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Historical photo show 100 years ago header

100 Years Ago

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Shelby County Jail

First Jail

The old Shelby County Jail at 203 East Court Street was actually the fourth incarceration facility in Sidney, Ohio. The first jail was constructed in 1822. It sat beside the first courthouse on Ohio Avenue facing the courtsquare. The log cabin jail was too small and was sold after 4 years when a second facility was built in 1826 on the southeast corner of the square.

Second Jail

The second jail was also made primarily of wood and would serve for 13 years until it was destroyed in 1839 by fire. The third was built to withstand flames. Made of rough stone and brick, it was torn down when the current facility was built in 1875.

Prior to its destruction, it housed the only locally executed person, a Rumley man, Alfred Artis, who was convicted of killing his 12 year-old daughter, Emma. Artis was incarcerated in February, 1854, and held throughout his trail. He kept Emma cruelly chained in a shed beginning in November, 1853, during the winter months until she died due to the deprivation of food, water, and clothing. Local witnesses testified as to Emma’s abuse with her father placing an iron collar around her neck and beating her with a pole. The severe cold caused Emma’s hands and feet to freeze as well.

It would take two juries and a little over a year for the authorities to convict Artis. A deputy sheriff constructed a special set of chains to hold the man known throughout the area for his unusual strength. On the day of his execution, Artis refused to climb the stairway of the scaffolding, so he had to be beaten and dragged up to the gallows. A large crowd gathered and watched this history-making public execution.

Third Jail

In 1875, the Victorian Italianate jail was built at a cost of $38,600. It was designed for two uses; the front portion would serve as the sheriff’s residence and the rear cell block as a jailhouse. The ornate brick structure features panels and paired brackets lining the frieze of the low-pitched roofline. Stone hoodmolds, bracketed sills and quoins at the corners complete the ornamentation. The rock-faced stone cell block attached to the east side is an original feature.

Next to the jail, to the east, is a two-story Romanesque Revival steam plant that still supplies power for the Jail and Courthouse. It was originally built apart from the Courthouse to eliminate the danger of explosion and/or soot discoloration to the newly-built facility. When the ‘Great Flood’ hit in 1913, an emergency hospital was established in the upper portion, giving this building the distinction of housing Sidney’s first hospital.  The jail facility was closed in 1994 when a new building was completed on Gearhart Road. The structure may soon face the wrecking ball.

'Downtown' segment written in October, 1998 by Sherrie Casad-Lodge 


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