During my research on the Hunt book, I discovered this odd fragment of history regarding how prisoners were housed in Lamb County, Texas during the county’s early years.
From 1908 to 1946 the Lamb County Courthouse and the county seat was in Olton. The first nine-room courthouse built in 1908 burned down 14 years later in 1922. Later that year a second courthouse was constructed. While it was not built with a full basement – a hole was dug big enough to just accommodate a small county jail.
The jail had a trap door entrance under the building’s wooden floor. The jail itself was one room and had one tiny cell. It had two bunk beds to accommodate four prisoners. This is the weird part when individuals were arrested it was a mixed confinement of races, sexes, and ages no matter if guilt had been established. Yes – you read correctly males and females were jailed together, along with juveniles and adults. Races were mixed together which was unheard of back in those early years of the 20th Century.
It’s hard to imagine the two-story building had a small basement room big enough to house prisoners. Why didn’t the second courthouse plans include a jail on the first or second floors? I wish knew more of the history of this courthouse and how prisoners were held at the first courthouse in the county. Was there at least a lightening system or bathroom facilities? Imaginations can run wild without photos or history to give you insights.
This jail was later condemned by the county commissioners because of possible dangers to prisoners’ lives in the event of a fire and lack of space. Once the jail was condemned, sometime in the late 1930s officials moved the county jail to Littlefield in what served later as the third courthouse. This third courthouse was built as Littlefield’s City Hall in 1930.
The city hall building later served as the courthouse from 1946 to 1955 after the county seat moved from Olton to Littlefield in 1946. This jail was on the second floor and was built with modern holding equipment of the time. It was capable of housing up to 35 prisoners.
Eventually, the second courthouse in Olton was remodeled in 1949 and served as a hospital until it was torn down in 1964. The county’s fourth official courthouse was built in 1954 and it stands today on the north end of Main Street as a three-story building.
Archival Photograph – In the Collection of Christena Stephens
Photograph – © Christena Stephens