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St. Louis County Sheriff's Department Jail Division records

 Collection
Identifier: S6055

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one file of a few loose pages, one volume titled Prison Calendar (June 1871-April 1890) and two record series in bound volumes: Register of Prisoners and Board of Prisoners.

The Register of Prisoners covers May 1890-1900, 1911- 1989, and Board [housing cost] of Prisoners covers April 1899 - October 1960.

There is one inconsistent volume like a Register of Prisoners: it is for Hibbing, Minnesota titled Jail Records of County Prisoners, Hibbing Village Jail (April 1890-March 1917).

The volumes are monthly lists of all persons confined in the county jail during the identified month. The St. Louis County Jail also held city of Duluth, federal, and nearby counties' prisoners. The list of volumes indicates when a volume holds all three prisoner categories or ONLY city or county or federal prisoners. There are three Register of Prisoners volumes for the city of Virginia at the end of the registers list. The Register of Prisoner series has corresponding index volumes including indexes that cover the 1900-1911 gap in the record.

The annual index volumes list prisoner names alphabetically; however, if the year of incarceration is not known, each index volume will have to be examined to locate a prisoner by name. By using the date and the booking number in the indices a name can be located in the Board of Prisoner volumes that are also in chronological sequence. While the Board of Prisoner series holds less personal information on individuals than the Register of Prisoner volumes, they do provide basic information to cover the 1900-1911 gap.

There is one Board of Prisoner volume for the city of Virginia at the end of this series.

NOTES about the record volumes and their contents.

[Stated in the books] If an insane person or a witness is committed, mention the fact under "offense charged."

[Choices in the column called] Why Discharged: to state prison, to reform school, to insane hospital, died in jail, escaped, acquitted, gave bail, habeas corpus, nolle pros [nolle proequi to be unwilling to prosecute; formal notice that case will not be prosecuted]; if escaped state the time and manner under remarks. [Abbreviation BO means bound over.] Column headings in REGISTER OF PRISONER volumes 1890-1893: Name, Residence, Description (age, height, hair, eyes, complexion, peculiarities), Cause of Commitment, Time of Commit, By Whom Committed, Time of Discharge, By Whom Discharged, Remarks [in 'peculiarities' column nationality or country is frequently listed]

1894: Number [booking number], County City of U.S. Prisoner, Name, Sex, Age, Height (ft. inches), Hair, Eyes, Complexion, Can He Read and Write Any Language, Is He Habitually Intemperate [drinks to excess; alcoholic], Special Marks or Peculiarities, History, Where Born (state or country), Parents - Where Born, By What Authority Committed, For What Offense (state particularly), Time Awaiting Trial (date committed, date discharged, total no. of days), Time Serving Sentence (date when committed, date discharged, total no. of days), Why Discharged, Remarks

1911-1920: Number [booking number], Date, Name, Residence, Offense, Sex, Age, Height, Weight, Hair, Eyes, Complexion, Read and Write, Occupation, Habitually Intemperate, Where Born, Parents, Where Born Father/Mother, Marks and Peculiarities, History, By What Authority Committed, Brought in By, Indictments, Arraigned, Bail $, Tried, Sentenced, Released, Articles found on the prisoner as follows, Received the above articles from JAILER of St. Louis County Jail, Dated, Signature

1921-1939: Number [booking number], County, City, or U.S. Prisoner, Name, Sex, Age, Height (ft. inches), Hair, Eyes, Complexion, Can He Read and Write Any Language, Is He Habitually Intemperate, Special Marks or Peculiarities History, Where Born (state or country), Parents - Where Born, By What Authority Committed, For What Offense (state particularly), Time Awaiting Trial (date committed, date discharged, total no. of days), Time Serving Sentence (date when committed, date discharged, total no. of days), Why Discharged, Remarks 9/1942 add Weight and residence (street address)

Beginning in the year 1950, pages in the volumes are not numbered.

1970 Replaces "County, city, U.S. prisoner" with "Jurisdiction code" [own, city, other county, state, Federal]; Why discharged is replaced with: Reason for release code, unusual behavior code, previous omissions last three years, drinking involved, work release. 4 pages November and December 1969 included in volume 1970-1982.

Dates

  • 1871-1989

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Kathryn A. Martin Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

The St. Louis County jail programs in Duluth, Hibbing, and Virginia, their buildings, and the sheriffs in charge of them date from 1871.

In 1925 the St. Louis County Commissioners constructed a new county jail at 5th avenue west and 2nd street in Duluth to conform to the Burnham Plan for the Civic Center group of buildings. This jail building replaced the 1889 jail at 6th avenue east and third street. The old building's most infamous use was in 1903 as the site of the last legal hanging in the State of Minnesota. When the inmates were transferred to the new structure in the spring of 1925, the old building was remodeled and became the St. Louis County Alms House Dispensary; patients were transferred to it from the Poor Farm. In 1933 it was renamed Hearding Hospital. It continued to function as a dispensary to 1945. Draftees were examined there during the war. Beginning n 1947, the 1889 building that had lain vacant for 18 months, was rented from the county for $50.00 a month for a rooming house business by Emma and George Zink. The Zink's failed to pay the county and the lease was cancelled in the early 1950s. Eight lots of county property and the three-story building were sold in July 1953 for a total of $1,100 to H. E. Farnam, a Duluth contractor. The low price and conditions of sale were controversial. The building was slated for immediate razing, but the demolition was not undertaken until March 1954.

