The Old Jail

Fayette County opened its first jail in July, 1838. The cost of the first structure was $460. It was a primitive structure; prisoners were ironed and chained but within 10 years the building was sold. With no jail, prisoners were parceled out to various citizens for safekeeping. The plan worked until a murderer’s apprehension made arrangements for his incarceration in another town necessary.

In 1852, plans were finalized for a new jail that was in use by 1854. This jail was built by German immigrant Heinrich Kreishe, who was a stone mason by trade when he immigrated. You can see his work still at the Monument Hill/ Kreishe Brewery State Park.

By the early 1880’s, the need for a more modern and larger jail was evident and work began on the structure we now call the Old Jail. In November 1881, the county commissioners selected the Victorian Gothic design of Andrewarthe & Wahrenberger as the new look. The building was opened in 1883.

La Grange's Old Jail, now the home of the Visitor Bureau.

La Grange’s Old Jail, now the home of the Visitor Bureau.

The cell block contained 16 cells divided into two floors; eight cells stacked atop one another. Women and juveniles were housed separately upstairs from the men. The living quarters for the jailer (who was expected to be on-site at all times) and his family was located at the front and side of the jail and contained a common room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The historic building has housed some notorious ‘guests’ in its time. In the mid-1930’s, two members of the infamous Bonne and Clyde gang, Raymond Hamilton and Gene O’ Dare were held here for robbing the Carmine Bank.

During the history of the Old Jail several deaths have occurred in the building. The first was a caretaker of the building committed suicide upstairs in what used to be the guest bathroom. He was struggling with cancer and decided to end his life using a double barrel shotgun. His family still lives in the area. Another death that took place in the Jail was the Widow Mary Dach. She was 38 years old, had 3 small children and her husband had recently died of cancer. She was accused of shooting and killing Henry Stoever (58), a farm hand who was helping her after the death of her husband. Stoever moved in and according to the children and other reports was abusing their mother and them. After a quarrel with Stoever became violent, Mary shot him in his sleep. The body of Stoever was discovered and Mary was convicted. The death penalty was given by an all male jury in 1933; Mary would have been the first woman to be sent to the electric chair. That is until she decided she would starve herself to death. Mary died on August 23, 1933 and is said to still haunt the building to this very day.

 

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