Jail Stories

Reporter Journal, December 3, 1885


On Friday of last week Sheriff Sweet’s tramps, who have been boarding with him, under the tramp act, for several weeks, gave him considerable trouble. Two or three of them, the worst of the gang, had been yelling murder at the top of their voices for some time, and the sheriff and his assistants took them down stairs to the basement and placed them in what is known as the murderer’s cell. There seemed to be a conspiracy among them, and as soon as their companions were removed the remainder of the gang—which numbers fifteen—began to yell as loud as they could. It was early in the day Friday when they were taken down into the dungeons, and they remained there two days before they would give up and promise to behave themselves. During their confinement below they were allowed nothing to eat, and were given water to drink but once or twice. Four of the leaders were placed in the “cold cell” which is not warmed at all, and into to which cold water drips. Here they chose to remain some four or five hours before giving up and promising to do better. Finally, two of the very worst ones who yelled and wailed constantly like wild beasts, and would not be comforted were gagged with iron gags. This seemed to be a very strong argument with them, and they at last yielded and came to Sheriff Sweet’s terms. One of the offenders behaved so badly, and was so incorrigible, that the Sheriff judged it would be a good thing to give him a sound horse-whipping, and did so. It seemed to have a soothing effect. Some of them were in dungeon confinement about fifty hours. Others of them who were subjected to severer measures did not hold our so long, but they all finally gave up, and were restored to their cells up-stairs. They are a saucy and badly behaved gang, and extreme measures have to be adopted to keep them within bounds.

Reporter Journal, January 25, 1900

Grand Jury’s Findings

The grand jury filed its final report last night about 6 o’clock and was discharged. In it the jury found that the courthouse and offices were in good condition and well ventilated, but in regard to the jail the jurors expressed themselves as much dissatisfied with its condition, but said it was as clean and wellkept as the building would permit and that the prisoners were well cared for. “We find the jail building very much out of repair, with every evidence of extended and inexcusable neglect,” was the strong language of the report and the jury urged that the county commissioners take immediate steps towards its amelioration. The walls were found to be in need of calcimining, and new water pipes are recommended, as are gratings on the windows in the east side of the jail and a cement floor in the basement. The whole building was found to need a general overhauling and repairing.

Reporter Journal, November 29, 1900


Will Reduce Number of Prisoners in Our Jail

We find the jail in a clean and well kept condition and the prisoners well fed and well cared for and we commend Sheriff Drake for his good management. We find that some of the prisoners are sadly in need of clothing and we recommend that the commissioners provide suitable and proper clothing for those prisoners serving terms of sentences, where necessary.

We desire particularly to call attention the Act of Assembly approved April 28, 1899, creating a prison board and authorizing the employment of the male prisoners of the jail to perform eight hours of manual labor each week day upon public highways of the county. We believe that the adoption of a system by which the provisions of the act would be put in force would not only result in financial gain and benefit to the county, but would also tend to reduce the number of prisoners especially in the winter time when the present system rather furnishes an inducement for the indolent to commit petty misdemeanors for which they are furnished free food and lodging at the jail during the cold weather. We find that a new floor should be laid in the dining room, and a cement, flog or other proper floor should be laid in the basement.

We find the county house well managed, in excellent repair, of adequate accommodations and the inmates kindly and humanely cared for. We commend Supt. Putman and his wife of the county house and Sept. Kilmer and his wife of the insane department and the several assistants for their charge.

And last we commend our district attorney for his efforts in expediting the business of his office, and in his able, impartial and courteous assistance to the grand jury; for his efficient and business like system resulting in the prompt attendance of witnesses, no delays in the work of the grand jury and the requirement of no witness to attend but one day; all to the great advantage and convenience of the suitors, and a large saving in the expense of the county. We make this reference, believing the same to be entirely merited.

