The Old Cooper County Jail was used for 130 years until a federal judge ordered it closed, citing cruel and unusual punishment.

The Old Cooper County Jail

Construction of the Old Cooper County Jail was completed in 1848 with the help of slave labor at a cost of $6,091.50. Originally built without cells, prisoners were shackled to the walls in the Bullpen.

In 1871 iron box cells arrived from St. Louis by steamboat and were installed on the second floor. This time labor was provided by the prisoners. That same year a sheriff's residence was approved and attached to the jail.

The jail's most famous prisoner was never actually incarcerrated. Frank James, brother of the infamous Jesse James, was charged with a train robbery in 1876. Frank was brought to the jail in Aril 1884, but many of Boonville's residents pooled their money and Frank was released on bond in a few hours. The case was later dismissed for lack of evidence.

Another addition took place in 1878 when the stable and jail barn was built for the Sheriff's horses. The barn was also known as the Hanging Barn. In January 1930, nineteen-year-old Lawrence Mabry was the last person to be hanged in Boonville.

The jail closed in 1978 by order of a federal judge who said the jail was cruel and unusual punishment.

Located at 614 East Morgan in Boonville, Missouri, the jail is now owned and operated as a museum by The Friends of Historic Boonville.