Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

Two men attempted to break out of the Kosciusko county jail a week ago. Successful jailbreaks are rather uncommon today, but there was a time when jails were very easily broken out of.

The first Kosciusko county jail was a two story log structure built in 1837 near the center of the court house square. The only entrance to the lower story was by way of a trap-door in the floor of the upper story, through which prisoners were let down by a ladder. The ladder was then pulled up and the door shut down.

Undoubtedly there were many jailbreaks from our first county jail--at least until 1841 when the commissioners ordered the sheriff to cross-bar the window and stove pipe hole. There was also the problem of cleanliness. The Grand Jury examined the jail in 1845 and reported that it was "satisfactory for the safe-keeping of prisoners, but entirely unfit and improper for their convenient accommodation and health."

In 1846, realizing that a new jail was badly needed, the county commissioners offered a cash prize for the person who submitted the best plan for a county jail. Jacob McFadden won the contest and was awarded the contract for building the structure with a bid of $2,500.

Located on the south west corner of the court house square, the jail was ready for use on July 14, 1849. It was a two-story brick building, the sheriff living on the second floor. Evidently there were still jailbreaks, because in August of 1850 the commissioners, meeting in special session, ordered the south wall of the jail to be planked with two tiers of white oak plan. The prison door was likewise to be lined with heavy sheet iron.

This jail served Kosciusko county until the present structure was built in 1870.

Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Dec. 2, 1952