Typical of many Georgia jails, the Pickens County facility housed inmates upstairs and a sheriff or jailer downstairs. Georgia’s best-known courthouse architect, J. W. Golucke, designed this jail to be special, incorporating local marble in the citadel-like design. A local stone mason, Lee W. Prather, was responsible for the ornate work on the front of the jail. The marble was sourced at the nearby Delaware Quarry, the oldest in the state. It’s among the most impressive in the state, in my opinion. It served the county until circa 1980 when a larger, more modern facility was built.
This structure, clad in local marble, was built to replace the old Cherokee County Courthouse which burned in 1927. The upper floor served as the jail. A. Ten Eyck Brown was the architect. It has been replaced by a newer facility but remains an anchor of historic downtown Canton, serving the community as a local history museum and visitor center.
The Elisha Winn House was built about 1812 in what was then Jackson County, and is perhaps the oldest extant house in the Atlanta metro area. Winn, who was a Justice of the Inferior Court, purchased the land, with Roger and Elijah Pugh, in 1809. It was part of a 7300 acre tract bordered by the Apalachee River. It became part of Gwinnett County on 15 December 1818, when the Georgia legislature created the counties of Gwinnett, Walton, and Hall, in part from Jackson County, as well as from former Indian lands.
The property is also significant as the first de facto center of government in Gwinnett County, hosting the Inferior Court and the first county elections. A barn on the grounds [no longer extant] hosted the Superior Court. Elisha Winn served as a judge of the Inferior Court from 1820-1825. He also served as a state senator for Gwinnett County in 1826, and a state representative in 1830, 1833, and 1837.
Lawrenceville was established as the Gwinnett County seat in 1821 and the Winns relocated there circa 1824.
Historic Structures Relocated to the Elisha Winn Property
Several structures representative of 19th and early-20th-century history in Gwinnett County have been relocated to the Winn property over the years. A representative mule barn [built in another county in 1917], can be seen in the background of the photo below.
Old Lawrenceville Jail, 1820s
The first jail in Gwinnett County was located on the Winn property but was demolished in 1933 by Jack Sims, who owned it at the time, and his employee Amos Hutchins, who lived most of his life on the old Winn place. As part of a collection of historical buildings, the old Lawrenceville jail [above], built in the 1820s and similar to the original jail, was relocated here for preservation. [Moravian missionaries who refused to get permits to live in Cherokee territory were briefly held in this structure before being transferred to a larger jail in Walton County].
Walnut Grove Schoolhouse, 1875
Typical of rural one-room schoolhouses of the era, the Walnut Grove school was originally located near Walnut Grove Church and the Methodist Campground. It was donated to the Gwinnett Historical Society in 1986 and opened for tours in 1988.
Cotton House, Early 20th Century
Structures of this type would have been present on working cotton plantations and farms in late-19th and early-20th century Gwinnett County. This example was donated to the historical society in 2001.
Alfred R. Clack Blacksmith Shop, Circa 1910
Dr. Donald S. Bickers, who also donated the cotton house, donated this structure to the historical society in 2000. It was built circa 1910 by his grandfather, Alfred R. Clack, who used it until late in his life. He died in 1948 and Dr. Bickers kept the structure in good condition.
National Register of Historic Places [Elisha Winn House, excluding other structures]
The old Clayton County Jail is quite old as surviving Georgia jails go, and has one of the more unusual forms I’ve seen. The parapetted facade is common enough, but the narrow overall depth is unusual.
As can be faintly seen in the photo below, an off-center, narrow wing containing jail cells protrudes at the rear of the structure. It is even narrower than the front of the building.
The structure has most recently served as the home of the Clayton County History Center.
Jonesboro Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This jail was built in 1897 to replace the first jail in Rockdale County and served the county until 1968. It was designed by Georgia’s most prolific courthouse architect, J. W. Golucke, while he was in partnership with G. W. Stewart. The interior was outfitted by the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company of St. Louis. F. P. Heifner was the contractor.
