Law enforcement history in Our Town

Local News

PAXTON, Ill. (WCIA) — A local group decided to preserve an Our Town staple.

The house is the former Ford County Sheriff’s house and jail. Back in the day, the sheriff and his family lived there. Over the years, the building started to show its age.

Some didn’t want to see history fall apart. The jail is actually connected to the house. Through a locked door, the inmates lived right beside the family. Sheriffs’ houses were not as uncommon as you’d think.

This one has quite a few stories to tell. In 1872, the Ford County Sheriff’s house and jail was built. It’s still standing today, thanks to the help of some preservationists, including Judy Jepsen-Popel.

“Only the Ford County Jail remains with little alteration, probably making it the best remaining example of a county jail built with this classic Illinois building style.”

The family would live in teh home and prisoners would be kept in the jail; all on the same property, all eating the same meals.

“The sheriff’s wife, of course, who made the meals for the prisoners, and whatever the family ate, the prisoners ate.”

Until 1990, the house was lived in. In 2013, it was bought by the Paxton Foundation for $10.

“It was structurally sound, I mean, the interior was terrible.”

After a lot of renovation, it started serving a new purpose.

“We wanted to preserve it. Now, we do tours and have kids come check it out.”

Over the years, the history of the home came out: from paranormal sightings to a serial killer execution. Some say the place gives them the chills.

“I was in the kitchen. All of a sudden, I got really cold and the hair on my arms stood up and I thought, ‘I am out of here!'”

Despite the ghost stories, it’s a landmark many are glad to say they saved.

“The best preserved substantially original examples of 19th century sheriff’s residences and stone jails in the state.”

Paranormal groups have visited the house to see if it’s haunted.

The execution was a hanging. Frederick Hollman was found guilty of murder in 1897. He was the prime suspect in the murder of five more women and the attempted murder of eight others. Tickets were sold for the hanging which took place inside the jail.

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