The 1884 Jail was built to house those who were elected to uphold the law as well as those who broke it.
Jail cells are on the second floor, and the sheriff or a deputy and his family lived on the ground floor.
The sheriff's wife prepared the meals for the prisoners, and it is reported that some prisoners were habitual offenders because they know they could eat better in jail than out!
The 1884 jail was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1985.
In earlier days, a sheriff's total earnings consisted of a set amount per prisoner. Since there wasn't much crime back then, some sheriffs didn't earn enough to support their families and left law enforcement for more profitable pursuits.
When a new detention center was built in 1964, the downstairs of the 1884 jail was remodeled for County offices. The second floor jail cells remain as they were when the jail was in operation. Visitors can see the heavy iron doors of the cell block and scribbling on the cell walls made by inmates.
A charred area of the floor resulted from a fire set by prisoners who were hoping to escape while the sheriff was busy putting out the fire. Their plan failed.
Prisoners not considered security risks were allowed the relative freedom of the walk-around area outside the cell block.
The first floor museum displays household items that would have been used in the 1800s and early 1900s. Vintage photographs show gold mining scenes, historical buildings, and significant events. Artifacts from daily life include a woman's side saddle, a copper still, a spinning wheel exhibit that includes a "weasel" used to measure skeins of yarn, and a Lumpkin County's federal set of standard weights and measure.
The museum is open in conjunction with Dahlonega's festivals: Bear on the Square in April; Fourth of July Family Day; September's Heritage Days and Gold Rush Days in October.
The Jail, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, is located on Enota Street next to the Cannery Art Center two blocks east of Dahlonega’s Historic Public Square. For special tours and student groups please send an email to arrange a tour.
24 Sept. 2014 Added image of new spinning wheel exhibit and deleted image of type case