Cell Block
One toilet and sink for up to 12 prisoners

The History of the Nemaha County Jail
as told by newspaper accounts.

October 1878

The Board of County Commissioners have ordered that the people vote this fall whether they want a new jail in Nemaha county. We don’t know of any one opposed to building one, and expect to see the proposition carried unanimously. We are well fixed financially, and now is the time to build.

Seneca Weekly Courier – 11 Oct 1878, page 4

15 Nov 1878

It is very evident the people of Nemaha county want a new jail— the vote having carried by 1,277 majority.

Seneca Weekly Courier – 15 Nov 1878, page 8

4 July 1879

Abstract of the proceedings had by the Board of Commissioners of Nemaha county, Kansas, sitting as a Board of Equalization at a meeting of said Board begun on June 2, 1879, and adjourned on Tuesday, June 17, 1879:

Seneca Weekly Courier – 4 Jul 1879, page 5

June 3, 1879

Contract awarded to P. J. Pauley & Bro. to build jail according to plans and specifications on file, for the sum of $9,943. Bond of contractors approved.

5 Sep 1879

The steel-clad cells to the new jail are being put in this week, and the building will soon be ready for use. To those who have been used to seeing large jails, built of massive stone, and covering a large space of ground, the new jail at Seneca looks small; but it embraces all late improvements for the safe-keeping of convicts, compactly built; and although $10,000 seems-a big price, we are satisfied when the new jail is in use, the people will appreciate the advantages of the building,, and acknowledge the County Board did a wise thing in the selection made. If you don’t think the jail a good one, get into a cell and try and got out. You will then “know how it is yourself.”

Seneca Weekly Courier – 5 Sep 1879 – page 8
Pauly patent on first floor jail cells

24 Sep 1879

The New Jail. The finishing touches are this week being put on the new jail The edifice is a brick structure, with a two story front and L. The building is situated on the block immediately in front of the school house, and presents at first sight more the appearance of a handsome dwelling than a jail The main building is 32×20 feet in size, contains six rooms and is conveniently arranged The L. for the rest of the jail. The jail is 22×20 feet, and contains the cells. There are three in number, each with ample accommodations for four prisoners. They are of steel, and of the celebrated Pauley patent, which are said to be the strongest made, and for sanitary arrangements are very perfect. In addition to this department, another occupying two of the upper rooms of the jailor’s residence has been arranged with a view to the confinement of lady prisoners and such as are detained on slight causes, and for only a limited time The premises are provided with a large cistern, and the building furnished with water works. In short, the whole building is a model of beauty and convenience, but it costs Nemaha county $9,965 to It claims to having the handsomest jail in northern Kansas

9 Oct 1879


Brief Description of the New

Nemaha County Jail.

The Work All Completed and the Building Received by the Commissioners.

On Wednesday of last week the new jail at Seneca was formally received by the Nemaha county commissioners. It is a model of neatness, and all who have visited it pronounce its interior arrangements perfect. The building presents a very attractive appearance, the exterior walls being built of brick and handsomely ornamented. The main structure is two stories high, the front portion being designed as the jailer’s residence, and the rear extension arranged as a prison. The most attractive feature, however, is the construction of the cells. They are made on the plan of Pauly’s celebrated patent steel- clad jail cells. There are three of the cells, each capable of accommodating four prisoners, and all provided with hammocks and bunks, giving them a look that would seem inviting were the formidable bolts, and bars removed. The cells are arranged in a row, with excellent means of lattice ventilation at the rear, while in front is a corridor, separated from the outer corridor by open lattice-work, all made of the famous patent hardened steel, that defies files, saws, or cold chisels. The entire top and bottom, all the outer walls of the cells, the rear end of the corridor and the partition between the corridor and cells are made of plate work, hardened by the best processes known, and are absolutely saw and file-proof. The sanitary arrangements are the most thorough that could be desired, the lattice work and the foul air ducts affording ample ventilation, while the water closets, water tank, pump, hose, supply-pipe, soil-pipe, etc., enable the jailer to always keep his prison clean. This system of constructing jails contains three main points of superiority over all others, viz.: Security of pris-

