Mariposa County Jail

The Mariposa County Jail stands in granite silence on a small knoll above Bullion Street, looming over the town below. With its massive, twenty-four inch thick block walls and tiny, iron-barred windows, it presents a bleak and foreboding appearance, reminding us of what it was like to be incarcerated back in the “old days.” Hospitality was definitely not a concern.
This stone edifice is the second jail to have served Mariposa County since the early 1850’s. The first jail was constructed in 1852 of logs cut from an area known as “Logtown,” located behind the present public and fraternal cemeteries. Located near the creek behind the Trabucco Warehouse, the first jail was burned in the fire of 1858 which consumed most of the south end of town. Its replacement was built that same year, at a cost to the county of $14,770. Built by J. O. Lovejoy, this thirty-three by twenty-six foot structure was constructed of dressed granite blocks quarried and hauled in from Mormon Bar, two miles south of Mariposa. The granite intrusion from which these blocks were cut forms the southern barrier of the Mother Lode. As originally constructed, the jail had two stories and a gallows at the east end of the yard. Many bad men, very bad men, were held here over the years and several successful escapes occurred, usually by overpowering the guards. Thomas Truit, the prisoner, may have been responsible for setting the jail on fire in an unsuccessful escape attempt in 1892. The fire gutted the building and took the life of its only inmate. When the jail was rebuilt, a gable roof replaced the original flat roof over the second floor. Excess granite blocks from the rebuilding were stored and eventually moved to the county fairgrounds in the early 1950’s, where they were used in constructing retaining walls. The old jail, while still looking capable of confining even the most heinous desperados, hasn’t held a prisoner since it was condemned in 1963.