Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The little things make a difference

Jail from Fort Dodge
We all harbor preconceived notions. I think most of us watch so much TV that we accept everything we see as fact and that includes setting. My preconceived notion has to do with historic western jails.  All the old westerns show them in much the same way. You walk into a building where the sheriff's desk sits. Off to the side is either two jail cells with barred doors or you go through a small hallway to the jail cells.

On my recent fact-finding trip, I went to Dodge City, Kansas. Some of my current story takes place there. I haven't fully settled on the year. It will either be 1876 or 77. I'm so glad I went because I found out lots of tidbits I had wrong in my story. Mainly about the jail. When I looked on line, the only reference I could find was a jail they'd rescued from Fort Dodge to add to their tourist area.

At the Boothill Museum, I discovered that the jail in 1876 was in the basement of the courthouse. After a bit more research, I found a drawing of two courthouses. Seems they built a courthouse out of wood and turned around the next year to build one using limestone. They built the new courthouse in 1876 and nicknamed the jail the lime kiln. Well, a kiln is a oven used to bake clay so I can only imagine the nickname refers to how hot it was for the guests of the jail. Located in the basement, would not allow for much breeze.

Not only did I find the information I needed to make my story a bit more plausible but I found out that the original jail was a really large, 15ft deep well. They named it the "cooler".

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