oners from escape, sanitary arrangements and safety of the jailer in hand- ling prisoners. All but the latter have been briefly mentioned above, and this would be difficult to describe. In the main (or jailer’s) corridor near the entrance to the prisoners’ corridor that laces the cells, is a strong box, made of hardened steel. To open the cell doors the jailer enters the corridor and re- moves the padlocks; then retires, closes and locks the corridor door. He than removes the padlock from the lever (in the lever box), and pulls the lover which slides the locking bars and releases all the cell doors. In locking up at night the prisoners step into their cells, closing the doors. The jailer pushes the lever back and locks it; then opens the corridor door, goes in and places a pad- lock on each cell door; retires and closes the corridor door, locking it at top and bottom, then closes the lever box, locking it with the combination lock. Thus it will be seen that the jailer never needs to come in contact with the prisoners, and hence is secure from attack. The arrangement is so simple and so easily operated that a lady, or even a child can handle the prisoners with perfect safety. The jailer’s apartments are models of neatness, and upstairs are two rooms with gratings, both neatly furnished, and designed for female prisoners, in- sane persons or others who may be temporarily confined. The whole structure cost less than ten thousand dollars, and Nemaha county, with her characteristic punctuality paid the cash on delivery, and the builders, Messrs C. L. Wundi & Co. of Burlington, Iowa, agents for P. J. Pauly & Bro. left at once for Massachusetts. where they have a contract to construct another prison on the same plan. Our people consider that they have made a very profitable investment.

Seneca Tribune – 9 Oct 1879, page 1

26 Feb 1904


Man Under Arrest For Goffs Robbery Digs Out and Escapes.

Henderson, the man arrested at St. Joseph some time ago and brought back for trial on charge of having burglarized the bank at Goffs, made his escape Tuesday evening by digging his way through the brick walls of the county jail and is still at large. Sheriff Camp- bell and County Attorney Nold went to St. Joseph Tuesday morning and put in the day with the police of that city, looking for evidence against Henderson, to be used at his trial, which was to have come on at the approaching term of court. Henderson evidently thought the absence of the Sheriff a good opportunity to make his get-a- way. In the absence of Mr. Campbell, the jail and prisoners are in charge of Mrs. Campbell, who is also deputy. Most of our readers understand that the cells of the jail consist of a steel cage in the center. Around this is a corridor into which prisoners may be turned for exercise. This corridor is only enclosed by the brick walls of jail, with iron bars over the jail windows. It was not intended for the confinement of prisoners who had any great motive for attempting escape, the steel cage being provided for these.

