by William E. Moore
J.T.A.H. is pleased to bring you this interesting research by Bill Moore on the little documented historical topic of “calabooses” in the Texas Borderlands region. These tiny jails found in most small towns are in danger of disappearing due to the effects of time and neglect. This richly illustrated article will certainly enhance any reader’s knowledge on the subject.
On April 2013, Rhonda K. Holley and I encountered a tiny concrete structure in Gause, Texas that aroused our curiosity. It was the town calaboose built circa 1921. We thought a lot about what it must have been like to be locked up in such a place in times of extreme heat and cold. Rhonda K. Holley discusses our fascination with the Gause calaboose in this video. I had heard the term calaboose in western movies, but I had never given any thought to what it meant. But here in Gause, Texas was the real thing. A small, almost whimsical structure that seemed totally out of place in the twenty-first century. Its once important role in an emerging community had been downgraded as a place to burn trash and a palette for graffiti by vandals. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines calaboose as simply a prison or jail. But it is more than that. It represents a time capsule in small vernacular jail architecture that was present throughout the country until the middle of the twentieth century. This article discusses the role of the calaboose during the early days of the twentieth century in the Texas Borderlands.