History of Jails

First Jail

According to Commissioners' Court records, the first jail for Ellis County was built in 1854, just four years after the birth of the County in 1850. The first jail, though crude by today's standards, was felt by commissioners to offer maximum security.

A contract was let to Thomas Herron for the amount of $1,000 to construct the new facility.

The building was to be 16-feet square on the outside and the space allocated for the building was to be excavated to a depth of 1-foot for the foundation. The foundation was to be of 8-inch square oak timbers laid side by side. The walls were to be made of oak or elm timber 6-inches thick. Between the inner and outer walls a space of 4-inches was to be filled with oak, hackberry or ash timber.

The building was to be two stories high. The cell on the lower floor was to be 9-feet square. Floors were constructed of 2-inch oak plank. In the center of the middle floor a 1-foot by 3-foot trap door was to be installed. The door was constructed of 2-inch oak plank. Strong wrought iron hinges were to be installed on this door.

Outside and against the building, a staircase extending from ground level to the upper cell was constructed. A platform built of 1.5-inch oak plank was placed at the top of the staircase.

Later, and after the building had been completed, the commissioners decided to make some changes and ordered the windows raised to a height of 5-feet. A change was made in the window gratings. These were to be constructed of solid iron 4-inches wide and .5-inches thick. The entire thickness of the plates was to be sunk into the outside wall and secured with iron bolts.

Second Jail

After a span of 20 years, commissioners felt the first jail could not serve the needs of a growing County, and the second jail in the history of the County was built in 1874. The second jail was constructed of hard stone. Although thought to be large at the time, the new facility was only a hefty 33-feet by 22-feet. John Solon filled the lowest bid and was awarded a contract for $4,072.50.

John T. King was Sheriff of Ellis County at the time. This building was completed in 1875.

Third Jail       Third Jail Present
Third Jail

The third jail for the County and now a historical landmark stands in the second block of North Rogers street in Waxahachie. At the time of its construction, in 1887, W.D. Ryburn was Sheriff. A contract was let to Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Mo., for the sum of $35,000 for its erection.

This new jail, the third for the County, was the most exciting piece of architecture local citizens had ever seen. The center of the building was occupied by a revolving cage, which was surrounded by cells. The door for the main entrance of the cage served as a door for the various cells when it was rotated.

A historical jailbreak was recorded by the Ellis County Mirror on Thursday, Dec. 24, 1896. For sometime back, the Ellis County jail had been pretty well filled up, but Sunday night three men made their escape. These men were Frank Chambers, charged with cow theft and carrying a pistol; Joe Munkus, charged with horse theft; and Walter Moreland, forgery. They broke the lock on their immediate cell and with a wooden key went through the next door, and with a knife picked a hole though the wall and jumped to the ground from the second story.

Old-timers relate that the men who escaped took to the banks of Mill Creek, which flows near the jail, to get away, but they were later apprehended by a Sheriff's posse using bloodhounds.

Fourth Jail   Fourth Jail
Fourth Jail

The fourth jail was built between the years of 1929 and 1930. In December 1974, a new addition was added. The office of the dispatcher was moved to the new addition. Other space utilized in addition included juvenile cells, conference rooms and air conditioning. There was an efficiency apartment in the main building for use by the Sheriff.

Fourth Ellis County Jail 1991 New     Fourth Ellis County Jail 2001 New     Fourth Ellis County Jail 2010 New
Fifth Jail

The fifth Ellis County jail is located at 300 S. Jackson St. in Waxahachie. Construction started in 1989 at an estimated cost of $6 million. Inmates were moved in July 1, 1991. The jail was built under the direction of the Texas Jail Standards Commission. It was rated to have a capacity of 200 inmates. One hundred twenty-eight inmates were moved in on the first day. It reached its capacity in January 1992.

In 1998, the County started planning an addition to the existing jail facility. Construction started in 1999 at an estimated cost of $10.5 million. The new section opened for inmate housing in November 2001, raising the maximum capacity of the jail to 568 inmates.

A third phase opened in 2010, raising the maximum capacity of the jail to 856 inmates. The jail facility is named for Wayne McCollum, who served as Sheriff of Ellis County for 20 years.