- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

ECHO, Ore. (AP) - The original Umatilla County Jail isn’t much to look at, but it has a colorful history.

The small wooden shack was built in 1863 at Umatilla Landing, but historians who want to lay eyes on it now have to travel to Fort Henrietta Park in Echo, where the jail has been for the last 15 years.

In its heyday in the late 1800s, the one-room jail housed a variety of Umatilla County’s most notorious criminals. And at least one pair of thieves found a way to break out.

It was 1866, and the county was celebrating the capture of Frank Williams and “Hoosier Dan.” According to a series of articles in The Daily Mountaineer out of The Dalles, they were captured in Portland after cleaning out the safe at the Orleans Hotel in Umatilla.

On March 21, 1866, the Mountaineer reported that the pair, incarcerated in the small log building, “broke jail by cutting through the floor on Monday last and effected their escape.”

The Orleans Hotel robbers, as they were known to the public, enjoyed freedom for only a few days before sheriff’s deputies discovered them hiding under a log cabin a mile away and hauled them back to the jail.

The pair was determined to break free, however, as evidenced by another article published May 3.

“The Orleans Hotel robbers, now in confinement in the Umatilla County Jail, endeavored to cut their way out a few nights since but were fortunately discovered before they had finished their work,” the paper reported. “The term of the Circuit Court is approaching and consequently these gentlemen are becoming uneasy.”

Their unease was for good reason - they were found guilty three weeks later and moved to the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Two years later the county seat was moved from Umatilla Landing to Pendleton and a new jail and courthouse were constructed, putting the original jail out of use.

Echo city administrator Diane Berry said sometime within the next few years the old jail building was moved near the future town of Echo, to the property of former Umatilla County sheriff Frank Maddock. She said Maddock, the county’s second sheriff, was forced to retire after being shot in the face by outlaw Hank Vaughn, “Eastern Oregon’s most notorious bad man,” while helping with his capture outside Baker City.

It is unknown what Maddock used the jail for while it was in his possession. The property was eventually purchased by the Cunha family who used it as a smoker for meats, Berry said.

Shirley Snow, a descendant of the Cunhas, grew concerned about a locust tree pushing on the base of the jail and donated it to the city of Echo in 2001.

Moving the jail to Fort Henrietta Park turned out to be a much bigger project than the city of Echo expected, Berry said.

“They thought they could move it as a whole, but when they picked it up all the logs fell apart,” Berry said. “Only the roof was still together.”

The city’s public works department was tasked with correctly reassembling the historic building. In a few cases the puncheons, or square logs, had rotted through and the city had to find a lumber company that still made them.

Today the jail, along with an interpretive panel that explains how it came into the city’s possession, sits at Fort Henrietta Park next to the covered wagon display.


Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.info

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