Old Jail doors open for tours

Published 1:22 pm Monday, September 5, 2022

Jan Runions

jan.runions@claiborneprogress.net

The historic Old Jail will open its doors in September for perusal of the oldest free-standing jail in the state and the third-oldest in the country. Members of the Claiborne County Historical and Genealogy Society will conduct free tours every Saturday in the month from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The structure had quite the remarkable and scary past during its heyday between1819 and 1931.

The ‘hanging doors’ drew many a crowd back in the day. Folks packed a picnic lunch in anticipation of an exciting event as they traveled from communities near and far to witness the end of the scallywag awaiting his doom.

Families and friends excitedly discussed the goings on of the day as they kept one eye on the hanging doors.

The bullpen door swung open at the appointed time and the convicted took the few steps to the hanging doors for his public execution. Witnesses to the hanging would spend the next days and weeks, sometimes months to years, retelling what they saw.

The two-story limestone and brick building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed with double walls, the inside wall consisting of wood frame. The outer wall was made with rock. The first floor of the stone foundation basically served as the entryway. A flight of stairs led to the brick section of the structure which was used as the main part of the jail. In the center of the second floor stood a single ‘bull pen’ cell with open hallways along each side of the steel bars.

The tours will be held on Sept. 3, 10, 17 and 24. The Society’s monthly meeting will be held at the Jail on Sept. 10, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The Old Jail is located on Highway 33 in Tazewell, beside the First Century Bank.

Research will continue each Saturday in September from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Hours will revert back to the regular schedule in October – from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday.

The Claiborne County Historical & Genealogy Society is located at the intersection of Hickory and Old Knoxville Road, across from the Claiborne County Library. For more information, call 423-526-5737 or email your research questions to: cchgs_info@yahoo.com.

The Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Claiborne County. Mail your tax-deductible contributions or annual membership dues to CCHGS; P.O. Box 32, Tazewell TN 37879.