Doing Time at the Old Fauquier Jail

Over two centuries ago, a four-cell brick jail was constructed in Warrenton VA, in 1808 to house the county’s indigent and criminal residents. The four cells were multi-person cells, not an uncommon for that time. Also not uncommon, children often accompanied their mothers into the jail.

The stairs in the kitchen up to the jailer’s living quarters.

In 1823, a second jail building was added, and the first building was converted into a home for the jailors who ran the Fauquier Jail. The kitchen of the jailor’s home is intact, reminding us how hard it was to cook and provide meals for multiple people without all of today’s conveniences. Interesting factoid: the jailors’ wives were paid in their own right for their labor providing meals to the inmates housed in the jail.

Today, a county historical society museum inhabits the Old Fauquier Jail, in Warrenton VA; the museum documents not only the history of the old jail itself, but also county and local history, and offers recreated rooms of a barber and a dentist — the way they were way back when.

Maximum security cells were added in the early 1900s.

I really enjoy local historical society museums — you almost always learn something cool and fascinating. This is a good destination for history buffs or those interested in America’s correctional history.’

Other exhibits in the museum document pre-European invasion artifacts, the Civil War as it swept through Warrenton, with a sizable exhibit dedicated to Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby, which is echoed by the obelisk monument in the front of the jail. Mosby was a native of Warrenton and is buried in a local cemetery.

But there also is equal space given to women’s suffrage in Fauquier County and the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, the most successful women’s suffrage organization in the south.

And of course, there are the jail cells themselves, with an early 1800s cell recreated in the 1823 building, as well as the more recent early 1900s’ maximum security cells. Your final stop should be the execution yard, where a 3-man gallows awaited its next victims.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering whether the place is haunted. In fact, it is, according to Seth, the docent there on the day we visited. Indeed, it is! He regularly hears footsteps above him, especially in the evenings as he’s closing up after the last museum visitors have gone home. There are also the usual unexplained door slams and knocks, as well as the sound of something heavy being dragged in the second floor hallway.

The ghosts are pranksters, too. He recounted how he noticed lights on in the newer jail building. Thinking that somehow he had missed turning them off, he returned to the building to switch them off. He got back to the gift store part of the museum and looked through the window, and the lights were on again. This went on for several iterations until finally, in exasperation, he sternly said, “Leave the lights off — I’m tired and I want to go home!” This time, the lights stayed off. But you can imagine a bored ghost chuckling at his little joke!

In fact, keep an eye on the website below, because periodically the museum holds its own ghost hunts. Or interested groups may rent out the facility for the evening.

Getting there: 10 Ashby St, Warrenton, VA

Hours: Thursday – Monday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays


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