Bids being sought for demolition of county jail
November 11, 2021
Now when the Nuckolls County Board of Commissioners meet, roads are often perceived as the most important item on the agenda.
Apparently that may not have been the case in the first decade of the county's existence for the first building of consequence constructed by the newly established county was the construction of a jail house in 1878, only six years after the county was established. The courthouse came later.
The 150th anniversary of the establishment of Nuckolls County will be achieved in 2022 but the jail may be gone before then. The county is currently seeking bidders interested in razing the original jail building and the addition constructed about 35 years ago.
Until the sheriff's office was relocated earlier this year, the jail house located on the courthouse square at Nelson may have been the oldest continuously used brick building in Nuckolls County. It predates by two years the Union Hotel which is the oldest brick building in Superior.
When the sheriff's department was relocated, the jail became a vacant building.
It was in the summer of 1981 that the jail failed to pass state inspection and orders were received to close the facility. At that time the building was serving as both the county jail and the sheriff's residence. Though it has taken 40 years, those orders probably sealed the building's fate when it was learned what it would cost to bring the jail to current standards.
Nuckolls County voters going to the polls on Oct. 12, 1875, were asked to approve the levying of a 4-mill tax for three years. The proceeds of the special levy were to be used to construct a jail. At that time, a two-thirds majority was required to approve the request. The request was defeated. Three years later the board assumed the authority and ordered the building constructed.
When it was ordered closed in 1981, the jail had facilities to house six male prisoners on the first floor and two female prisoners on the second floor. The cells for the male prisoners were lined with steel plate. The second floor cells were not as secure.
Entrance to the male cells was gained through a revolving door which the standards board found to be objectionable and ordered removed. It was later moved to the county museum located in Superior.
Apparently the old jail functioned well. Though there were attempts, there are no records of a prisoner actually escaping the jail. In 1972, a female prisoner used her hair brush in an attempt to dig from her second floor cell through the lathe and plaster to reach a hall. The attempt failed when she became stuck in the opening carved on top of her closet.
An enraged mob removed a prisoner in July of 1887, marched him about seven blocks to the southeast and hanged the accused from the Rock Island Railroad trestle.
In 1983 Nuckolls County was the scene of a multi-day African lion hunt after two cubs were intentionally released by a county resident. Once located, the lions were lured into a cage and held in the jail building until transported to a zoo located outside of the county.
The late Mr. and Mrs. Donald Squires were the last people to regularly live in the sheriff's residence. Donald was sheriff and Mrs. Squires prepared the prisoners' meals, manned the radio when an officer was not present and supervised the jail. For decades prior to construction of an addition to the original jail building, the sheriff's office was located in the southwest corner of the nearby courthouse.