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Springfield Paranormal Research Group

1859 Jail, Marshal's Home & Museum

In 1859, construction was completed on the new Jackson County Jail
and Marshal’s Home. As the twelve new limestone jail cells were opened
hostilities between free state and pro-slavery forces were reaching a boiling
point in the area.

In 1854, Congress had passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the
Kansas Territory to settlement. The act provided for popular sovereignty in
determining the issue of slavery. The result of this act was violent guerilla
fighting which terrorized local populations on both sides of the Missouri and
Kansas lines as abolitionists poured into the Kansas Territory.

In Jackson County, the Battles of Independence and Lone Jack in 1862 ended
in Confederate victories. The state of Missouri was held in the union by
military force even though the elected Governor and legislators had voted to
secede from the Union. In Jackson County old grudges erupted between
families and neighbor turned against neighbor. Women and children were
arrested and placed in the 1859 Jail now under the command of the Union
Provost Marshals nicknamed the “Little Gods” for the power they had over the
population. When the Jail overflowed with the residents of Jackson County,
other buildings were used as jails. One of those buildings collapsed and several
young girls were killed. Historians believe that this action resulted in the raid on
Lawrence, Kansas in 1863.

The raid resulted in the infamous Order No. 11 being issued which
depopulated Jackson County as well as other counties along the Kansas
-Missouri border. The enforcement of this order resulted in terrible
hardships for the residents, many women and children had to walk to Texas
or Kentucky. Many were killed in the act of obeying the order, Union and
Southern families alike. Many families never returned to Jackson County
after the war.

Independence artist George Caleb Bingham captured their misery on canvas
(and another copy was painted on a tablecloth). He later produced an
engraving of the painting and sold signed, numbered copies of “Martial Law.”
One of his signed proofs is on display at the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and
Museum. Reproductions are available for sale.

Decades after the war ended in Missouri, the citizens of Jackson county felt the
lingering bitterness and uncertainty of that great conflict. Out of these
tumultuous times rode Missouri’s most notorious outlaws. Outlaws like the
James boys and Youngers used the remaining animosities from the outrages
of the war to stay a step ahead of the law for nearly twenty years.

In the spring of 1882, Jesse James was murdered. His older brother, Frank,
began negotiations with the Missouri governor to surrender because he feared
assassination. Frank James spent almost six months in the Jackson County
limestone jail.

In 1901, a brick jail was added to the back of the limestone jail to house chain
gangs. Chain gangs were used to build roads, sewers and other tasks assigned
them. They left six days a week at sunrise and returned at sunset. One inmate
spent a year on the chain gang for stealing a cow.

You can see the Marshal’s home from Main Street, but the two-story limestone
jail and the 1901 chain gang jail joins the rear of the home. Take a self-guided
tour of the jail and museum for a first hand look at frontier justice. Tour the
beautifully decorated home where the wife and children of the marshal lived.
Guided tours are available upon request in advance.

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