Old western movies often make mention of the calaboose. Western guys get thrown into them or bust out of them. According to Cuba, MO’s Celebrating 150 Years: A History of Cuba, Missouri, a calaboose is a freestanding one-room concrete block structure usually situated behind the town center, and it is used for a town jail. The word comes from a Spanish word calabozo.
A structure, standing on the corner of Southwest Main and South Prairie with the words Cuba, Missouri 1908 Jail engraved on it, seems to fit the bill for a calaboose.
According to the history book, residents of Cuba approved the building of the calaboose in an April 1908 election. The city purchased Lot 1 of Block 20 in Cuba from George and Jane Ives for $40 to build the needed structure. W.A. Davis was the marshal when the building was built. The mayor was W.F. Mitchell. Citizens probably breathed a lot easier to have a secure lockup for the town’s desperados.
That Cuba has the calaboose in such prime condition is due to the efforts of Boy Scout Verlin Boda, who undertook the renovation of the old jail as part of his Eagle Scout Project.
On October 4, 2004, the board of aldermen and mayor gave Boda permission to renovate the jail. Boda rescued the old building that had deteriorated because of weather, age, and lack of maintenance. He completed the project for his 2006 Eagle Scout Project for Troop 463, and it was dedicated to the city of Cuba on December 3, 2006.
The steel door on the jail was taken from the old Cuba Jail located behind Cuba’s 1934 City Hall and Firehouse on Smith Street. Today there is a sign outside the 1908 jail with information and artifacts. The Historic Preservation Commission placed a plaque on the jail indicating that it is one of Cuba’s historic buildings.
We thank Verlin Boda for his initiative in preserving and researching this colorful bit of Cuba’s history.
We found that the key to the 1908 Calaboose is hanging in the mayor’s office. As you can see from this photo, it is a substantial key.
While doing some research in the 1944 Cuba Review newspaper on an unrelated matter, I found this article about the “modernizing” of the 1908 jail. It must have been very primitive before then. Notice that the reporter still did not recommend a stay in the local calaboose.