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Although some of the earliest records of the county board of supervisors show authorization of purchase of materials to construct a county jail, actual construction was delayed for one reason and another for more than 20 years. In the meantime, prisoners of both county and town of Mount Ayr were kept in the jury room of the court house on the east side of the square or taken to the union county jail at Creston.

Finally, the board of supervisors appointed Mount Ayr Mayor E. G. MARTIN and Charles ARNDT to draw up plans for a county jail. This they did, specifications calling for a building 18 by 20 feet and 10 feet tall with a flat tin roof, containing four rooms. Located on East Monroe Street, a block east of the square, the jail was built in the fall of 1875, with Charles Arndt as the contractor. Included in the jail, which cost $1,256, were two cells of half-inch boiler iron.

It was not long after completion that the jail had its first occupant, one Ben HUBBARD, although there is no report of what his offense was. The building was used for about 20 years, boarding a wide range of prisoners for both the county and the city. Never what you would call plush, the jail deteriorated until conditions became so intolerable that a special committee appointed by the district court inspected the place and recommended a new building. Consequently, the Ringgold county board of supervisors advertised for bids in mid-April 1895.

Specifications for the new jail called for the construction of a brick and stone two-story building, 37' 11" by 27' 2". The first floor contained an office, juvenile and bath cells and two large steel cages; on the second floor were to be two large rooms, and exercise room and cells for insane and female prisoners (an interesting arrangement). Specifications also called for a heating system to keep the temperature at 76 degrees at all times, a reflection on the apparently chilly conditions of the former jail.

Contract for the building was let to James McCOMBS for $2,693 while the Pauly Jail and Iron Works Co. of St. Louis got the contract for the iron work at $1,420. The building was completed on August 20, 1896, but business was a bit slow. The first prisoner was not housed there until October 8, 1896, when Sherman FOWLER was a county guest following his arrest by Ringgold County Sheriff HOLLAND on orders received from the constable at Blythedale, Missouri. This jail served the county's needs for about 30 years, but when the present county court house was constructed in 1926, jail facilities were included on the third floor. That made the old brick building surplus property. The county board of supervisors decided that it would cost more to raze the old jail and fill in the excavation than it would bring for building lots. Consequently, they turned the title over to Ringgold Post No. 172 of the American Legion on October 18, 1928 for the sale price of $1.00 with the provision that the post improve the building and lots and maintain them as a memorial to servicemen of World War I. The American Legion still maintains the building as its headquarters, making it available as a meeting place for various community groups and organizations.

The old iron work from the previous jail, however, continues to serve the county. In March of 1932, the jail in the attic of the court house was remodeled and reconstructed. Steel work of the old jail was used to line the walls.

The First County Jail

As early as April 7, 1857, there became an agitation among the county officers for the contract to Randolph SRY was let a county jail. Then at times it popped up, for forty-five perch of stone and to Thomas MARSHAL for plank, and to H. CRABLE for lumber at $20 per thousand feet, on September 8, 1857 with which to build a jail. But it was always voted down though the county had plenty of money with which to build it. After voting it down for years, the lumber and stone on hand that had not been used for other purposes were ordered sold in 1862. At first the prisoners were taken to Warren or Decatur counties. Later, the jury room windows were barred and they were guarded there.

June 1876, the board of supervisors appointed the mayor, E. G. MARTIN and Charles ARNDT to draft specifications for a county jail and August 12, 1876, the contract was let to Charles ARNDT for $1,256. It was 18 x 20 feet and 10 feet high. It was boxed up with 2 x 8's laid flat and spiked one on top of the other the entire height and distance around. The roof was made of tine put on by Owen LESAN, Webb GEORGE, and Jim SEEVERS. The jail was divided into four rooms and had two cells made of one-half inch boiler iron. James INGRAM, a brother of Andrew INGRAM, Sr. did the mason work. This jail was used until 1895 when the present worthless jail was built, then it was sold to and occupied as a dwelling by Mrs. Charles WADDELL. It was weather boarded on the outside and painted when first bought, but recently it has been remodeled, painted and a porch added. No prisoner was ever known to break out of this jail though one man, a counterfeiter, took the hinges off the door and walked out.