Reporter Journal, August 21, 1902


Gang of Seven Working With Pick and Shovel on Court House Grounds

Seven prisoners from the Bradford county jail were put to work last Tuesday morning in leveling up the ground in the rear of the court house. The men are under the guard of Turnkey Wilcox and Constable McCracken. This is part of the county prison board to take advantage of the provisions of the act of the legislature calling for the working of prisoners confined in the county jails and it is expected that the inauguration of the system will have the salutary effect of ridding county of tramp nuisance and the committing of minor offenses in order to secure easy quarters in the county jail.

It is expected that the county will eventually have a stoneyard where all the able bodied prisoners will work off the superfluous flesh while boarding at the bastile and negotiations are being made toward disposing of the cracked stone so that the work may be made to being in a profit.

Reporter Journal, April 23, 1903


Charles Brooks, the Alleged Perpetrator of Deed
Received One Bullet and Grazed by Another


Great Excitement Over Both Occurrences and a Lynching Narrowly Averted
William Barnes, the Girl's Father, Cleared by Grand-Jury


Charles Brooks, aged 20, whose residence is not permanent, lies in the country jail under an indictment for rape committed upon Anna Barnes, a thirteen-year-old girl of frail physique and whose home is at Luthers Mills. In Brooks’ body are two wounds from bullets fired by the girl’s father, William Barnes, while his daughter’s assailant was in his cell. A true bill has been found against Brooks and William Barnes is cleared of any action that might be brought against him for shooting Brooks to avenge his daughter’s honor for on Tuesday evening at about 6:10 o’clock the grand jury rendered a not true bill against him and he goes to his home with the deed made as if had not occurred by the ballot of 24 men of his county who have declared that he committed no crime.

Such in brief are the chapters of one of the most exciting and of Brooks’ part in one of the most revolting occurrence that has ever been chronicled in the county. The story of the outrage upon the daughter of Barnes is as follows:

One Sunday afternoon Anna, the victim of the assault, and her little seven-year-old sister were returning from Saco where they had been spending the day. They started home about 3:30 o’clock and while on the road met a rough and very disreputable looking man. The girls were so frightened that they went to a house and remained there some time, expecting that by that time the man would have disappeared. They took the Burlington road home when only a half mile from their own house he sprang out from the roadside, seized Anna and threw her to the ground. He choked the little, delicate girl, bound her face with a cloth and then committed an assault upon her so terrible that no words can express its despicableness.

The man paid no attention to the little girl and she ran screaming for help. Neighbors and passerbys after a while heard her cries and she told what she knew of her sister’s predicament. They found the girl and then formed a posse and searched for the wretch who did the deed. Under a stump fence they found Charles Brooks as he was afterwards identified and near the spot was found a lantern and sack which the girl said the man had with him. Brooks acknowledged that he knew of the occurrence but said that his twin brother had done it. This was found to be false and he later confessed that he had no twin brother. There was great excitement and that Brooks escaped a lynching is a wonder, so wrought up were the family and neighbors over what had happened. He was taken before Justice Z. L. Morgan and committed to jail and was brought here by Constable Alexander, Clarence Strope and Leon Knapp. Dr. D.L. Pratt was called to examine the girl and found that her condition fully carried out the story she told of her assault.

Father Wreaks Vengeance.

On Tuesday came a sequel to the affair. William Barnes, the father of the girl, was in town on Monday and after being searched was allowed to go into the jail. Tuesday he again went to the jail at about 11 o’clock in company with several others from his neighborhood. His son, Frank Barnes, came in and it is said handed his father a revolver. The Barnes stepped up to the cell and when Brooks saw him he hurled the glass of water that he had in the cell at Barnes. Barnes pulled the trigger of the revolver but the weapon did not explode. The two shots rang out and several attendants of the jail ran to see what the trouble was. To Deputy Sheriff Pierce Barnes said: “I shot him” and surrendered himself. The son went out and was afterwards arrested and the pistol found on him. The father had evidently handed it to him.

