The 1859 jail turns 150 years old this week.

When Independence Mayor Don Reimal officially proclaimed May 31 to June 7 as 1859 Jail Week in Independence, he commended the Jackson County Historical Society for the 50 years of continuous operation of the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum at 215 Main St.

Reimal thanked Historical Society Archives and Education Director David Jackson and a host of volunteers “for all that you do,” helping the city preserve its local heritage.

In 1958, Reimal proclaimed, a stalwart group of local citizens banded together to establish the JCHS, determined to preserve the site and restore the jail to its former condition.

Although the two-story jail that once housed Frank James – the brother of the notorious Jesse James – was decommissioned in 1933, it is celebrating its 150th anniversary beginning Sunday with a special lecture on frontier justice by Paul Kirkman, speaker with the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Below is a list of events to honor the occasion.

Special lecture: Frontier Justice


Sunday at 2 p.m. inside the banquet room at Ophelia’s restaurant on Independence Square, 201 N. Main St.

Kirkman will present a snapshot of the 19th Century jail and lawmen in Missouri and Kansas. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Kirkman is author of “Jackson County’s Little Blue River Valley: Balancing Development and Preservation of an Historic Rural Landscape,” published in the Autumn 2005 issue of the Jackson County Historical Society Journal.

Kirkman lives with his family in Independence, just a few blocks away from the 1859 Jackson County Jail.

Debut of the book LOCK DOWN: Outlaws, Lawmen and Frontier Justice in Jackson County, Missouri


Also on Sunday, the JCHS debuts the 128-plus page book, a comprehensive history of the outlaws, lawmen (and women) and events associated with the three 19th Century Jackson County Jails in Independence.

Two major appendices include 1) all Jackson County sheriffs, all Jackson County marshals, and many of their deputies from 1826-1933; and, 2) all known “legal” hangings in Jackson County, 1839-1932.

A new exhibit by the same title is currently on display at the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum.

Pre-press copy reservations are available at www.jchs.org.

1859 Jail Museum Tours


June 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.                

With regular admission to the museum, take advantage of a very special offering of new, used and rare books for sale that focus on the Missouri-Kansas Border War; Civil War; and Outlaws of the West.

Sesquicentennial Private Dining Experience


Beginning at 6 p.m. June 5 at Ophelia’s Restaurant the Marshal of the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum summons visitors to a private dining experience in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the jail.

The unique fundraising event celebrating the Sesquicentennial of the 1859 Jackson County Jail includes cocktails, a sit-down-dinner and time to visit with others interested in local history and its preservation.

Also includes a special engagement living history program on County jailer Henry Bugler.

Main Street will be blocked off to automobile traffic between Truman and Maple so that attendees may mix and mingle outdoors.

Living History Program at 1859 Jail: These Walls Have Seen It All!


June 6 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.                      

The ticketed event to raise awareness of the 1859 Jackson County Jail – and support for its continued preservation – features five historically accurate vignettes that will be performed at different stations throughout the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum.

Henry Bugler will lie post-mortem in the marshal’s parlor; Quantrill will be admitted to the Jail in the Marshal’s Office; Frank James will greet visitors passing by his ornately decorated jail cell; Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham and the Rev. Abner H. Deane will share their post-Civil War woes; and a Chain Gang Jailbird tell about when the 1859 Jackson County Jail was decommissioned in 1933.

Tour groups of 8-10 visitors will start every 15 minutes between 4 and 6:30 p.m., and be personally guided through each vignette. The event will sell out quickly is on a first paid; first reserved basis for $10.

1859 Jail Museum Open House


June 7 from noon to 4 p.m.                  

In recognition of the Historical Society’s 50th year of ownership and operation of the 1859 Jackson County Jail as a cultural heritage museum, all visitors on Sunday enjoy free admission to the museum.

Special lecture: Social Outlaws and Notorious Persons of the Missouri–Kansas Border Area, 1860–1880.


Also at 2 p.m. June 7 inside the banquet room of Ophelia’s Restaurant Kirkman returns to present a second special feature lecture on infamous characters who lived in Missouri during the mid- to late nineteenth century, including Belle Starr, William Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, Frank and Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and more.

Learn what forces, political or personal, drove these Missourians to the spotlight whose crimes or sensational activities became legend and were later featured in film and television.

The lecture is free and open to the public.