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More About the Jail

When we last left our heroine (you know that’s me, right?), she was about to begin her blog post in the third person point of view.  But I changed my mind.

Sorry about that little bit of nonsense. I was about to write more about our visit to Herkimer’s 1834 Jail on Monday.  Steven and I were in the second group to go up the stairs with our guide, Jim Greiner.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Jail is famous as the place where Chester Gillette stayed while on trial for the murder of Grace Brown in 1906.  There was to be a talk on a newly revised book about the case by author Craig Brandon at the Court House across the street at seven that night.

Our first stop was the cell Gillette stayed in during his trial.  It is actually kind of a suite, two cell off a third, larger cell.  Photocopies of old magazine photos adorn the walls, because Gillette had decorated the cell with magazine clippings.

From there, we saw the men’s side of regular cells, with a shower at one end, then the women’s cells, with a claw-foot tub.  One woman was offended by the sexism of this, because the shower clearly offered more privacy than the tub.

Somebody asked about where Roxalana Druse was housed.  Druse was hanged behind the jail in 1887.  I mentioned yesterday that Greiner wrote a book about her.  He told us she was housed on the third floor, where offenders who were considered less dangerous were kept.  The third floor was, sadly, not part of the tour.  He told the story of how a fire broke out while she was there.  Druse refused to evacuate but formed part of the bucket brigade putting out the fire.  When Friends of Herkimer Jail took over the building, one member bravely went up to the attic and found where some burnt timbers remained.

We greatly enjoyed our tour.  I love living in a village that has such a rich local history as well as people who work to preserve and share it.

 

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