Brooks’ cell was entered and he was found under his cell cot with the mattress and blankets pulled over his head as he had attempted to get himself away from the range of the bullets. He was struck by both shots. One struck the rib near the heart and glanced off, making only a slight flesh wound. The other hit him in the left wrist and shattered the bones. He was given medical attention by Dr. D.L. Pratt, Jail Physician T.B. Johnson being out of town. Neither wounds are serious and unless something happens in the meantime Brooks will face the awful charge against him this term of court next month.

Brooks is described by those who have seen him as a man with the most repulsive features. His head is abnormally large and he is a man of strong physique. Chief Miller reported that he once picked the man up here and that he carried a gun that was useless as far as any shooting went. He made inquires and found that he had run away from a place that Commissioner Kinney had secured for him in the eastern part of the county. He had been in the county house several times and he was returned there when picked up here on Jan. 2. On Jan. 15 he was discharged and the commissioners do not know where he has been since. Brooks told some of his questioners that he lived up back of the Athens tannery and he was evidently tramping back toward Burlington where he arrived near the scene of the awful crime for which he is to stand trial.

The Hearing on Tuesday.

Barnes, the girl’s father, and his son Frank, about 16 years of age, were arrested by County Detective McGovern on the charge of assault and battery with intent to kill. They had their hearing before Justice Orcutt at 3:30 o’clock Tuesday afternoon, D.C. DeWitt, Esq., and William Maxwell, Esq., representing the defendants and District Attorney Stephens the prosecution. Young Barnes cried pitiably at the hearing but the charge against him was withdrawn and he left the room at one. The young boy was heart broken at being arrested. Mr. Barnes waived a hearing to the next term of court and gave bail before Judge Fanning for his appearance. He was offered bail by several parties who are only a few of those who sympathize with  him in the awful crime that was committed upon his daughter and can get up no complaint against him because he took law in his own hands tried to wreak vengeance upon the man who injured his kin so shamefully.

Grand Jury Clears Bail.

When Barnes went before Judge Fanning and furnished bail in the sum of $1,000 his lawyers wanted his ease to come before the grand jury at once and so this was done, although the District Attorney had intended to let it go over until the next term. In about 15 minutes Barnes was cleared of the charge and he and his family went to their homes. The action of the grand jury in finding a not true bill against Barnes is hailed with delight by the neighbors and friends of the man and those who have learned of the case. His wife, who was prostrated by the rapid series of tragedies in her family and who condition here on Tuesday was heart rending, was overjoyed and the family returned to their home with a whit less of trouble. A true bill was found against Brooks and he will come up for trail next month.

Reporter Journal, December 17, 1903


Officials Have as Yet Been Unsuccessful in Solving Problem

The editorial in Thursday’s Review asking that some one suggest means by which the vicious pool could be deterred from the commission of minor offences was met by “Taxpayer” in Friday’s paper who urges the prison board to action. He suggests that prisoners be put at breaking stone six days a week and 10 hours a day.

In conversation with an official of the board Friday he stated that the board was most anxious to discover a remedy. In fact the board once visited Potter county where the labor system has now fallen into disuse to investigate it and make the innovation here. Correspondence was had with officials of the railroad company but it was found that the stone had to be uniform size and hardness and the material at hand was not of the quality demanded. The board is anxious to give Bradford county prisoners work and hard work if they see the way clear. It is loath to put the prisoners to work on the streets of Towanda as there would be radical objection from those who do not believe in putting prison labor in competition with other labor.

The only satisfactory solution of the problem seem to be the purchase of material in other places where it can be obtained in the quality demanded for good roads, have the Bradford county prisoners break it and then put it on the market. There are but 16 prisoners in jail and the prison board would give them work if it could be found and it is probable made with this in view. One thing is certain, hard labor will rid the county of bad Pools and tramps.

Reporter Journal, February 25, 1904


Prisoner Will Soon Be Put to Work Cracking Rocks


County Prison Board Has Arrangements Nearly Complete
and it is Expected a Ready Market for the Product Will Be Found

For the past few weeks a stone pile of magnificent proportions has been growing at the rear of the court house, and by the way, it contains some pretty tough specimens of the original foundations of this mundane sphere. The collection is designed for the sole use and employment of the male prisoners that are now or may hereafter be committed to the county jail. And they will be put to work just as soon as the weather will permit of the work being done economically.

