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Yates Center Jail

Yates Center Jail

Location Class:
Built: 1898 | Abandoned: 1967
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Trevor Hoag

Tucked away in Yates Center sits a small building, constructed of sandstone with boarded up windows. From the outside you would never guess that this building used to be the Yates Center Jail let alone one that was over a hundred years old. Constructed by large sandstone blocks in 1898 it was thought to be indestructible and inescapable. The jail was the centerpoint for Woodson County criminals terrorizing the small towns nearby.  Jails of this size and construction were typically abandoned arund the 1920s-1940s but this one was used up until 1967. Even after being in violation of human/prisoner’s rights and determined to be unfit for habitation four years earlier. Although the jail was thought to be indestructible the jail had its fair share of breakout stories, here are a few:

August 24, 1900 – Three prisoners dug out of the Yates Center jail a week ago. The jail is constructed out of sandstone, and the prisoners had no trouble in getting out.

May 23, 1903 – A determined sheriff with forty deputies prevented the lynching last night of J.M. Woods, an African American man who attacked Mrs J.C. Lind, the wife of a farmer. Three attempts to take the jail were made by the mob of a few hundred men, but each time the nerve of the leaders failed before the battering rams could be applied to the door of the jail. The members of the mob knew that it meant almost certain death to some of them if the attempt should be carried out. At an early hour this morning the mob saw that the leaders would not take the jail in face of the sheriff’s unyielding opposition and the angry men began leaving for their homes.

The word spread all day yesterday that the man who had attacked Mrs. Lind had been captured by Sheriff Patterson yesterday morning. Farmers and townspeople stood upon the street corners. Threats of lynching were heard. Toward night farmers began arriving from the country in force and by 9 o’clock the Yates Center jail was confronted by a mob of a few hundred men. But the sheriff knew his business and knew that a crisis was to be met. The mob disapated around two in the morning and J.M. Woods was slipped into a carriage and taken to Wichita to prevent another ordeal.

April 16, 1915 – James Burton; alias Harry Milton, who with James (Jimmie) Harmon escaped from the Woodson County jail at Yates Center early in March where they were held awaiting sentence on the charge of robbing the State Exchange Bank, is back in the Yates Center jail. He was arrested in Eades, Colo., where he was staying with his parents. According to information, Burton’s parents are very estimable people and prominent in the Colorado town. They were almost stricken dumb with grief and amazement when an officer arrested their son. Burton was anxious to enter a plea of guilty and receive his sentence and begin serving his time. Like Harmon he wishes to “have it over with” as soon as possible.

Nov. 15, 1915 – Three men escaped from the Woodson County jail here Sunday afternoon by throwing some stones from the wall and crawling through.

Tours are available thanks to the Woodson County Historical Society.

Article by AKS Photojournalists Emily Cowan and Trevor Hoag.






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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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