1859 Independence Jail research
Silvana R. Siddali
This report will cover four areas of interest to investigators, including (1) the early history of the
site and the previous jail; (2) the jailers and families who occupied the home on the site; (3) the
Civil War era; and (4) the postwar executions. The museum bookstore carries an excellent
history of the site, which contains information about the construction and maintenance of the jail
and home, as well as a complete list of Jackson County sheriffs, jailers, and famous inmates. In
the interest of brevity, I will focus only on the four topics indicated above, but would like to
recommend David W. Jackson and Paul Kirkman’s Lock Down: Outlaws, Lawmen & Frontier
Justice in Jackson County, Missouri (Jackson County Historical Society, 2009).
1. The early history of the site: In 1841, Jackson County officials funded the construction of a
new jail, to replace the 1827 building that had been destroyed by fire, on the southeast corner of
Truman Road and Main Street. I believe there is a defunct fire station on the site today. This jail
served the county until 1859, though the building was used as a “lock-up” or “calaboose” until it
was either destroyed or significantly remodeled around 1905. It’s important to note that the old
jail was in terrible condition -- unsanitary, overcrowded, ill-lit, badly heated, and that the
“calaboose” was considered a disgrace to the town. After the construction of the new jail in
1859, the calaboose housed mostly drunks and vagrants overnight.
1839 execution. I would like to call your attention to one significant event that took place at the
earlier site. The county's first legal hanging took place in 1839, in or near what would have been
the 1827 jail. Henry Garster was tried and convicted of the murder of Williamson Hawkins.
Hawkins’s wife Rebecca had paid Garster $150 to kill her husband, who had apparently been an
abusive violent man. Garster rode to the site of execution in a wagon, seated on his coffin--with
his neck in a noose tied to a tree. His wife Ann watched the proceedings while seated sidesaddle
on another horse. A black hood was slipped over Garster’s head, and the wagon driven away.
According to Jackson and Kirkman, Garster died between noon and 3:00 p.m. on May 10, 1839.
The 1859 jail was built just to the north of the lock-up, designed by a well-known architect Asa
Beebe Cross, with a private dwelling facing the street and the jail located in the yard behind.
Although many Midwestern states had by now subscribed to the principles of penitentiary
reform, the 1859 jail was constructed & designed along more Spartan, old-fashioned lines.
Compared to the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia, the 1859 jail shows none of the
reforms considered enlightened by the mid-19th century. For example, the ESP was constructed
to embody the idea of solitary repentance (hence the name penitentiary, as opposed to prison or
jail). ESP was finished thirty years before the Independence jail. I mention this because the
condition at Independence may have seemed somewhat behind the times by 1859.
The cells must have been bitter cold in the winter because there was only one stove on the first
floor, which was intended to heat the entire building. In the summer, the iron-clad walls and
small windows must have rendered the place oppressively hot. Anecdotal evidence suggests that
several prisoners died of exposure, which is entirely plausible considering the conditions, but I
have never seen any solid archival evidence for that. (At this writing I am attempting to get hold
of the Independence County medical examiners’ records, but this is a long shot.)
While there are always complaints about food--both quality and quantity-- in all prisons, scant
evidence suggests that most of the food at 1859 was probably decent, because it was usually
prepared by the wives or female relatives of the jailors who lived in the home attached to the
jail. However, many accounts describe the filthy jail cells, complete absence of any sanitary or
sewage disposal facilities, and terrible stench. Mattresses were replaced only infrequently and
blankets were dirty and scarce.
One prisoner was so grateful to one of the boys for a gift of tobacco that he traded a hand-carved
bone knife (see below.)
2. Jailers and families. Most of the sheriffs / jailers had wives and children who lived in the
home. If there is childlike activity then I suspect it may be from children who lived there, rather
than children purported to have been arrested along with their mothers during the Civil War era.
That said, I am not aware that any of the jailers’ children died during their time at the jail. From
what I've been able to trace, all of them grew up and moved away. However, their lives in the
jail complex seem to have had a deep emotional impact; many recalled their interactions with
prisoners decades later. Some indicated that the experience of living with prisoners in the same
building changed their lives. There is at least one corridor leading from the home directly into
the prison cells. One young woman recalled that it was her duty to lock the door to that corridor
every night. Both boys and girls had regular interactions with the prisoners.
It is important to point out that medical facilities at the jail were so primitive that whenever any
surgery needed to be performed, the family’s dining table had to be pressed into service.
Anecdotal evidence (though no archival proof as of this writing) suggests that bodies were laid
out in the family’s front parlor. I would like to propose that these circumstances must have had a
profound impact on the minds and emotions of the children who lived in the home attached to
There were two tragedies that took place at the home. On June 13, 1866, 41-year old jailer
Henry Bugler died when a group of ex-bushwhackers attempted to free their friend Joab Perry.
His 4-year old son John was shot in the arm during the attack, but lived. Another jailer was
stabbed to death in a jailbreak attempt.
There were so many children who lived in the jailers’ home over the years that it is impossible to
choose the few who might be significant to your investigation. However, there were two little
twin girls, Helen and Louise Ross (born 1890) who were known as the “jail birds.” Their brother
Charles was the one who brought tobacco to a prisoner.
3. The Civil War era. According to Jackson & Kirkman (Lock Down, p. 40) William Quantrill
and his men captured the jail during the first battle of Independence in August 1862, and were
able to free some of their friends who were incarcerated there. A Captain Thomas (first name
unknown) was killed at the jail during the capture, as well as the City Marshal, Jim Knowles,
who was murdered there in revenge for having killed an elderly pro-southern Irishman.
Women prisoners: So far I've identified fourteen women who were jailed in Independence.
None of them died there, and to the best of my knowledge, none had any children with them.