The prison board of the county, consisting of the president, judge and county commissioners, determined upon this employment for jail prisoners some weeks ago and have been steadily preparing for it. The stone yard will not be enclosed, but the workmen will be kept in check by armed guards and made to do a day’s work. The product will be used in the bridge work and sold to the borough or townships for roadbuilding purposes.

This system of working jail prisoners is successfully employed in many towns in Pennsylvania and New York, a notable example being at Owego. It is believed by the authorities to be one of the best deterrents of crime practicable for small jails.

Reporter Journal, April 21, 1904


Five of Those Under Sentence Began New Regime Thursday

Five of the eight prisoners at the county jail under sentence were put to work Thursday afternoon breaking stone. Turnkey Jennings and Officer McCracken went to the jail in the afternoon and called the five out. To each left leg was attached a ball and chain and the quintette walked to the court house carrying the balls in their hands. At the court house they secured five new stone hammers. Behind the court house is a pile of stone and a platform of wood has been laid on the ground for the foundation. The men pitched in and sent the stone flying at a great rate. The prisoners are now to work each day at the pile.

The sight is a new one in Towanda and attracted a number of spectators throughout the afternoon. While the prisoners made some objections to going out at first they offered no resistance. The prison board has made a good move in putting into operation the long deferred scheme of prison labor. It will undoubtedly have a tendency to make hobos give Bradford county a wide berth and will decrease the number of petty crimes committed in the winter time for the purpose of getting into jail.

Reporter Journal, May 26, 1904


Weary Hobos and Doers of Evil Made to Sweat

Each day the stone pile in the rear of the court house lessens on the side of the original articles and is cracked up in small sizes by blows of prisoners of the Bradford county jail. The prison board is keeping up the excellent regime which was recently inaugurated and its continuance is expected to bear good fruit.

All hobos had best give Bradford county a wide berth. They have to work here. A hobo never wants to work. He wants to live easy and let some one else find the forage. It will cost some money at first, not very much either, but in the end it will greatly reduce the number of tramps in this section and will tend to lessen the number of minor offenses.

One thing that the new era of prison labor has resulted in that was not thought of at first is the improved physical condition of the men. Most of them after a good day’s work on the stone pile take a cold bath at the jail. A man in good condition physically when he gets out of jail will feel more like seeking some steady employment than one who is full for the germs of laziness and disease. The scheme is a good one and other places may well adopt it.

Reporter Journal,  June 30, 1904


After Two Days of Hard Fare, They Give In

There are strike agitators in the county jail. They advocate striking against cracking stone. But there is one difference here. The agitators themselves have to suffer the penalties and they cannot levy on those they advise for financial or any other kind of help. A few days ago Tom Clark or Kilcoyne as his real name in the Indian Ogamageesa, John Mayock and the woodsman Mufford refused to go to work. They were returned to their cells, the blind door placed on them and they were allowed to go 24 hours without food.

Then Turnkey Jennings and Officer McCracken asked the men if they were ready to go out. They again refused and were abusive in their language. One was placed in the dungeon cell, one placed in a cell in the cellar, one locked in a cell upstairs and one handcuffed to the cell sides so that he could neither lie down or stand up. That night all four were ready for work. As one expressed it:  “The next time that anybody get’s me to strike, I’ll strike, but I’ll strike him.” The four men mentioned have been soldiering for some days and the strict discipline that they got is what they were after.

Reporter Journal, September 1, 1904


Sheriff Robinson has 38 prisoners in his care at the county jail. This is the largest number of prisoners confined in this county in several years. The number was increased materially last week by clothsline thieves, tramps and mischievous young men from Sayre and Athens.

Reporter Journal, September 8, 1904


County Will Macadamize the Approach to the River Bridge

The county commissioners will make good use of the stone cracked by the jail prisoners. This week they will begin the improvement of the road leading from the river bridge at this place to the East Towanda station. This road has been widened lately by the construction of a guard bank and an iron railing will be erected on the south side of the road. The stone will be used for macadamizing purposes and a fine piece of road will result.

