By Mick Woodcock
When Yavapai County was created in 1864, it had no government buildings and few employees. All counties needed a form of self-government, as legislated in the bill “AN ACT Creating a Board of Supervisors in the several Counties of the Territory.” Signed into law December 30, 1865, it provided for counties to elect boards of supervisors and conduct business, stating the board could meet after election day, 1866.
An article in the Arizona Miner of April 25, 1866 stated, “COUNTY JAIL. Office of Clerk of Board of Supervisors, Prescott, Yavapai County, April 22, 1863. [sic wrong year] Sealed proposals for the erection of a small, secure and substantial jail, will be received at this office until Saturday, June 30, 1866. Bidders to furnish their own plans and specifications, which must accompany the bids. The Board reserve to themselves the right to reject any and all bids. By order. F. G. Christie, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.”
Apparently, this didn’t work out to the Board of Supervisors’ satisfaction, as a new call for proposals was published February 9, 1867. This time it specified the proposal was for a jail and courthouse to be erected in Prescott, indicating the plan and specifications could be seen at the Clerk of the Board’s office. Proposals would be accepted until the first Monday of April, 1867.
By mid-September the newspaper indicated construction of the new jail was well under way with completion expected soon. The builders were Beebe and Cornell. Mr. Beebe’s identity is lost to history, but Gideon Cornell was, at the time, a twenty-seven year old carpenter, originally from Ohio.
According to a lengthy article in the Arizona Miner, November 30, 1867, the building was occupied by County officials on November 27. It was two stories high, thirty-eight feet deep and twenty-eight feet wide. Constructed of twelve inch thick hewn logs on both floors, it was a substantial structure. The outside was clad with wood siding and the inside lined with lumber.
The ground floor had three small offices in front and four cells in back. These were completely constructed of hewn logs, the walls of which mortised into the logs forming the floor and also into the logs forming the floor for the upper story. The doors were made of slab logs, each fastening with two iron hinges and locking with a padlock. Three cells had slit windows and the other did not.
The second floor had one large room that served as the court room. This was lit by sash windows and accessed by a stairway from the outside. Off the front of the building was a covered balcony serving as a roof over the porch on the ground floor. The first floor offices also had sash hung windows.
According to the December 12, 1867 edition of the Arizona Miner, the three office spaces were occupied by Deputy Sheriff Johnny Behan, District Court Clerk Edmund Wells and County Treasurer William Cory. These men had occupied rented office space in various buildings prior to this.
Apparently, the exterior of the building was left in its natural state, as the following article in the Arizona Miner from August 22, 1868 attests: “Paint It. – In order to preserve and add to the looks of the building, it is necessary that our Board of Supervisors have the Court House painted. We know it will cost money, but sooner than see the boards twist round and curl up, and the building go to the dogs in a short time, tax payers would foot a moderate bill for painting it. Give it a brush.”
It was not long before this building became the hub of the community.
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