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Only Through the Door of the Jail

It is well known (by people who know me) that I am a big fan of Herkimer’s 1834 Jail.  When Steven noticed tours would be available this past Monday, I was delighted.  I was even more delighted when we realized that Steven would also be available to participate.  The tours were in conjunction with a talk by Craig Brandon taking place across the street in the Herkimer County Courthouse.

Brandon wrote Murder in the Adirondacks, about the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in Moose Lake.  Gillette was housed in the jail and tried in the courthouse.  Brandon recently revised the book, adding new photos and information. I’m hoping Steven buys me a copy for my birthday.

Some people, when they have seen an historic site or other attraction, are done. I, on the other hand, am not that way, especially when it is something you can’t go to just any old time.  The 1834 Jail is in that category.  The Jail is an easy walk from our house, on Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners where Main Street meets Church Street.  We thought we had left in plenty of time, but people were already gathering in front of the jail when we arrived.  The door was open, so we went in.  We could hear voices upstairs.

Other people soon followed us in.  One lady noticed a place to sign in, but there was no pen.

“You can borrow my pen,” I said.  It was actually one of Steven’s pens.  He buys these cheap ballpoint pens to take to work, in case he hands one to a customer and doesn’t get it back.  That was a good thing, since I didn’t get it back.  Almost everybody wanted to sign in.

“Oh, look, there are the gallows they strung me up on,”  I said, pointing into the next room.  It was the replica of the Galloping Gallows, which were used to hang Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband in Warren County.  Herkimer B.O.C.E.S. built the replica for Herkimer County Historical Society when they presented the play Roxy at Ilion Little Theatre last September.  I played Roxy.  (In case anybody did not see the play and was concerned, they did not show me being strung up.  The audience was shown the gallows, but the actual execution took place offstage.)

Soon the group who had enjoyed the first tour came downstairs with their tour guide, Jim Greiner, who wrote Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse.  Jim is a dynamic speaker and very knowledgeable about the jail and Herkimer County history.  Steven and I attended a talk he gave about his book, and I have taken a tour of the jail with him.  He greeted us new arrivals  as “Chester Gillette fans.”

“And Roxalana Druse fans,” I said, although truth be known I am a Gillette/Brown aficionado as well.

I must end my blog post here, at the beginning of our tour.  I have a rehearsal tonight for Much Ado About Nothing, and I’m not quite ready for it.  I hope to see you all on Lame Post Friday.

 

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