Building the Buffalo County Jail
Where were county prisoners kept before the stone jail was built on the
courthouse block in Kearney?
No record of a jail or of jail cells
in the Gibbon courthouse.
May have been a room set aside for keeping a man overnight under guard
May have taken prisoners to Grand Island or some other county seat with a
Hamaker Notes in Archives
History Professor at Kearney State Teachers College 1969-1984
Researched Buffalo County history in primary sources
County Board Minute Book One
Kearney City Council Minute Book
Move County Seat to Kearney
Bassett: Oct. 12, 1874 – Vote taken to move County seat. Records
moved shortly after.
Deposited in a heap on the floor in
the Chandler building
About July 1, 1875 the records were
removed to the R. R. Greer building until Jan. 1876.
County Board Minutes: 4 Sept 1875
Board refused to pay L R More rent on
building for County.
Say citizens of Kearney responsible.
More says move out by 6th.
Commissioner order sheriff to find
18 Sept 1875
pay claims for moving county
records into Dart building
[remained there until the courthouse construction was
Occupied first Kearney courthouse built by UP
Where the Buffalo Roamed
[Maggie Anderson story by daughter]
County erected a stone jail in 1874, bringing in limestone from Kansas….
jail was in continuous use from 1874 to 1959….
“It was used
for Federal prisoners as well as for local offenders.
Over the years this jail held 8,335 prisoners, consisting of murders, horse
thieves, highway robbers
and assorted miscreants.”
County Board Minutes
31 July 1875 - B &M will freight
stone for jail free
18 Sept 1875 - UPRR & So
Platte Land Co offer land (discussed at last meeting) as site of the
courthouse & jail
B & M to freight stone here before 1 Jan 1876
23 Oct 1875 - Board decided to advertise for bids on jail
20 Nov 1875 - W F Marsh was
awarded the jail construction contract.
6 Dec 1875 - Contract
signed with Wesley F Marsh for jail construction
3 July 1876 – County tax levies include 5 mills for the jail
Between July 5 & Aug 19 bills were
paid to various people for building & guarding prisoners
19 Aug 1876 – Marsh was paid a
claim of $3000 for extras, for iron cells in jail. Paid from jail fund
2 Oct 1876 – In Annual
settlement with County treasurer, James Van Sickle for fund cash on hand.
Included County jail - $76.71
14 Sept 1876 – Newspaper
reported that a tin roof was being put on jail
21 Nov 1876 – Marsh offered
County jail as completed.
Cost figures given in the minutes were unclear but apparently the total was
somewhere around $5,000
This was a year after the courthouse was completed
2 Jan 1877 – L.H. Johnson paid for services as jailer
13 Jan 1877 – W. F. Marsh presented
a proposal to build a fence round the jail. Laid over
R. R. Greer was paid $40.44 for goods for jail
3 Apr 1877 – Among fees allowed was
Lewis H Johnson, jailor
26 May 1877 – David Anderson
paid for claim for materials to paint jail cells
June – Dec (except Aug) - David Anderson was paid various amounts for
Amounts ranged from $40 to $85
Amount probably depended on the number of prisoners fed
Kearney Daily Hub – 1914
The secretary of the State Board of Charities
and Corrections reported on a tour of inspection of the Buffalo County jail
and poor farm.
The jail was described as a two-story
stone building 30 feet by 40 feet.
4 cages or cells 6 feet by 7 feet, all connected
In front of the cells was a corridor about 6 feet wide.
There was also had a large area for exercise or reading.
The building was described as:
Quite old but in a good state of preservation
Not rated a No. 1 jail, but much better than the average.
The jailer and his family were quartered in the upper story.