide thick metal doors open and closed.
    But there's another side to the jail, too.
    A library--stocked with best-sellers, current periodicals, reference materials, even typewriters--is available for prisoner use. And complete medical care is provided, too, by one of the nation's few American Medical Association-accredited incarceration centers.
    The health-threatening sewer problems the jail had last spring are expected to be resolved soon. Bids for the project have already been let, and construction should start "any time," according to Maldonado.
    Maldonado, along with jail supervisor Lt. Gale Fulton and Sheriff C. W. Smith, believes many people still misunderstand the jail, however.
    Fulton complains too many people are aware only of the problems that have plagued the jail, while Smith believes most people think of the facility as being overstaffed.
    Maldonado says many of the jail's components are viewed by the public as "luxuries."
    What people don't understand, he says, is that most of these items--windows, reading material and the like--are mandated by federal or state laws, or they're used as control measures to reduce the potentially explosive tensions that can build up among inmates.
    Fulton cites the newly expanded volunteer programs that bring social programs into the jail as part of the new positive spirit afoot.
    Smith, on the other hand, points to the fact that about half of his department's 82 staff members are employed at the jail and notes that although the number seems high, the facility is still minimally staffed.
    Maldonado agrees.
    "We have a tremendous logistics problem and we're understaffed," he says.
    But that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm.
    "We're pretty proud of this place," Maldonado says.
Ashland Daily Tidings, November 18, 1983, page 8

Jackson County Jail, November 18, 1983 Ashland Tidings

Volunteers Give a Lot to Inmates
of the Tidings

    MEDFORD--Completion of the new Jackson County Jail more than two years ago has unarguably been one of the biggest factors contributing to the surprisingly high morale levels among jail workers. But there is another factor, and that, perhaps, is even more responsible for the jail's new look.
    The factor? People.
    People like the nearly 200 volunteers who help county jail inmates through social programs that include legal help, counseling, substance abuse programs, language problems, work release, community service assignments, library access and adult education.
    The services are administered through a program called "Project Misdemeanant."
    Program coordinator Liz Reed says the agency, which is administered through the Jackson County District Court, relies heavily on the efforts of its volunteers.
    "It's just great. I'm just real pleased," she said.
    Reed supervises about 35 community volunteers, plus an additional 30 religious counselors, who are involved with programs for inmates. Another 140 or so work under the auspices of Terry Michels, volunteer coordinator for the program, "on the outside"--mostly as probation counselors.
    Reed and Michels agree that volunteer staff members are not only cheaper than paid workers but, in this case, they're more effective.
    Prisoners are more responsive, it seems, to people who work with them voluntarily rather than because it's their job.
    "We have a whole lot more creativity," Michels said.
    Project Misdemeanant's efforts have not gone unnoticed by the jail. The program is praised by jail supervisor Lt. Gale Fulton and Sheriff C. W. Smith.
    Smith beams when he discusses the volunteer efforts in the jail, saying, "We have doubled the number of volunteers in this department."
    The department's gratitude is reciprocated by Reed, who stresses the good working relationship she has with jail administrators and the sheriff's office. Cooperation from the department, she says, has been excellent.
    More outreach programs are planned. Currently, for example, Reed is seeking volunteers interested in starting a recreation program for inmates that would include organized activities and physical fitness therapy.
    Reed's position, which she and other program workers designed, is funded through a two-year state grant. The state began funding her post July 1.
    She says she tends to get wrapped up in the work, and she demands commitment from her volunteers.
    "I like the programs to be the best," she said. "I'm not a perfectionist, but the best."
Ashland Daily Tidings, November 18, 1983, page 8

Last revised June 15, 2017