This imposing brick structure, a block from the Ellis County Courthouse, was constructed in 1888 as the third Ellis County jail. Serving its original purpose until the late 1920's a major portion of the building still stands as a witness to the 19th century life in Waxahachie. In September of 1886, the Ellis County Grand Jury, with T. J. Quinn as foreman, recommended the building of a new jail for Ellis County. The jury determined that the county jail was obsolete and too small to accommodate the number of criminals that were being arrested.
During the following year the County Commissioners Court began to make plans based on the recommendation. In August, Commissioners, H. H. Dunn and George G. Higginbotham were appointed as a committee to investigate jails throughout the country, gather facts on jail construction and report their findings to the Commissioners Court.The court resolved to build a new jail for Ellis County. By November the contract for the jail construction was entered with the PAULY JAIL BUILDING AND MANUFACTURING COMPANY of St. Louis, Missouri.
This company had provided jail work for the county in connection with the previous jail. The Pauly Company asked for $44,000 for the construction of the jail and required no payment until the job was complete. In February 1888, the Court appointed County Judge B. McDaniels and Dunn as a committee to employ a mechanic to inspect the work and to see that the work was being done according to plans and specifications. D. Mahoney supervised the construction. Plans for heating the jail were handled by a committee headed by Judge McDaniels and B. F. Hawkins.
In February of 1888, the County Commissioners levied a thirty-five cent property tax on each $100 of evaluation. Of that amount, five cents was designated for use in paying interest on jail bond redemption. Judge McDaniels and Dunn, the jail bonds committee, had 50 bonds of $1,000 each prepared. The committee in charge of the jail bonds was appointed in August of 1888. In September the jail was completed, with one or two small exceptions, according to contract and specifications. The Court ordered that the jail be received.
When the jail was completed the Court turned over to S. N. Pickens, agent of Pauly Company, seventeen of the jail bonds as partial payment. This left a balance of $26,711.75 owed on the jail by the Commissioners. Some bills amounting to $288.25 were in dispute. In February of 1891 three of the jail bonds with interest were redeemed and destroyed in open court. At this time the remainder of the jail bonds, thirty, were owned by the county Permanent School Fund. So at the time all fifty bonds were accounted for, seventeen to the Pauly Company, three paid off and the remaining thirty being held by the Permanent School Fund. Available evidence showed that three bonds were paid off in February of 1892 and bonds 19, 20, 21, 30,31,32, and 33 at dates between then and 1898.
This two-storied structure which is located on the Northeast corner of the intersection of Rogers and Water Street in Waxahachie, Texas, was constructed of brick and stone. The anterior of the building, which faced Rogers Street, housed the residence of the sheriff and his family. At the time of the jail's construction, W. D. Ryburn was the sheriff. The midsection contained the sheriff's office and the entrance for the incoming or outgoing prisoners. The rear section of the jail contained the cells, on both first and second floors. The basement was used for solitary confinement and possibly the storage of coal. The back part of the lot, at one time, (on the College Street side) housed a garage and stables for horses. In the early 1900's Ray's Stable faced Water Street. The Commissioners Court, in November of 1892, ordered that no livestock of any kind be kept in the jail yard. The stable area must have been leased.