The Second County Jail

At a meeting of the board of supervisors in April 1895, a proposition of the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company submitted by Thomas C. LEWIS, agent, to make and furnish plans for a new jail according to plan No. 487. Such changes in said plan, and specifications, to be made as will adapt them, to the lot and location to be used. The price for complete plans and specifications to be $100 and in event the contract for the iron and the cell work, if at the time of awarding is let to the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company, the plans and specifications are to be used by the county without compensation.

The building of the jail was awarded to James McCOMBS for $2,693, with extra work done later, costing $73. Iron work was awarded to the Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company for $1,420. Samuel McCOMBS worked on the building as mason and William DEPEW as hod carrier. The jail was finished in the fall of 1895, total cost $4,186. The size of this jail is 37 feet 11 inches by 27 feet 2 inches. The basement is located under the east end. The south part being the furnace room. The first floor contains an office, juvenile, and bath cells and two large steel cages. On the second floor of the jail are two more large rooms, which can be fitted with steel cages, an exercise room and cells for insane and female prisoners. It was usually unoccupied.

The lots on which this jail stood and the building was given to the Legionnaires for a hall when the new court house was built, as a jail was built on the fourth story of the court house.

Historical Ringgold County Jail, Mount Ayr, Iowa

Monday, January 22, 2007


by Mark SAYLOR, KSIB, Creston, Union County, Iowa

Voters in a small southwest Iowa county go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to impose a one-cent local sales tax to finance construction of a new jail. Ringgold County Sheriff Mike SOBOTKA says the two men who preceded him as sheriff started the push for a new jail.

The current jail, which is on the fourth floor of the Ringgold County Courthouse in Mount Ayr, was built in 1927 - but the iron in it came from the original Ringgold County Jail which was built in 1895. That means the bars on the cells are over one-hundred years old. The old jail can house six prisoners.

The sheriff backs construction of a new, single-story jail that can house up to 22 prisoners at a time. The sheriff's office will stay in the Ringgold County Courthouse, as Sheriff SOBOTKA says he and the deputies help provide security in the courthouse. "The other thing is the local option sales tax would not produce enough revenue to build a law enforcement center," SOBOTKA says. "It will only produce enough revenue to build this facility that we're proposing." The new jail is projected to cost two-and-a-half million dollars.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


by Mark SAYLOR, KSIB, Creston, Union County, Iowa

Voters in a southwest Iowa county have overwhelmingly approved a county-wide sales tax that will finance construction of a new jail. The final tally shows almost 75 percent of the Ringgold County residents who voted to impose the extra penny of sales tax on purchases made in their county. Ringgold County Sheriff Mike SOBOTKA says the start of construction depends on how quickly land can be purchased for the new jail.

"If all goes well, probably by mid- to late spring we could be looking at [taking] bids for the project and then in the early part of the summer begin the construction phase," he says. The single-story jail would house up to 15 prisoners. The cost of construction, including the purchase of land, is pegged at two-and-a-half million dollars. The current Ringgold County Jail is on the fourth floor of the county courthouse. It can house six inmates - behind cell bars that were forged in 1895.

Radio Iowa News

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 15, 2011



The public is invited to attend a cornerstone laying ceremony for the new Ringgold County Law Enforcement Center on Tuesday, June 21 at 11 a.m. The event will be held at the Ringgold County courthouse, 109 West Madison Street. The officers of Grand Lodge of Iowa, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons will conduct the colorful ceremony. It is hoped that Grandmaster Craig DAVIS will be able to preside.

Members of Faith Lodge No. 179 at Mount Ayr under the leadership of Michael WIMER, master of the lodge, will assist the grand lodge officers in the ceremony. Also helping with be members of the Kellerton Lodge.

The cornerstone laying ceremony is a colorful event that culminates when a building is consecrated with corn, wine and oil, all symbolic virtues of morality, justice, truth, brotherly love and citizenship. Although the cornerstone laying ritual is now strictly symbolic, it is based on proven building techniques when stone masons used the chief tools of their trade the square, level and plumb to ensure that the first block of their building was correctly laid. The cornerstone ceremony is held only for public buildings.

A ceremony was held when the First Christian Church of Mount Ayr was built, the last time a ceremony was held in Ringgold county.


Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 23, 2011


Masons 'lay' cornerstone for law enforcement center

Grand Master Craig L. DAVIS and Grand Marshal Guy H. POSEY lead the procession through the sabers in the grand entrance to the shelter house on the Ringgold county courthouse lawn where the cornerstone laying ceremony for the new law enforcement center was held.

