First Court House Ordered Built At Police Jury Meet Sept., 1839

The Gazette
October 5, 1939

Parish Jail Construction Was Given Much Consideration; Was Referred to As “Goal”

At the meeting of the parish police jury on September 2, 1839, at the home of William C. Carr, the body voted approval for the first parish court house.

The plans as adopted called for the building to be 34 feet long and 26 feet wide with a ten foot space between the first and second floors. The plans that the body approved called for very definite specifications and requirements on the building.

But, it is the parish jail, authorized about the same time, that the parish’s founders went the full measure. Evidently there was fear that prisoners would escape because the specifications of the building were stout.

Although there was a certain fear of notorious criminals and petty misdemeanors, one of the greatest troubles in those days was the slaves. Not only with slaves owned here in this section, but runaway slaves striking North to the “underground railway” and escape to Canada and friendly northern states and freedom. Thus the slave problem was a real one.

The jail to keep these escaped slaves in was a problem. It had to be strong enough to ably hold within its four walls a negro, desperate with fear and longing for the freedom that awaited him further north. They had to insure against escapes of these individuals until their owners came to take them back to the fields.

So, the Union Parish Police Jury decided to build a jail that would really be a jail. Incidentally, old records about the time the jail was being constructed show use of English spelling of the word. It appears in most places as “gaol.”

This is how they went about it:

The structure was to be 16 feet square with an interval of about 12 inches between the double walls. The walls were to be made of foot square timbers. Into the space between the walls were to be inserted round poles, placed in this space endwise so as to continue to fall and offer obstruction if cut through, the builders of that jail figured that before a prisoner could but through enough of those poles as well as the 12 inch outside wall, he would be caught.

Thus, by that ingenious device, did the parish officials seek to build a jail that would be fool proof.

Concerning the second court house, the police jury, June 7, 1879, accepted a report of a building committee for the erection of a new court house, Union’s second. The resolution as adopted by the body called for two small office buildings to be constructed behind the new court house.

These two buildings are still standing and are supposed to have been constructed from the brick used in the erection of the first court house.

The present court house building was erected in 1904.

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