History Galore Found on Tour

Mary Jo Hanner | Westy Official Weekly

On Wednesday, January 10th, a group of approximately 30 citizens were provided a personal tour of the historic Pottawatomie County Jail and Courthouse. The tour, lead by Shane Jager, offered a good look into the incredible old structures. Citizens explored the architecture, stone, woodwork, vaults, offices, and courtroom. The tour began with the old jail, which is a flashback to days gone by. One single cell still boasts small windows, solid rock walls, and thick iron bars. One could just imagine cowboys from the past trying to pull bars from the window in an attempt to free ‘Ol Gabby. Interestingly, many on the tour seemed happy to just stand back and observe, allowing visions of the past to fill the imagination. All were struck by the age and historical importance of the structures. The Courthouse manages to command attention as one approaches the doorway to enter. Old stone and gracious wooden doors usher a sense of past that makes one feel small. The windows and floors have seen more history than one lifetime can witness. Ila Mae Frank (78 years young) commented, “I attended government class here in High School. I got to be a judge and preside over the courtroom. This building is such an important part of my own family history.” Ila Mae is not alone. Noted on the inside of the upper vault doorway lies treasures from lawyers past. Names, dates, and personal notes leave a legacy of generational careers. Under the carpets and linoleum leaves more architectural treasures to be discovered. The building interiors are begging to be brought back to their former glories. Half the offices no longer have heat, as the old boiler no longer works and the windows boast antique glass. There’s much to be updated and fixed, but judging by the passion of the community, good things are in store. Thirty-four people attended the tour of the old Pottawatomie County Courthouse and jail in Westmoreland on January 10. Broderick FCE hopes to raise public awareness of the importance of the buildings and engage in projects to augment their usefulness for the public.