Cathy Champion, an experienced genealogist, has been able to gather several highly significant
facts about some of the female prisoners. We are nearly certain that one of William T. “Bloody
Bill” Anderson’s sisters, and Cole Younger’s sister were among the prisoners detained in the
Independence jail. More information is given below. Documentation is attached.
Children in jail: The main point I would like to make in this section is simply that there is no
evidence that any of them had children with them. In fact, I would like to propose that this is
highly unlikely, for the following reasons.
1. First, the Independence jail was not set up for women prisoners. Female prisoners had to
be housed with the general population because there were no separate quarters for them.
Therefore, women were only kept at the jail for a short time before either being
transferred to Kansas City, paroled to relatives, or to their own homes. Sending the
women home was a complicated process that involved testimony & documentation of
their loyalty and future good behavior. Therefore, we have some evidence that indicates
that the women were not jailed with their children.
2. Second, the abstracts of the Provost Marshal records are highly detailed. They contain
references to specific disloyal actions or language, signed and dated documents; the name
of each prisoner with an indication of gender; and other important information. I studied
all of the references to the Jackson County Provost Marshal’s office for Independence.
The only records that discussed children referred to needy children or orphans. I am
convinced that if any children had been present in the jail, the abstracts would have
mentioned that. (Until I see the microfilmed records, of course, this must remain an
educated guess and should not be construed as documented evidence.)
3. Third, one of the prisoners, Jane Haller (see pdf document titled Haller letter, dated
June 4, 1863, attached to this report) had three children, a girl and two boys ranging in
ages from 6 to 15. The oldest, Richard, was expected to sign a loyalty oath because of his
age & gender. Her brother-in-law John A. Hyssong explained that the children had been
living at his home since Jane’s arrest, and Jane had joined the family upon being exiled
from her home. A boy of 15 would certainly have been named in the arrest record, but
there is no mention of any Richard Haller in the Provost Marshal records. Therefore we
may assume that Jane’s children were not present at the jail. I would also argue that the
Haller family’s case is probably fairly typical: the children of any women prisoners
would most likely have stayed with family or friends, rather than joining their mothers in
prison. Moreover, my impression is that most of the women detained in the jail were
very young, unmarried girls, not mothers with children.
4. To summarize: (1) there were no legitimate accommodations in the jail for women (let
alone children), (2) the women were quickly sent to Kansas City or home, and, finally (3)
there are no records of any children in the highly detailed Provost Marshal records, I
argue that there were no children present in the jail other than those who lived in the
dwelling attached to the jail.
Please note that Jane Haller was arrested on October 13, 1862, and was probably brought to the
jail around October 31. By November 21, she was released on her own recognizance to her
brother-in-law’s home in Pennsylvania. That suggests that she spent approximately three weeks
in the Independence jail.
Individual arrest records. The women’s names are given in bold. Each of these women spent
some time in the Independence jail.
October 11, 1862, a Mrs. Tillery (no first name) was arrested. The note from the P. M.'s record
reads as follows: "Mrs. Tillery one of worst rebel women; ordered her to make a flag for her
house; cousin Col. Sam T. Glover; using house as female prison; can do nothing about Quantrill
unless bushwhack him, am sending men on foot; mail impossible south due to rebels."
The record includes a statement that “bushwhacker Bill Haller killed one of his men, that Mrs.
Cox, Mrs. Haller, and Mrs. Severe were near in a carriage that appeared to have delivered
provisions to Haller, arrested them 10-13-1862.” Bill Haller was probably Jane’s brother-in-law.
Jane was a widow; her husband’s name was Jacob.
On October 31, 1862, a group of prisoners were brought under arrest to the Independence jail, at
least five of whom were women. I believe all were paroled. The only recognizably feminine
names I found were:
Mollie Anderson was arrested on December 10, 1863, held in the Independence jail, and on
December 24, 1863 was paroled and sent to Kansas City. She was accused of aiding & abetting
bushwhackers. Mollie was almost certainly “Bloody Bill’s” sister. Both William T. and Mary
Anderson appear in the 1860 census for Agnes City, Kansas. Mollie’s birth name was Mary; she
would have been about 17 when she was arrested. She was among the women who were
incarcerated in the Kansas City jail in 1864. When the jail collapsed, her sisters Josephine (about
age 15) and Martha (about 11) were killed, and Mary was left permanently crippled.
On January 31, 1863, the following women were jailed in Independence for aiding
bushwhackers. Sarah “Sallie” Younger is almost certainly the sister of Coleman “Cole“
younger. In the 1860 census, Sallie was 13, which would make her about 16 (roughly the same
age as Mollie) in 1863.
Cynthia Hudspeth, "and others."
Eliza Brown (no date)
Mrs. Copeland, first name unknown, for transmitting letters to bushwhackers, on September 9,
4. The postwar era hangings. There was a series of executions after the mid-1870s, and I
believe that the so-called "death cell" may be the one that is supposed to have all the activity.
Apparently there were one or two cells specifically intended to hold prisoners awaiting
According to Jackson & Kirkman, there were no legal hangings in Jackson county between 1839
and 1878. Below is a list of names of persons hanged at the jail. For further information, see
Lock Down, Appendix B.
Richard Green, 1878
Edward Calhoun Steed, 1887
Martin Reed, 1894
William C. Richter, 1894
Philip Martin, 1895
James Brown, 1898
James Reed , 1899
Albert Garth, 1902
James Jackson, 1902
John G. Taylor, 1903
Claude Brooks, 1909
John Williams, 1910
George Reynolds, 1910
Robert W. Davis, 1910
Wesley Robinson, 1915
Walker Lee, 1921
Antonio Mangiaracina, Jr., 1930
John Messino, 1930
Carl Nasello, 1930
Joe Hershon, 1932