This will not be done under the state aid act. The road constitutes the approach to the bridge and has to be kept up by the county. The public will congratulate the commissioners on making the product of the stone pile of practical use.

Reporter Journal, January 6, 1905


An Officer Does Not Think That They Labor Hard Enough

One of the men whose insistent agitation led the prison board of Bradford county to hurry up preparations for putting jail prisoners to work on the stone pile was Constable Guy C. Hollon. Mr. Hollon, after the scheme has been put into effect, believes that it has all the evidences of success save on—that the prisoners are not worked half hard enough. Mr. Hollon’s idea is that every morning a certain weight of stone should be doled out for each man who is to wield a hammer. When the prisoner gets the pile done he is entitled to a day’s work. If he doesn’t get his amount cracked then he is to go on bread and water until he stirs enough ambition to do his allotted task.

Some do not believe in working the prisoners at all. They think that it is “no good” because the scheme may not pay for the time of the guards and the purchase of the stone. Mr. Hollon says that even if the scheme itself did not pay it would in the end in deterring men from committing crime in this vicinity for which they would receive sentences tin the Towanda jail which would be stiff, working sentences, not a short play spell. Mr. Hollon’s ideas on the matter of prisoners are entitled to respect and his proposal to give the prisoners a regular stunt each day seems a wise one.

Reporter Journal, January 12, 1905


Bradford county works its jail prisoners—only it does not work them hard enough. Many other counties want to follow the example set by Bradford but they cannot seem to get the prison board started on the project. Judge Lynch of Luzerne county is regarded as one of the best criminal judges in the state. He has hundreds of criminal cases coming before him each year and must have a knowledge of the criminal classes. What he says is entitled to respect. He states:

“On an average there are from forty to fifty people confined in the Luzerne county jail. Some for terms of long duration. All this time these strong and able bodied men have nothing to do and when released they have no inclination to work and would prefer returning to a place of confinement.

“It is neither fair to the taxpayers, who pay taxes and support the government or to the prisoners, or to anybody concerned that this should be possible. Those in authority have been notified of this but for some reason nothing has been done.”

Judge Lynch’s opinion will be heard with interest here. There are some who do not believe in working jail prisoners. When one has visited the jail and seen the good time that the prisoners had under the old regime, playing cards in a warm room with ordinary comforts at hand, the new order where the prisoner must work or his board is a decidedly wise change.

Reporter Journal, April 27, 1905


The Bradford county stone pile has, in the opinion of many, proved a success. There are others who claim that it is a needless waste of money and they are not suited with the scheme, but this is to be expected in any community where there are so many who are sure they are right. Reasons why the stone pile cam be considered a success:  In the first place the stone pile gives those prisoners in the county jail who are under sentence some labor to perform instead of having their terms of penal servitude a continuous game of cards and jail bird gossip.

In the next place it seems to have the effect of keeping hobos out of Bradford county. There has not been a tramp in jail for a long time. In Athens and Sayre the police report the tramps fight shy of Bradford county whereas just across the line in new York state there is always a largely settled colony of tramps.

Another beneficial effect of this system of labor is the fact that men arrested in our towns for drunkenness instead of going to jail to sit out their fines now pay them or get their friends to do so. They do not want to go through town to the stone pile and there labor cracking them. The only thing that now troubles the prison board is the fact that there are only four or five prisoners now in the jail under sentence. Two guards have been employed most of the time but it is now proposed to have one man do this work when the number of prisoners is small.

The prison labor scheme is one that does not want to be let fall into disuse. If there are only two or three prisoners they should be used in some manner. It is stated that the commissioners have about closed a contract for the disposal of most of the stone now cracked. The road from the East Towanda bridge to the connecting roads at the station was a splendid improvement and it was made with stone cracked by men who have lawlessly preyed upon the public in one manner or another. Let the excellent work go on.

