Saturday, October 12, 2019

Energy, Illinois' Calaboose History.

On Route 148, right in the middle of Energy, Illinois, there was a squat, concrete, empty Calaboose (prison).
The Old Calaboose.
The heavy metal door was on rusty hinges, and the two small cells were bare. There were no signs of the colorful history of prisoners or escapes - only a few scrawlings were found on the walls, including a faded 'J.R. loves' [somebody], written in lipstick.

There is a history. It goes way back before the little jail was built. There was an older jail, one made of two-by-fours.

The history of jails is the history of Energy, a quiet town - the residents called it the quietest and friendliest town in Southern Illinois. The concrete jail had only been used three times in 37 years.

But there was a time when Energy and its jail were a total of rowdy, drinking and cursing men. Back then, the Energy calaboose, less than 200 feet from the nearest saloon, was the center of town activity every night from 6 PM until 10 PM. It was back in the early 1900s.

At 5 PM, the miners from Carterville, Herrin and Marion would begin to pile into the four noisy saloons that lined the streetcar line that brought them to Energy. They would be in a hurry because they had only four hours to drink, argue, fight, and cuss before taking the last streetcar out at 10 PM. They had to drink their fill-in Energy because it was dry back home in Carterville and Marion.

At about 8 PM, Charley Perrin, Henry Range or other policemen would begin filling the Energy jail. And just about 10 PM, the prisoners would break out of this first frail jail so that Ben Walker and some other streetcar operators could get them back home on the 10 PM run.

The first Energy jail was built by Marion Kood for $1 a day to the city. The jail later turned into a coal shed, remembered for the tales about those who escaped.

Two area rowdies were more familiar with the inside of the Energy Calaboose than anyone else. One was a roamer who lived in Happy Hollow. He was taller than most people and skinnier, too. After drinking in one of the saloons, he would get in trouble, and they would toss him in jail. He was so thin he'd squeeze out through the chimney flue.

There was another little man from Carterville. He weighed just a little over 100 pounds. It was said he was a mean little guy, and no sooner would they throw him in jail than he would pry loose a floorboard, escape, and beat up the arresting officer. They finally left him alone.

In fact, the only person ever locked in the old Calaboose they knew of who didn't get out one way or another was "an old fightin' woman." She would get wild - kicking and screaming, and they'd throw her in jail.

The city saw the need for a better jail. In 1908, Price Watson built the concrete jail in the center of Energy. He threw in the construction of the jail and all the city sidewalks for $1,000. He did a good job, too. No one ever escaped.
The 2nd Calaboose is built from concrete.
After the new jail was built, they put the old one up for public auction.

The new concrete jail was not used for long. New city and federal laws put the saloons out of business, and when the saloons were gone, the need for a city jail was gone, and Energy became a quiet little town.

One oldtimer said, "We traded four saloons and a calaboose for two fine churches, a good school, and peace of mind."

The concrete jail was torn down in 1964 to make way for a new 874-square-foot post office on the corner of Ward Street and Route 148.

The town of Energy got its name from Herb Taylor Sr., who called the coal mined at Taylor 1 & Taylor 2 mines "Energy Coal."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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