DAVIS leads the ceremony where Kyle A. GORDON, Wendell D. LEONARD and Jack COOK ceremonially use the square, level and plumb to check the cornerstone.

In a ceremony rich in pomp, the cornerstone for the new Ringgold County Law Enforcement Center was laid Tuesday morning.

The ceremony was held on the Ringgold county courthouse lawn instead of at the law enforcement center site, which is not yet in a condition for visitors. A ceremonial square, level and plumb were used to "set" the corner stone, which was then consecrated with corn, oil and wine.

A host of Grand Lodge officials were on hand for the event, helped out by members of the Faith Lodge of Mount Ayr and Topaz Lodge of Kellerton.

The actual cornerstone, which was not yet complete, will be placed in a place of prominence at the new law enforcement center at some future time.

Sheriff Mike SOBOTKA spoke briefly at the ceremony, thanking the public for its support for the project and noting that the new jail was a 30-year dream of Ringgold county sheriffs.

Current goal for completion of the project is in late August.

SOBOTKA said that tours of the facility would be held before it is put into operation.

A public introduction to some of the words and symbols that would be used in the ceremony were explained at the beginning of the 11 a.m. ceremony.

Taking part in the ceremony were: Craig L. DAVIS, Grand Master, West Des Moines; Kyle A. GORDON, Deputy Grand Master, Granger; Wendell D. LEONARD, Senior Grand Warden, Clarinda; John A."Jack" COOK, Junior Grand Warden, Mount Ayr; John M. KLAUS, Grand Treasurer, Mount Vernon; William R. CRAWFORD, Grand Secretary, Glidden and Cedar Rapids; John M. KLAUS standing in as Grand Chaplain, Mount Vernon; Guy H. POSEY Grand Marshal, Sioux City; Darrell G. FREMONT standing in as Senior Grand Deacon, Madrid; A. J. BROWN, Junior Grand Deacon, Bloomfield; Michael R. LANGFORD standing in as Senior Grand Steward, Washington; Dennis E. WILLIAMS, Junior Grand Steward, Colfax; Scott A. ENYARD, Grand Tyler, Pella; and Michael R. LANGFORD, Grand Musician, Washington.

Local participants included Michael K. WIMER, Bearer of Great Lights; Warren L. ANGUS, Bearer of Book of Constitutions; Laurance M. BISHOP, Bearer of corn; William H. FRENCH, Bearer of Wine; Steven L. OXLEY, Bearer of Oil; Justin J. AKERS, Bearer of Red Candle; Monte AKERS, Bearer of White Candle; Gary E. ROUDYBUSH, Brearer of Blue Cande; Rodney L. FARIS, Flag Bearer; Kurt SHAHA standing in as Architect; and Michael E. SOBOTKA, Grand Orator. Samantha CRAWFORD played the bugle for the ceremony.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2011

Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Open house for the new Ringgold County Law Enforcement Center, located at the site of the old Clinton Motel along Highway 2 and 169, will be held tonight (Thursday) to give county residents a chance to see the facility before it goes into use.

Open house Thursday for new county law enforcement center

It's been a couple of decades since the dream of a new jail for Ringgold county was first talked about by county sheriffs and almost five years since Ringgold county voters approved a one-cent sales tax to fund one.

Finally the new Ringgold County Law Enforcement Center is getting ready to open and the public will have the opportunity to tour the new facility tonight (Thursday) from 6 to 8 p.m. Sheriff Mike SOBOTKA and the staff will be on hand to give people a tour of the facility that is hoped that most residents will not be using as an inmate once it becomes operational.

The dream began with the three sheriffs that preceded sheriff Mike SOBOTKA beginning to talk about the need for a facility to replace the 1927-era jail that the county has had all these years.

"Someone said that the jail was set up then to house chicken thieves and much has changed in how jails are set up an run since then," SOBOTKA said of the new facility.

SOBOTKA says that the new jail should be able to last as long as the last jail. "I'll be disappointed if it doesn't," he commented.

Visitors will gather in the lobby on the north side of the buildingfor the tours. They will go through the administrative portion of the building first, then see the booking area, view the five pods for holding prisoners (three male and two female), go through the "exercise yard" room and view the control room where the dispatching and jail control equipment in housed.

