As the Renville County Historical Society & Museum starts gearing up for the 2018 season I have a list of projects I want to complete for the year and one of the projects is the restoration of the old Morton Jail that was once located by the old fire hall. The structure now sits outside of the Heritage Building (behind the church) on the Museum Grounds. This building needs restoration and will make a great hands-on exhibit for visitors.
The Morton Jail was donated by the City of Morton in 2015. I have since been searching for stories and photographs of the old fire hall and of the structure the jail stood in. Dick Roper recollects he used to play in the building that held the jail as a kid. The building needs to be sandblasted, painted and moved to a different location on the Museum Grounds.
The Morton Jail isn’t the only historic jail in the area. You can visit the Renville City Jail in Renville, Minnesota. This jail’s architect was Oscar Berg who was paid one installment of $1000 on September 8, 1913 and another installment of $275 on January 12, 1914. It sits next to the Renville City Museum on Main Street.
There is a jail building at the Redwood County Historical Society behind the main museum that housed the famous William Rose who was accused and convicted of murdering Moses Lufkin of Gales Township on August 22, 1888.
You can also enjoy a jail on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum grounds. This jail was located inside of the old Walnut Grove fire hall and donated to the Museum when the fire hall was torn down.
In my search of other jails being preserved in the area I found one at the McLeod County Historical Society in Hutchinson, Roseau County Museum in Roseau has a bed and jail door and the Stone House Museum in Marine on St Croix originally served as the Marine Town Hall and jail. Scribbled messages of those jailed can still be seen on one wall.
Outside of Minnesota, the Franklin County Historic Jail in Hampton, Iowa doubles as an escape room. In 2017 the historic Brentsville jail in Prince William County opened as a museum in Washington, D.C.
There are always some good murder and scandal stories attached with jails. I mean, really, hang a guy twice? That’s crazy.
Why not visit the area historic jails this summer. This adventure would make for a fun Instagram post or blog piece. Don’t get me started on telephone booths!
There are quite a few Minnesota county courthouses listed on the National Register Historic Places including Renville County’s in Olivia, Aitkin County in Aitkin, Crow Wing County in Brainerd, Houston County in Caldonia, Le Sueur County in Le Center, Lincoln County in Ivanhoe, Nicollet County in St. Peter, Rice County in Faribault, Rock County in Luverne, Sibley County in Gaylord, Stearns County in St. Cloud, Todd County in Long Prairie and Washington County in Lake Elmo.
While attending a museum related conference last week I started thinking about all the churches, country schools and gas stations of the county and wouldn’t it be fun to feature the ones still standing and those lost over the years. As you pull into Morton there are two old gas stations on Hwy 19, one was once the Red Sled and now Detail Plus and the other, on the corner of 2nd and Valley Drive, is used for storage. If you have any stories about the old gas stations, fire halls and other historical building of Renville County please contact me at the Museum, you can call and make an appointment 507-697-6147 or stop by. Preserving the history of these buildings is as important as preserving the buildings themselves, when that is possible.
The Renville County Historical Society is open June – August Monday through Friday 10 AM – 4 PM. Admission is charged unless you are a Member! Be sure to check out the website www.renvillecountyhistory.com for more information.