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Berrien Springs in Berrien County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

1870 Berrien County Jail

 
 
1870 Berrien County Jail Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane Hall, April 29, 2013
1. 1870 Berrien County Jail Marker
Inscription.  
A Unique Jail

Gilbert B. Avery, architect of the 1839 Courthouse next door, also designed the 1870 Berrien County Jail and Sheriff's Residence. The brick jail appeared from the outside as a conventional square structure with a ventilator atop a glass skylight.

Inside, Avery arranged the cells in a circular pattern. Twenty-four triangular cells - sixteen on the first floor and eight on the second - surrounded a central core, where a pump and bathtub let prisoners bathe. The jailer could let inmates exercise in the outer walkway while still confining them within the exterior walls.

Removal of the county seat to St. Joseph in 1894 left the jail vacant. It fell into disrepair, and in 1916 its owners demolished it.

The Great Escape

One Saturday in July 1883, eight prisoners made a bold escape from this jail. Removing the bathtub in the central core, they pumped water from the cistern below until they could climb inside and begin to dig. They tunneled under the north wall but the soft earth gave way, exposing the tunnel and forcing them to crawl up in broad daylight.

The
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sheriff, county clerk and several townspeople began a lively chase and soon recaptured most of them. Their tunnel became a short-lived tourist attraction as people came from all around the county to see the site. One Niles woman even carried off a sample of earth from the excavation as a souvenir.
 
Erected by Burnett's Traders, No. 567 Questers.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Law Enforcement. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1883.
 
Location. 41° 56.869′ N, 86° 20.473′ W. Marker is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in Berrien County. Marker can be reached from North Kimmel Street south of West Union Street, on the left when traveling south. Marker and jail site are located behind the courthouse at The History Center at Courthouse Square. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 313 N Cass St, Berrien Springs MI 49103, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Log by Log History was Made Here (a few steps from this marker); Berrien Springs Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Berrien County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Andrews University (approx. 1.1 miles away); Union Church and Cemetery (approx. 3.8 miles away); Morris Chapel Church
Jail Site next to the Sheriff's Residence image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane Hall, April 29, 2013
2. Jail Site next to the Sheriff's Residence
Note the outline of the jail cells on the ground
(approx. 5.6 miles away); Moccasin Bluff (approx. 6.9 miles away); Johnson Cemetery (approx. 7.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Berrien Springs.
 
Also see . . .  The History Center at Courthouse Square. (Submitted on April 30, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.)
 
Jail Site next to the Murdock Log House image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane Hall, April 29, 2013
3. Jail Site next to the Murdock Log House
Note the examples of the walls and bars of jail cells
to the left of the log house
Close-up of Artist's Rendering of Jail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane Hall, April 29, 2013
4. Close-up of Artist's Rendering of Jail
Drawing Caption: Artist's rendering of the jail interior. The jail held male prisoners in the limestone first floor cells and women, boys and "less desperate characters" in the wooden second-floor cells. The architect modeled this jail on the Auburn, New York, prison, which pioneered the humane treatment of prisoners. Most of the prisoners held here were awaiting trial or serving short sentences.
Close-up of Image on Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane Hall, April 29, 2013
5. Close-up of Image on Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 30, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 637 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 30, 2013, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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May. 21, 2024