The facility will be much safer for inmates and staff, SOBOTKA noted.

For example, visitation will be done by video monitor and telephone instead of having direct contact. Inmates will have access to the video monitor and phone in their cells while visitors will have two stations in separate rooms where they can see and talk with the prisoners by the video hookup. When attorneys come to visit, there will be a private area for consultation, but the inmates and attorneys will be talking from opposite sides of a glass partition. The window set up can also be used for magistrates to come to the jail to do initial appearances instead of having to transport the inmates to the courthouse.

The administrative portion of the new facility will house offices for the sheriff, deputy sheriff and deputies where the department will have its own armory for storing guns and ammunition.

The new evidence room will have lockers and a more systematic approach to preserving the chain of custody.

"Not everyone will have keys and procedures will provide better checks and balances for how evidence is handled and stored," SOBOTKA noted.

A window in the lobby to the civil clerk's office will provide a way for people to handle these matters.

Several former sheriffs and current sheriffs from around the area have previewed the facility already, commenting on the layout of the facility.

"The jail is designed to have an efficient flow for handling inmates and moving from one portion of the facility to another,"SOBOTKA said. "In the scheme of correctional facilities this is definitely not the Taj Mahal, but people have commented that our facility would be a model for small facilities in smaller counties," SOBOTKA said.

SOBOTKA joked that the plans should be good after he had to work on five different sets of plans before the building was finally built. The facility is planned well enough that only two part-time people will needed to be added to the department to staff it. During the day there will be two staff present but at night the facility will be staffed by one person.

Part of the planning for the new facility has been the development of the policies and procedures for the new jail. To help with the staffing, inmates will be held in their day rooms from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with opportunity every two hours to go into the cells and use the restrooms. Lock down in cells will come at 8 p.m. each evening at the shift change where there are two people on the premises. Lock down previously was at 11 p.m. at night and the 8 p.m.lockdown will be the earliest in the state, but SOBOTKA feels it will work.

"We will be setting more of a daily routine for each day in the jail," SOBOTKA said.

The inmates will have the opportunity for going to the exercise area where an overhead door provides fresh air. This is required for one hour segments twice a month. The exercise area is just an open room and does not include any equipment, he noted.

Visitation at the jail has been on Wednesdays, and this has proved to be a problem for family members to get away from work for visits. The new visitation day will be Saturday afternoon and possibly Sunday if there are a number of inmates in the jail. Families will still have to schedule their visits on the Monday for the following Saturday.

Staff has been having training sessions on running the equipment in the new control room in advance of switching over to the new facility. Touch screens are used to open and close the doors of the jail automatically as prisoners and staff move through the facility. A key back up system is also available in case there is a problem with the electronic system.

"Jail staff members are impressed with the new system and we are all pretty excited about the move," SOBOTKA said.

SOBOTKA wants to have everyone be familiar with the facility before reaching out to other counties to offer jail services. There are counties like Ringgold county used to be that cannot house women. SOBOTKA said that a couple of area lawyers had already approached him about clients who need to serve some jail time who wanted to try to schedule it in the Ringgold county facility.

Tours of facility

As well as the open house tonight, several groups have been given tours of the facility. Mount Ayr Community third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders will tour the facility for Red Ribbon Week Friday. Other groups that would like tours that can't make it Thursday night can contact SOBOTKA at the sheriff's office about setting up a tour.

The move to the new facility is currently scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2. It will be quite a production beginning at 4 a.m. that morning as all the 911, radio, computer and other equipment is transferred over to operate from the new building instead of the courthouse.

"We'll have several teams of people working on getting the transition made," SOBOTKA said.

Needless to say, there is the possibility for some interruption of service during the transfer, though every effort will be made to cover all the possible problems. The plan is to have everything up and running by 8 p.m. that evening, SOBOTKA said. Also some of the services the sheriff's department offers will be put on hold while the move ismade. For instance, the sheriff.s office will not be issuing gun permits from November 2 to November 7 while the move in offices is made.

"We're sure there will be a whole different set of headaches we will find with a new system, but we look forward to the new facility and the upgrades it will provide us," SOBOTKA said.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2012

LESAN, Mrs. B. M. Early History of Ringgold County
Centennial History of Mount Ayr, Iowa 1875-1975
Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcriptions and 2009 Photograph by Sharon R. Becker

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