Cindy L. Allen-Tucceri's
The History of the Ontario County Jail: 1789 - 1995

Page 5 of 9

1815 - 1895
In 1815 the county appropriated $6,000, and built a structure of fieldstone, specifically designed for jail purposes. This was built on the site of Jail Street (now Ontario Street) on which the present jail stood. The substantial stone structure was erected with wards and cells for the prisoners. A high walled yard was provided for the prisoners' exercise. In addition, the jail hosted apartments for the family of the Sheriff. For all purposes, the jail was considered a model jail, the most secure to be found in the state, west of Utica. This theory was soon to be tested. [10]

The building was not entirely secure, as is evident from the fact that, on the night of January 21, 1816, three prisoners confined therein broke out and escaped. [11]

1895 Jail Street.
Ontario County Historical Society photo.
[Scanned from Cindy L. Allen-Tucceri's history.]

The new jail was opened under the supervision of Sheriff Nathaniel Allen. He was followed by Phineas Bates and Samuel Lawrence. Samuel Lawrence was the last Sheriff to hold office under the First Constitution. [12] Moreover, for about 20 years, all of the area west of Syracuse housed their violators of the law in Ontario County Jail. [13]

Among those that were housed in this new facility were Airy Thompson, a black female tried for the murder of her infant. She was sentenced to hang, but was spared by an appeal to the legislature. Ms Thompson's sanity and the evidence were highly questioned. [14]

Milliken, Charles. F. A History Of Ontario County And Its People. NY: Lewis History Publishing, 1911, p. 57.

Ontario County Archives. History Of Ontario County, New York 1788-1876. Ovid, NY: W.E. Morrison & Co., 1976, p. 37-40.

Milliken, p. 57 - 58.

Around and About. Canandaigua: Daily Messenger, 1/1/56.

Pierce, Preston E. Seat Of Justice: Witness To History. Canandaigua: County Historian Office, 1989, page 7.

Around and About. 1/1/56.

Around and About. 1/1/56.

"Real history was written in this jail." It was here, of course, that William Morgan, formerly of Palmyra, was abducted by those who allegedly believed he had revealed secrets of the Masonic Lodge. Morgan was never seen alive again. His disappearance not only created national furor, but so had a marked effect on political history of the country during the 1830's and 1840's. Ontario County was holding men accused of the Morgan abduction as late as 1835, ten years after the crime. [15]

Two other noted occupants were Charles Eighmey and John Kelly. Both of these men were sentenced to hang for murder. They were both executed by hanging, which took place in the jail yard. Charles Eighmey was hung on September 8, 1876, and John Kelly on July 10, 1889. These were the only legal executions that have taken place in Ontario County.

The Kelly execution, a brutal affair attended by spectators at 35(P per ticket, did much to hasten the use of electrocution for capital punishment in this state and to bring modernization of the state prison system. [16]

Although the existing building was extensively repaired in the early 1830s, at a cost of $12,000, a new jail was again needed.

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