The prisoners in the jail besides Henderson were Ellsworth, the Nebraska man put in last week for eloping with another man’s wife, Bert Hebert, the young fellow with the Ellsworth-Bhug art outfit, and Thomas Porter, who is in for contempt of court. These with Henderson were in the corridor of the jail during the day. The supper for the prisoners was later than usual Tuesday evening. This was handed in to them about seven o’clock, and was eaten in the corridor, as is the custom. Henderson was there and ate supper with the others. Some time about eight o’clock Mrs. Camp- bell went to the jail door to take away the dishes and lock the prisoners into the cells for the night, and it was then discovered that Henderson was missing. Investigation showed that he had cut his way through the brick wall of the jail in one corner, making an opening just large enough for a man’s body. The other prisoners certainly could not but have known what was going on when he was working his way through the wall, but they all profess ignorance and refuse to tell anything about it. An alarm was given as soon as Henderson’s absence was discovered, but there was no clue to the direction he had taken and searching for him then was like looking for the proverbial needle in the hay stack. County Attorney Nold was on his way home from Mt. Joe and where he arrived at ten o’clock assisted in the matter. The authorities decided that the best plan would be to send for the Beatrice blood hounds and this was immediately done. The hounds arrived here just before dinner Wednesday, and after dinner were taken to the jail and put on the scent, the jail premises meanwhile being guarded to prevent spectators from obliterating the trail. The dogs soon made a start from the hole in the jail wall, went over the northeast corner of the high fence, through the barnyard and along the alley and streets to the Grand Island crossing just east of the Gilford Hotel there they seemed bothered. They then went out along the wagon road past the John Simon place, but lost scent and were brought back still started again. This time they took to the railroad track and followed it straight into Oneida. Here they went through the town, making a stop at the store of Mrs. Magee, where there was evidence of an attempt at breaking in. The store had not been entered however. It is surmised that Henderson was here and thought it a good chance to get a change of clothing, but was either frightened away or at that time heard his train coming. From the store the dogs went to the depot, which was the end of the trail, the man having evidently taken the morning train for the east. No farther trace of the escaped man has been found. A few days before Henderson’s escape he was shaved, his hair cut and his picture taken. This may assist in locating him. He was evidently a smooth criminal, a genuine specimen of the crook species, used to working his way out of jail with limited facilities. The only tools he had to cut through the jail wall were a piece of iron used for a stove poker, and a piece of the bail to a bucket; He may have had outside help, but not necessarily so, as it would be but a short job for one man to work out the mortar from between the bricks of the wall and then remove the brick. In the mean time there is no great loss without some gain. If he is not captured Nemaha county will be saved an expensive trial in court.

Courier Democrat – 26 Feb 1904, page 4

23 Aug 1906

Jail Delivery. Joe King, in jail for stealing the team of Thomas Donahue on Coal Creek, and a man named Thompson, in custody for burglary at Goffs, broke out of jail after dark Wednesday evening by going through the roof and made their es- cape. At 11 o’clock p. m. Sheriff Den- nis and deputies are driving the country in pursuit.

Courier Democrat- 23 Aug 1906, page 4

12 April 1906

For A New Jail.

The county commissioners of Nemaha county have practically decided to build a new jail. The necessity of this is past argument. The old jail is not only insecure for the keeping of prisoners, but is in a very unsanitary condition and cannot be bettered, except by building anew. The matter has been under advisement for over a year past, but the commissioners entertained a doubt as to their authority to build without submitting the matter to a vote. However it has been decided upon the counsel of both County Attorney Her- old and Judge Stuart that they have such authority. They have had drawn plans of such a jail as it is contemplated to build. The plans were made by the Pauly Jail Building Company of St. Louis, who are specialists in this line. The building would be two stories in height. The first floor will be divided into two sections, separated by a brick wall. On each side of this wall will be three steel cages or cells and a bath cell. On the upper floor will be two cells and room for additional cells or a sleeping room for the jury. The sheriff’s office will be in front, and in the front corridor will also be two additional cells, one on each floor. All cells can be locked and unlocked from this corridor. The building will be furnished with toilet necessaries and bath tub and heated by steam. The plans pro- vide for a modern and complete jail building, such as would provide for the needs of the county in that line for generations to come. To build with any other idea in view would be foolish economy.

Courier Democrat – 12 April 1906 page 6

23 Aug 1906

Jail Delivery.

Joe King, in jail for stealing the team of Thomas Donahue on Coal Creek, and a man named Thompson, in custody for burglary at Goffs, broke out of jail after dark Wednesday evening by going through the roof and made their escape. At 11 o’clock p. m. Sheriff Den- nis and deputies are driving the country in pursuit

Courier Democrat – 23 Aug 1906 page 4

30 Aug 1906

The County Commissioners meet in Seneca September 3rd to settle the question of building a new county jail. A representative of the Pauly Jail Co., will be there and submit plans. The commissioners want to purchase plans and build the jail as they see fit.

