We decided to brave the heat and venture to another historic destination. At temperatures over 100 degrees, we plowed our way across the searing blacktop to Henrietta, TX to see the Clay County Jail Museum. Some great local roads guided our path with combinations of twists, turns, and wonderful straight expanses of road. FM-4 through Palo Pinto, TX, and on to Jacksboro, TX made up the first leg of the ride. This was followed by TX-148, a smooth road in a remote area leading straight to the museum. This is where the heated riding really came alive, The Jail!
A History Of The Jail
Here is a brief history copied from their website. The most significant artifact reminiscent of the county’s early beginnings is the 1890 jail located in Henrietta, Texas. For over a century, this magnificent structure has served as a reminder of the early struggles of another time. In the mid-1990s, the abandoned structure was restored. A further restoration in 2008/2009 added a steel framework to support the deteriorating brick and stone structure. It stands today as one of the best-preserved structures of this era in Texas and is one of the few jails built with internal gallows.
I could attempt to go into more historical detail, especially after the amazing 2.5-hour tour our hosts took us on, but I wouldn’t do history the justice lesson it deserves. That is best left to the knowledgeable staff, which means you need to take a ride and visit yourself. This is where it gets really interesting. The staff is comprised of local families that have resided in Clay County for multiple generations. Not only do they know their jail’s history, they know county history which they share with you, and how the jail played into the lives of the Clay County residents and even their families descendant's lives. This makes for some exciting stories about the jail and its historic role in Clay County. The staff is probably some of the most hospitable people we’ve met on our riding adventures and made us feel very welcome.
Breaking Out The Cells Into History
This destination was probably one of our favorite local rides we’ve taken in a couple of years. Not only will you experience the historic jail you will experience a huge amount of Clay County history as well. Each jail cell has been decked out with specific sets of history pieces related to the county. There is a cell with archaeology, a cell with historic medical items, a cell with period clothing, a cell with military history, you get the point. It’s quite creative and it's not just a couple of items placed on a little shelf. It’s a LOT of memorabilia that can keep you exploring for hours.
This is a destination well worth visiting and makes for a wonderful riding experience. Entry is free but please leave a donation and be sure to check the jail’s hours and plan accordingly so that you arrive when they are opening. You will need the full amount of time they are open to explore and learn as you make your way through the jail. Couple this with the staff's history lessons and you will leave satisfied and amazed.