Saturday, May 14, 2011

The day I almost got locked in jail.

Back in early 2000 our family took a vacation to a small town in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. We stayed in a small family cabin, and when I say cabin I'm not talking about a modern cabin, I'm talking about an all wood cabin with an outhouse. But, it is a beloved cabin situated on acres of wooded land and a stream that flows through it. It has been passed down through the generations and many happy memories for generations have been made at the cabin.
The Cabin in Pennsylvania

During this vacation, I of course drove to the cemeteries, churches, and courthouses to do research on my husbands side of the family. The family went with me to the cemeteries and churches but stayed at the cabin when I went to the courthouse.

So one morning I drove the 30 miles into town to do research at the courthouse. It was a very productive day and I found many land, marriage, and court records. Later in the day I asked about tax records and was told those records were stored in the old jail house. It was late in the day and so I quickly drove to the jailhouse to get some research done before they closed.

The old jail house is in the middle of town. It has been called a "Welsh Castle." It is a large stone building built in 1872. Inside the stone building is a three story "bird cage", the black metal cage that housed the inmates. It has now been turned into a museum. I was in awe of the building; for a jail it was beautiful.

I only had about 45 minutes till closing time so I had to hurry. (I came back another day with the family and we got a tour of the "dungeon" that was below the prison.) The lady in charged showed me some records in file cabinets but I did not find any thing of interest. She then showed me where the tax records I wanted were located. They were stored inside the birdcage. The records I wanted were on the third level of the birdcage towards the back of the jail. It was really neat to walk up the birdcage stairs and think about all the people who had walked there before me and how many hands must have touched all these bars. Each cell  had shelves with large books on them. She took me to my cell and I pulled down the large books I needed and started transcribing them. I found a lot of tax records for my husband's family so I was quite busy for a while. I lost track of time and when I looked at my watch I noticed it was five past closing time. I put the book back and gathered up my stuff and started walking down the catwalk to the stairs.

As I rounded the corner everything went black. Completely black, I could not see a thing. I was too surprised to do anything so I just stood there in the dark. Then I see a light, it's the door opening and the light was coming from outside and the lady who worked there was leaving! I yelled "Wait!" and startled her. She looked up in surprise and said, "OH, I had forgotten you were here. I almost locked you in." I said, "Oh please don't do that." I quickly but carefully walked down the dark stairs and she let me out the door.

The cabin does not have a phone and we did not have a cell phone then. Had I been locked in I would have had to use the phone on the desk to call 911, and how do you tell a 911 operator that you are locked in the jail and need to be let out?

I had wanted to post a photo of the jail but apparently I did not take any while I was there. To see old photos of the jail click on Cambria Co., Pennsylvania.

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