The first jail for Benton County, which was erected immediately after its organization, stood on the north side of the east and west street, about sixty yards east of the northeast corner of the public square, in Bentonville. It was a small building, consisting of a double wall of squared logs, with a cavity of several inches space between the walls. In this cavity poles were stood upon end, thus making what might be called a third or interior wall.

In April, 1860, the county court made the following entry upon the record of its proceedings, to-wit:

This being the day heretofore appointed by this Honorable Court to take the vote whether a direct tax should be levied for the purpose of building a county jail, and the court being satisfied that notices have been put up in every township, as required by law, and there being a number of the justices of the peace of the county present, and they having unanimously voted for the levying of a direct tax on all property now assessed for the year 1860, for county purposes, and also a poll tax of 25 cents per capput, which said tax can only be paid and received by the sheriff in gold or silver.

This must have been intended for 20 cents on each $100, instead of twenty per cent, as written on the record.

It is therefore ordered by the court that a county jail be built. and that a direct tax of twenty per cent* be levied on all property now assessed for the year 1860, for county purposes, and also that a poll tax of 25 cents per capput for the year 1860 be levied, and the sheriff is hereby ordered to receive and collect in discharge of both of said taxes only gold or silver.

At the July term following plans and specifications were adopted for the building of a jail, forty feet long by twenty-two feet wide, from outside to outside, the wall of the first story to be eighteen inches thick and nine feet high, with two partition walls thirteen inches thick across the building. The second story of the building was to be eleven feet high, and the whole was to be set upon a solid stone foundation. Full details for the construction of the building were given in the plans and specifications. At the following August term of the court the contract for the erection of the building was awarded to E. R. McKeen, the lowest bidder, for $3,475.

The political campaign of 1860 was now on, and probably the results which followed were foreseen or apprehended by the contractor, for nothing further was done with this jail, it never being built. The next county jail was the one constructed in the third story of the present court-house. Proceedings pertaining to the construction of the present jail were commenced in October, 1887, when Robert N. Corley was appointed commissioner, to let the contract or contracts for its construction, and to superintend the work. The contracts were let in January, 1888, to different parties, as follows: Stone mason work to H. G. McWhirter for $1,693; brick work to William D. Kelton for $475; carpenter work to Duffey & Fristoe for $475; iron work to Clapp, McGruder & McAdams for $682; steel cages, etc., to the Paulling Jail Co. for $3,000; tin work (roofing, etc.), to Hobbs & Co. for $82; excavation to different parties, estimated at $50.

At this writing the building is not wholly completed; the painting, construction of sewerage, etc., remains to be done. It will cost when completed, according to the plans and specifications, including sewerage, about $7,500. It is located on the court-house grounds on the north side thereof. It is a one-story building, forty-two feet two inches by thirty-two feet two inches in size, outside measure. It contains a hall, which extends all around the building inside of the brick wall, and on the interior the place proper for the prisoners is a space thirteen feet square, containing two cells six and a half feet square, and a corridor six by thirteen feet. It is so arranged that the prisoners cannot have access to the outer wall. It sets about three feet below the level of the ground, and has an excavation of that depth, and about six feet wide, all around it. The roof of the building extends over this surrounding excavation. Upon the whole, it is a very substantial building, and so arranged that the jailor need never come in contact with the prisoners.

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.