Located at the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square in Goldthwaite, Texas is the two-story, creamcolored, Victorian building which served as the Mills County jail from 1888 until September 9, 1977. With an overall appearance of quiet dignity and reserve, the structure symbolizes the justice and courage that characterizes the one-time pioneer settlement.
Following the Civil War, a period of lawlessness resulted in the formation of a vigilance committee. This group, known as the San Saba County Mob, met once every month in secret to consider the welfare of the area and to decide who should be ordered out of the county or shot or hanged during the next thirty days. Captain Bill McDonald, of the Texas Rangers, was called in to break up the mob rule.
The first “jail” to serve Goldthwaite and the area to become Mills County was a building known as “the Calaboose”. Built of heavy lumber, the shed type building was located on the south side of the square and most of its inmates were drunks. After the present jail was completed, the old one was moved to a nearby farm where it burned in 1900.
In 1887, the Commissioners’ Court ordered the County Judge, J. B. Head, to open bids for the building of a county jail. The Diebold Safe and Lock Company made the lowest bid for $4,300 to furnish the steel and iron work for cells, sinks, pipes, locks and other fixtures. Green and Nichols of Lampasas were awarded the contract for building the jail at a bid of $4,550. Work was completed in 1888.
As the first public building in Mills County, the limestone and sandstone facility was located in the Goldthwaite square more than a year before that community was declared the county seat.
The major portion of the lower floor of the facility was used to house the jailer until 1912. The minutes of the Commissioners’ Court of May 14, 1912, indicate that the housing area of the jail was needed to provide a secure and convenient place for the storage of county records and that $6 per month was allocated to provide alternative quarters for the jailer.
County officials are currently working to restore the interior of the jail to meet the criteria imposed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. When the interior of the facility has been updated and the exterior restored, Mills County will have honored and preserved its past while still keeping step with the future.
From the Mills County Jailhouse, National Register of Historic Places listing.