Reporter Journal, November 16, 1905


Price Fixed at Twenty-five Cents Per Diem by Court


Sheriff-elect Job Griffen of Athens Offered No Objection
to the Fixing of This Amount
What Prisoners Eat - Other Interesting Facts

Judge A.C. Fanning on Tuesday morning officially fixed the compensation for boarding prisoners and to be allowed the sheriff of Bradford county at 25 cents per diem, to take effect Jan. 1, 1906 as prayed for in the taxpayers’ petition. In commenting on it, Judge Fanning in the record says that this is approximately the price paid to the House of Refuge at Glen Mills, the Pennsylvania Industrial Reformatory at Huntingdon and the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia, for the maintenance of prisoners committed from this county.

The hearing in the matter was held before Judge Fanning on Saturday afternoon. The petitioners were reported by Hon. F.N. Moore of North Orwell and his attorney was William Maxwell, Esq., O.L. Haverly of Athens represented Sheriff-elect Griffin of Athens and stated that Mr. Griffin would acquiesce and offer no objection if the price was fixed by the court at 25 cents each day for each prisoner.

What Prisoners Eat.

Testimony was then taken, Miss Mary Wilt acting as stenographer. Mr. Moore, in response to questions asked by his attorney, said that he had made careful investigation of the matter of the board furnished prisoners at the jail and the cost of the provisions. Those who wish to lead the simple life may get some ideas from Mr. Moore’s findings. He said that the present sheriff used a high quality of provisions and that the prisoners fared well. He said the menu was as follow.

Breakfast—Bread, potatoes, coffee. The bread consist of two slices about 1 ½ to 2 inches thick.

Dinner—On Sunday, 1/2 pound of beef, potatoes, two slices of bread and tea. Three days of the week dinner consist of soup made of beef soup bones with potatoes added and a part of the time rice and sometimes carrots. The other three days of the week the dinner consist of bread, beans, pork and tea.

Supper—Usually consist of two slices of bread and one pint skimmed milk. Other suppers are made up of bread, molasses and tea.

According to Mr. Moore no butter is given the men nor is milk, cream or sugar served with the coffee. Giving costs Mr. Moore said that he found out that bread costs four cents a loaf. Its bread one or two days old but is thoroughly wholesome and of good quality. The meat used is what is known as boiling beef and costs about six cents a pound. Soup bones cost 25 cents each and the ration of potatoes for each prisoner a day would cost less than one cent, according to Mr. Moore’s calculations and deductions. He thought that a pound of coffee such as is used at the jail, would make 95 large cups. Beans cost three cents per pound and skimmed milk cost four cents a quart. Good tea can be purchased for two pounds for the quarter and molasses is 20 cents the gallon.

Weekly Cost.

From these prices Mr. Moore calculated that the cost of the raw material used in boarding prisoners would not exceed 52 cents a week, using 25 prisoners as a basis of estimating costs. This does not include the price of coal for the kitchen range which the sheriff furnishes north cost for cooking and other incidentals. Mr. Moore also submitted to the court a list of the prices paid in other counties for boarding prisoners, some of which equaled and exceeded by many of which are less than the price paid in this county. The average price paid was 32 cents a day.

In the year 1903 the sheriff of Bradford county received the sum of $2,605.00 for boarding prisoners. This was at the rate of 40 cents a day. Dividing this sum by 40 and multiplying by 25, the sum to be paid next year gives $1,628. This will mean at the same figures a savings of $977 a year in the matter of boarding the prisoners. Diving this by the 22,456 taxpayers would give a per capita saving to each taxpayer of four and three tenths cents a year.

Reporter Journal, November 29, 1906


There were on Saturday no less than 32 prisoners in the Bradford county jail, and there seems to be no indications that the number will be very greatly reduced very soon. The last addition to the jail population was from Sayre and Athens, when a string of nine were brought down. While it crowds the jail a bit, there is room for more should there be a need of confining any more culprits. Meanwhile, the community benefits in a two-fold manner:  the objectional characters are in a safe place, and they are nearly all busily employed, a part of everyday upon work around the court house or other county property that needs attention.