The old jail was restored by the Rockdale County Historical Society in 1975 and serves as their headquarters and a museum today.
Thanks to Don King, former police chief of Leary, I can confirm that this was the old jail/calaboose. Mr. King writes: This is the old jail. It was once located where the library is now. The old jail was purchased by the peanut mill and moved there. The library (block building) was once the jail that replaced the wooden jail structure.
The oldest masonry jail in Georgia, Greensboro’s ‘Old Gaol’ is distinguished by its English spelling, which seems fitting considering the structure’s appearance. Locally quarried granite was used in construction, which was patterned after European citadels known for their harsh conditions. The downstairs cells were dark and catacomb-like, reserved for particularly unsavory characters. Such prisoners were chained to the walls with absolutely no creature comforts, including heat or ventilation. Non-violent criminals were placed upstairs, where conditions weren’t much better, but at least allowed for outside light. A trap-door gallows is also present. The jail served Greene County until 1895, when a more modern jail was constructed.
Greensboro Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Within the same block in Greensboro are two historic jails, this being the ‘newer’ of the two. This Folk Victorian/Queen Anne example is typical of Georgia jails of the era, in which the sheriff kept a residence and everything was self-contained. It is now known as the L. L. Wyatt Museum, named in honor of the longtime Greene County Sheriff.
The historic marker on this site notes: This 1895 jail is named for the legendary Sheriff, Loy Lee Wyatt, who enforced the laws in Greene County for fifty-two years until his death in 1977. Sheriff L.L. Wyatt was born on January 2, 1904, in Paulding County. He was recruited to serve the citizens of Greene County due to his fast legs and honest reputation. In 1925, L.L. Wyatt began his law enforcement career as a Greene County policeman who waged a “one-man war” against the making of illegal corn whiskey. Prior to his arrival, moonshine production was considered the leading industry in Greene County and its produce was enjoyed in all of the finest hotels of Atlanta. After having rid the County of its moonshiners, Wyatt ran for the Office of Sheriff in 1940 defeating the incumbent. He served as Sheriff until he died in 1977. At the time of his death he was the longest standing Sheriff in the State, with thirty-seven years of service.
During his 37 years as Sheriff, Wyatt became a legend in his own time. Few men become legends and even fewer achieve the status of a “living legend” as did Sheriff Wyatt. He was a religious man who believed that God blessed him with protection during all of his fights, gun battles, and dangerous encounters. His law enforcement exploits exposed him to at least five gunshot wounds in the line of duty, in part due to the fact that he seldom carried a gun on his person, requiring him to retrieve it from his car at the sight of danger. In the early days of his career, when moonshiners resisted arrest, Wyatt regularly shot it out with them. He killed over a half dozen men, all of whom shot at him first.
The most famous gunfight of Sheriff Wyatt’s career occurred in 1974. He was 70 years old at the time. Bank robbers eluded a 100-car police chase that started in Wrens, Georgia, and ended in Greene County. The bank robbers had killed a teller at the bank in Wrens and had taken two women hostage. Sheriff Wyatt set up a road block midway between Union Point and Greensboro. Wyatt stood in the middle of the road as the speeding car approached. The robbers attempted to shoot him, but the gun misfired. One bank robber was killed in the ensuing battle, but both women were unharmed. Sheriff Wyatt subsequently received the award of the Peace Officer of he Year for his bravery in this incident.
Sheriff Wyatt was a family man, devoted to his wife, son, and grandchildren. He was a businessman, lending his experience to the operation and affairs of the Citizens Union Bank as a director. He was a community leader who had concern for all citizens – rich and poor, black and white. Out of a concern for these people, legend has it that Sheriff Wyatt confronted a notorious member of the Dixie Mafia and proclaimed, “These are my people and I want you to leave them alone!”
Sheriff Wyatt, also known as Mr. Sheriff, was the epitome of a community oriented police officer long before such an idea was born and served as an example for every officer to follow.
Greensboro Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places