By David R. Altman
As Pickens County’s 10 historical markers go, this one is the easiest of them all to find. If you are new to the area, it’s that cool stone building sitting at the corner of Main and College Streets, across from the entrance to the Woodbridge Inn.
The Old Pickens County Jail, complete with a gallows (that was never used) has been around since 1906 - although the original building was built on this site about 1855.
The original jail was torn down “by unknown means” just after the Civil War, and the second one took a year to build while some of Pickens County’s first inmates were housed in nearby counties. But, according to an article in the old Piedmont Republican in 1901, the original jail was one of the worst ever.
Two out of the first three sheriffs there died of disease and, according to a grand jury finding “…it is no wonder that its occupants are thoroughly saturated with typhoid malaria, being badly lighted and worse ventilated.”
The newspaper article said, “It is no wonder that its occupants are nearly always sick and that death continually stars them in the face.”
It took 15 years to build the ‘new’ jail (which opened in 1906 and is still standing) and one of the builders later became the head of construction for the Georgia Marble Company in Tate. The old jail was used from 1906 until 1982, housing 13 sheriffs and their families during that time period and, according to waymark.com, “housing more prisoners than the 16-bed cellblock should accommodate.”
That’s a far cry from today, when, at any given time, the current-day Pickens County Jail can house more than 100 prisoners. When the old jail was evacuated in 1982, the Marble Valley Historical Society assumed responsibility for maintaining the old building. It was placed in the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1982.
Sources: lat34north.com, waymarking.com, Georgia Historical Society, pickensgasher iff.com
Want to visit the jail? Contact the Marble Valley Historical Society at 706-253-1141 or www.marblevalley.org
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