Rocket-Courier, April 8, 1976


The life of a prisoner confined in the Bradford County Jail at Towanda does not appear to be terribly intolerable. The facilities have recently been renovated and remodeled which allow every inmate his own cell as well as indoor and outdoor recreational areas. Probably the most singular complaint of a prisoner in the Towanda jail would be the boredom. The inmates are not required to do any kind of work details other than keeping their cells and cell blocks clean. Contrary to what some people may surmise, there is no manufacturing of license plates at the Bradford County penal institution.

George Murray, Warden of the jail reports the jail’s occupants keep contented the best they can by playing checkers, cards, reading or watching television. There is almost always some prisoner who plays a guitar and sings which is sometimes appreciated by the jailmates. If they don’t appreciate the unsolicited talent thrust upon them, the prisoners soon make their preferences known. If a prisoner wants peace and quiet, he retires to the privacy of his individual cell. Those wishing to watch television go to a special small room where a tv set operates from 7 a.m. until bedtime 11 p.m.

When the weather is pleasant, the inmates are permitted to go outside their cell block and soak up the sun in the jailhouse yard which is enclosed with a high stone wall. Here they can also walk or jog, play horseshoes or build up their bodies by lifting weights.

Whether they are indoors or outside, the prisoners are constantly under surveillance of two armed guards day and night. Still there have been numerous escapes from the old jail which dates back more than 100 years. Some of these escapes have been made over the courtyard walls and some through the jailer’s quarters. Warden Murray has a bedroom in the jail, but the former’s apartment, that was occupied by Bradford County Sheriffs for so many years, has been abandoned as living quarters. Some members of sheriff’s families have been endangered by escaping prisoners in the past, prompting these elected officials to now reside elsewhere. The rooms formerly occupied by the apartment have been renovated into offices and a religious room where church services are held on Sundays.

Food at the jail is prepared for the prisoner by several of the more trustworthy inmates who have proven themselves capable of working in the unguarded section of the jailhouse. An average noonday meal might consist of two meat sandwiches, a bowl of soup, piece of cake and a cup of coffee. Sometimes a macaroni dish is served, such as goulash and on a Sunday, the meal becomes more formidable with roast beef frequently on the menu with jello for dessert.

After the prisoners’ cells are unlocked each morning, the inmates are required to clean their individual cells as well as the main cell block area. The more trustworthy prisoners, like the cooks are permitted outside the cell block are to clean halls, stairways and offices.

The jail is not air conditioned but air is kept circulating on hot days with electric fans. The average cell size is about 8 x 10 feet with each containing a bed, closet, toilet and a lavatory.

Terms served by prisoners at the jail range from one day to two years. There has not been a break from the jail for more than a year. That particular prisoner escaped through the roof of the jailhouse by crawling through a heating and electrical duct 9 x 14 inches in size. The jail has accommodations for 30 adult prisoners but at the present time has only 16 in confinement. Separate accommodations are available for 13 juveniles with four youths now occupying those quarters. The juveniles are kept entirely separate from the adult inmates and have their own recreation areas.

Years ago, public hangings were commonplace at the Towanda jail. The last of these spectacles was held on July 25, 1905 when Bigler Johnson was hanged. Two years later, his brother, Charles, was hanged on the same date. They were both convicted in the murder of Maggie Benjamin and her 10-year-old niece, Annie, in the former’s home in Macedonia which was set a fire to destroy the bodies. A trail of blood aroused suspicion leading to the solution of the crime. Preset Bradford County Sheriff, Tom Fairchild says the largest crowds ever reported came to town to see the Brothers Johnson die at the end of a rope.

This year’s Bradford County budget for the jail is $85,850 which includes the warden’s salary as well as his staff, in addition to heat, water, sewer, telephone, postage, maintenance, food and dental and physician services for the inmates.

©2024 Bradford County Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
Website Design by inCommand Technologies, Inc.