Courtland Jail



As the population of Courtland grew, the need for a "real" jail was reinforced one morning in early June 1909. Although the concrete jail was under construction, it was not yet ready for "guests." The original jail was an unused mine tunnel with a wooden door. During the night, the prisoner tried to break his way out by piling his bedding against the door and lighting it on fire.


The smoke and fumes, having no where to go, quickly filled up the tunnel, and the prisoner passed out.


When Sheriff John Bright came to get his "guest" to take him to breakfast, he found the man unconscious. Dragging him out into the open air quickly revived him.


(Depending on how many "guests" were in the jail, prisoners were either handcuffed together and taken over to the Crescent Cafe for their meal, or the meals were catered.)


W. F. Woodruff was awarded the contract to build the jail, at a cost of $1500.00. Work began in mid-April, 1909, and was completed by July 25, 1909.


The jail is constructed of poured concrete, with walls one foot thick. There are two cells, 14 feet square, and divided by a concrete wall.  An entryway about six feet wide ran the width of the front of the jail. From the entryway, you went to the right to enter one cell, or to the left to enter the other.


The entryway consisted of an iron door, and two iron shuttered windows on each side of the door.


The cells and iron for the Courtland Jail came from the old jail in Bisbee.


Windows in each cell were about a foot wide by six inches tall. These had thick bars about two inches apart, embedded into the concrete. Each cell had a wood stove to provide heat in the winter, a sink with running water, AND a flushing toilet.


When the jail opened, it was dubbed "Bright's Hotel," because the accommodations were much better than where most folks lived. Guests at the jail were either waiting transport to Tombstone, but most were usually serving a 30-60-90 day sentence...mostly for disorderly conduct and petty theft. Some were known to go out and commit petty crimes just so they could get sentenced to a nice stay at the jail. If prisoners wanted their sentence reduced, they could go out during the day and perform community service. There were few takers on that offer.


The Courtland Jail remained open until 1938. Upon closing, the cells and most of the iron was removed, and used in the new jail in Benson.




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