On February 6th, 2012, celebrity and country music singer, Randy Travis, was arrested for public intoxication by Denton County police and spent time in the Denton County jail. The Denton County Jail, located near Lewisville, Texas, has held a diverse population of prisoners over the last century. From the names of criminals most people have never heard to famous celebrities, the Denton County jail has been a storage facility for all types of malefactors, a fact that contributes to the institutions lengthy and rich historical contribution as a noteable landmark of the great state of Texas.
The Origin Of Denton County
The story of Denton County, home of the Denton County Jail, begins in the middle of the 1800’s, when the Peters Colony, received a land grant from the then known Texas Congress. The Peters Colony, sometimes refered to as the Texian Land and Immigration Company, was a group composed of investors, which included both English and American business men among its ranks. The land grant, issued to the Peters Colony in 1841, encompassed some 1,400 square miles, a plot of land located south of the Red River. Included within this alotted space, the county of Denton was established, being formed in 1846 and named after John Bunyan Denton. John Denton was a local preacher, who also served as a Texas Ranger. He was also noted for his role as an Indian fighter, who died near Arlington, having been killed in the battle of village Creek. Also in 1846, Pinckneyville was established as the seat of government, but within ten years time, this seat of government was moved to Denton.
The Five Denton County Detention Facilities
Since the late 1800’s, Denton County has been home to five different county jails.
Beginning in 1861, the first jail constructed for use in Denton County was a two story dungeon style facility that was located at the intersection of North Locust Street and McKinney, such that both of the structure’s stories were kept above ground. The original Denton County Jail did not have an access way to the bottom story at ground level. Rather, entry was made into the first level, where prisoners were detained, through a trap door in the floor of the second level. The construction of the original Denton County Jail was made from hewn logs, layered three logs thick, and heavily barred twelve inch windows. The jail later burned in 1867, leaving Denton County without a prisoner storage facility, forcing Denton law enforcement to utilize the jails of neighboring counties.
An incident in 1868 of a Sheriff being held up by an armed gang and forced to let a prisoner go during transport, lead to the construction of the second Denton County jail in 1870. The second jail was a two story sand stone structure, which was located on the east side of the courthouse square. Unfortunately, this second jail was inadequate, being both too small and too insecure to house prisoners.
In 1878, the third Denton County jail was built to replace the second facility. This jail was a one story building, constructed at 402 North Elm Street.
In 1891, the fourth Denton County jail was built, the construction of the newer facility being a two story structure made of brick and stone. This facility remained until the 1960’s.
In 1964, the fifth Denton County Jail was built and has remained as the county’s main prisoner storage facility to present day, located at 127S Woodrow Lane.