The sensational trial and hanging occurred at the old jail in 1902-1903. It was the last legal hanging in Minnesota; capital punishment was outlawed in the state in 1911. Charles E. L. Henderson was hanged in Judge Cant's court room for killing his mistress Ida McCormick on the night of June 21, 1902. The attending sheriff at the trial and hanging was W. W. Butchart.

Another prominent St. Louis County Sheriff was Frank L. Magie. Born in Chicago, he came to Duluth in 1893. He served as deputy sheriff for 21 years and elected sheriff in 1918, in which capacity he served until 1931. The Duluth News Tribune on March 18, 1947, described his tenure as “adventure-filled.” While in his deputy sheriff/sheriff positions, he had been wounded in a gun battle with a prisoner and made headlines in 1930 when he refused to give up his office to his successor Emil M. Erickson. Later that year, Mr. Erickson was ousted or resigned because he had not been a citizen at the time of his election.

The Duluth Herald reported the sheriff's fund in 1941 at $73,545.00. The sheriff was quoted that it used to cost 6 ½ cents per meal for prisoners, but by 1941 it had increased to 9 cents a meal.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections decided in August 1985 to close the downtown St. Louis County Jail unless the county took steps to bring the facility into compliance with state standards and codes. The Department mandated appointment of a citizens' committee to review the compliance process. The committee completed its review in July 1987 with a primary recommendation that St. Louis County build a new 146-bed jail in Duluth. The committee also recommended that a second citizen group be appointed to examine the issue of corrections and jail needs from a broader perspective. The second group, called the Criminal Justice System Study Committee, completed its work in March 1988, identified several key issues and made many recommendations. [see REPORT OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM STUDY COMMITTEE, March 21, 1988]

The Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution unanimously March 24, 1992 to submit a Special Use Permit application to the City Planning Department to approve a 26-acre site south of Swan Lake Road between Haines Road and Beede Road for the construction of a 70,000 square-foot, 2-story jail facility. The proposal called for a 152-bed, full-service county jail. The new St. Louis County Jail was opened on Haines Road in 1994.

Electronic record keeping was instituted at the county jail beginning with the relocation to the new facility. As a result, all pre-electronic records were donated to the NEMHC in May 2003.



Judge John R. Carey's History of Duluth and Northern Minnesota (1898), page 16, states: "it appears after changing the name of Superior County to St. Louis, the Governor of the Territory on April 7, 1855 appointed Z. J. Brown as sheriff and tax collector."

However, according to the History of the Upper Mississippi Valley (published in Mpls., 1881) page 682, after the county was organized in 1856 the Governor appointed A. J. Ellis the sheriff.

 

Year                Name

1873-1877       George Berkelmann [ibid., p. 688]

1874-1876       Paul Sharvy  [ibid., p. 697]

1876-1887       Samuel C. McQuade [ibid., p. 695 and from Polk city dir.]

1887-1888       Paul Sharvy [Polk city dir.]

1888-1890       Henry Truelson [Duluth Illustrated, 1887, also city dir.]

1890-1895       Paul Sharvy [city dir.]

1895-1897       W. W. Butchart  [photo in Duluth Illustrated, 1887]

1897-1903       William C. Sargent

1903-1904       W. W. Butchart

1904-1905       Walter B. Butchart

1905-1911       W. J. Bates

1911-1912       John R. Meining

1912-1914       Edw. McKinnon

1914-1918       John R. Meining

1918-1931       Frank L. Magie

1931                Emil M. Erickson

1931                Dr. C. F. Mc Comb

1931                Sam M. Owens

1931-1967       Sam M. Owens

1967-1982       Greg J. Sertich

1983-1986       Ernie Grams

1987-1998       Gary Waller, Jr.

1998-2002       Rick Wahlberg

2002-               Ross Litman

Extent

87.00 Volumes

Language of Materials

Undetermined

Abstract

The collection consists of one file of a few loose pages, one volume titled Prison Calendar (June 1871-April 1890) and two record series in bound volumes: Register of Prisoners and Board of Prisoners.

Physical Location

This collection is located at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives. For more information about this collection or to make an appointment, contact us at libarchives@d.umn.edu or 218-726-8526.

General

This collection is owned by the Minnesota Historical Society, but is housed at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives.

Title
Guide to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department Jail Division records
Author
Finding Aid Authors: P. Maus.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections Collecting Area

Contact:
Kathryn A. Martin Library
University of Minnesota Duluth
416 Library Drive
Duluth MN 55812-3001
(218) 726-8526