Historic Structures

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi

Date added: September 8, 2022 Categories: Mississippi Prison

The Old Jasper County Jail, built ca. 1895, is the oldest surviving building in Paulding and one of the oldest in the entire county.

After Jasper County was formed in 1833, Paulding, named for Revolutionary War hero John Paulding, was chosen as county seat. Paulding was located at or near the intersection of two important early roads, Jackson's Military road and the Natchez-to-Fort St.Stevens road. The early years of the community were busy ones, and for many years the town was the center of wealth, culture, religion, education and politics for the area and was referred to as "The Queen City of East Mississippi." St. Michael's, the third Catholic parish after Natchez and Biloxi to be formed in the state, was organized here in 1842-43.

The state's oldest daily newspaper, the Clarion Ledger, now published in Jackson, began here as the Eastern Clarion in 1837.

Paulding's decline began in 1886 when the railroad come through the county. The citizens of Paulding did not want the railroad to come to their town and voted against it. As a result the railroad went to Vossburg and with it went business and prosperity. A second blow came almost twenty years later in 1905 when the county was divided into two judicial districts. Paulding remained the seat for the first district while the railroad town of Bay Springs near the western edge of the county became the seat for the new second district.

Most of the physical evidence of Paulding's age and importance has been lost. The brick 1838 courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1932, a double tragedy as the old county records were also lost. Then only ten years later the old Catholic church also burned to the ground. The oldest remaining building in Paulding and one of the oldest in the entire county is the old jail. This building was constructed sometime between 1895 and 1900. There is little information about the building as the Board of Supervisors records were destroyed in the 1932 courthouse fire. The date of construction is estimated based on references found in newspaper articles.

This jail is the second such building located on this site. The first, a wooden structure built in the 1840's, was, according to tradition, burned down by a drug-crazed prisoner.

Description

The village of Paulding is located near the center of Jasper County, a rural county located in the south-central part of Mississippi. Paulding itself is a very small unincorporated community of between 100 and 200 citizens. The courthouse, built in 1972, is the largest building in town and is located where State Highway 503 bends as it passes through the settlement. Located approximately 200 yards south of the courthouse on a dirt road, is the Old Jasper County Jail. Built between 1895 and 1900, the Old Jasper County Jail at Paulding is a one-story, 3 x 2 bay, brick building ornamented with a watertable, segmentally arched door and window openings and a corbelled cornice.

The jail, although badly deteriorated, retains a high degree of integrity. The original 16" thick brick walls are still basically intact. Most of the interior plaster has fallen off the walls but the original unmolded window trim and corner blocks remain around most of the windows. The original iron bars remain over the windows but the glazing is missing. Apparently the original exterior door is missing as evidenced by the remaining exterior hinges, but the solid iron interior door is still there. Although the hipped roof is almost gone, the ceiling is still mostly intact. It is constructed of corrugated iron covered with concrete and supported on iron trusses, a method of construction that made the building fireproof.

The building consists of two rooms. The front room has a large free-standing iron strap-work cell at one end. The back room has a larger two-part cell with solid iron panels alternating with open bars. The main area of this cell is entered through a heavy barred door. This was apparently the "maximum security cell." Both this cell and the cell in the front room are free standing structures and do not touch the walls of the building. The ends of the maximum security cell are five to six feet from the windows. This distance between the cells and the windows was probably provided to prevent anyone on the outside from passing anything in to the prisoners. The strapwork cell in the front room is much closer to the windows but the openings into the cell are much smaller, making it more difficult to pass items into the cell.

Located on the key box of the maximum security cell is the notation, "Manufactured by the Pauly Jail Bld'g and Mf'g Co., 2215 DeKalb Street, St. Louis, Mo." This company was also responsible for building the Webster County Jail at Walthall in 1892. The 1907 jail in Macon, Noxubee County was built by the Pauly Jail Company of Memphis.

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi Front facade view to northeast (1993)
Front facade view to northeast (1993)

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi Northwest elevation (1993)
Northwest elevation (1993)

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi Interior showing cell (1993)
Interior showing cell (1993)

Old Jasper County Jail, Paulding Mississippi Interior showing cell (1993)
Interior showing cell (1993)