Corning Gazette – 30 Aug 1906, page 8

6 Sept 1906

The county commissioners were in session the first of the week, to meet a representative of the Pauly Jail Building Company, to consult concerning plans for the new county jail. The commissioners have practically determined that the jail is to be built, and are now laboring with the details of plans and price.

Courier Democrat, 6 Sep 1906, page 5
Pauly patents on 2nd floor jail cells

25 Oct 1906

The Board met and opened bids as advertised for new County jail and found bids as follows: Shaul & Assenmacher bid for completion of jail $10,658.00, Vorhes & Son on building etc $4,691.45 and Pauly Jail Co. on steel work, etc. $6,202.00, and thereupon the Board postponed further consideration of all the bids until a special meeting of the Board to be held on November 10th,1906.

Seneca Tribune – 25 Oct 1906, page 5

18 April 1907

The county commissioners have advertised for bids for a new county jail. They met with a citizens committee on Friday, composed of A. L. L. Scoville W. H. Smith and G. W. Williams, who went over the premises with them carefully and agreed with the board that conditions demanded a new jail. The residence will be enlarged and the jail proper will be two stories high. Both will be strictly modern throughout. At present Nemaha county has only one prisoner in the county jail, C. S. Backaday, who is there because the jury failed to agree at the March term of court.-Seneca Courier.

Corning Gazette – 18 April 1807, page 8

2 May 1907

[First published April 18, 1907]

Notice to Contractors. Sealed bids will be received at the office of the county clerk of Nemaha county, Kansas, at Seneca Kansas, at any time on or before May 20, 1907, up to 3 o’clock p. m. for repairing the Nemaha county jail according to plans, specifications and details prepared by John Y Benfer, architect, now on file at the above named office, and may be examined there. All bids must be accompanied by a certified check of $250.00 as a guarantee that the bidder will sign contract and furnish good and sufficient bonds, which will be returned to the unsuccessful bidder. An acceptable assurity company or individual bond for one- third of the amount of the contract price will be required of the successful contractor. The award will be made known by the county commissioners ten days after the bids are opened, unless they deem it necessary to further investigate the standing of the contractor. All bids will be opened in the commissioner’s room at the courthouse May 20, 1907, at 3:30 o’clock p. m. Address all bids to E. S. Randel county clerk The Board of County Commissioners re- serves the right to cancel and reject any and all bids.

 E. S. RANDEL, County Clerk,

Seneca Tribune – 2 May 1907, page 5

23 May 1907

The board of county commissioners were in special session. Monday, to consider the bids for the new jail The bids were opened and further consideration taken until tomorrow Shaul & Assenmacher and Vorhes & Son were the only bidders.

Seneca Tribune – 23 May 1907, page 2

5 Dec 1907

The Sheriff in Jail

First of the week Sheriff Dennis took up his quarters in the new jail, and is at home 🏡 all callers of whatever station or degree. The new carpets, furniture and furnishings give its former dull surroundings a touch of pleasure and comfort, and the chief peace officer of the county has reason to feel a little puffed up over the change.

Seneca Tribune – 5 Dec 1907, page 3

13 Jan 1955

The jail residence is undergoing some repairs and redecoration before the Petersons move into it as a home. Dale Miller is busy on plaster and paper, and Stalcup and Jeanneret on some floor work. The residence part of the jail building is showing structural defects that appear as quite a problem. South wall, over which weight of the cupola rests, is pulling outward.

Courier Tribune – 13 Jan 1955,page 1

7 April 1955


Jail Cupola Coming Off In Repair. Job

Nemaha county’s jail, the-office and residence part, has been showing some bad structural damage, with the south wall pulling out. A repair job is now under way. The heavy cupola, which has put a lot of weight on the wall, is being taken off, and the wall will be rebuilt and the roof line leveled.

Courier Tribune – 7 April 1955, page 1

Click on this link to read about one of the prisoners – Mrs. Myrtle Lattimer – that kept her dead mother’s body for 2.5 years before she was found out.