Plymouth County Jail History

~Compiled by Mary Holub, Plymouth County Assistant Coordinator

Le Mars Sentinel
May 23, 1890


The contract for the erection of the new jail for Plymouth county was let to Pauly Jail and Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Mo.  It is to cost the county $11,200.  The original plan was somewhat changed and the jail will not be quite as large as at first stated.  It will front to
the south and be two stories high above basement.  The front part a jailor's house will be 36 feet front and will extend back 31 feet.  The jail will be 42 feet in length behind this.  Mr. J. L. Perkins of this city has the contract for the brick and stone work and states that ground will be broken for work about the first of June.  The jail is to be completed by October 1st, 1890.

Le Mars Sentinel
October 17, 1890

The new residence of the sheriff and the new jail are about completed and ready for occupancy.

Le Mars Sentinel Friday, November 28, 1890
On Saturday, December 6, 1890, at 2 o'clock p.m. at the front door of the Court house, Le Mars, Iowa, the county commissioners will offer for sale to the highest and best bidder for cash, the old county jail.  The right reserved to reject any and all bids.  By order of the board. J.H. Hughes, Chairman

Le Mars Sentinel
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1919



Escaped Jail Breakers Hid in Corn Fields in Day Time and Barns at Night—Are Taken to Sioux City for Safe Keeping

The five bandits, who broke jail on Friday night, after shooting Sheriff  Maxwell and his son, William, were captured yesterday and are now lodged in the Woodbury county jail for safe keeping.

On Sunday evening about 8 o'clock a telephone message was received that a young son of Joseph Stinton had been held up and robbed, while leaving his father's farm, near Struble.  The young man is a deaf mute.  He was husking corn at the Bullington farm the past few days and was returning there after spending Sunday at home.  He was driving a horse and buggy when a short distance from the house was stopped by two men, who pointed guns at him.  They took his watch and a few dollars.  He said the men were masked or had handkerchiefs over their faces.

On receipt of the news of this hold up, the supposition arose that members of the Convey gang had perpetrated this fresh outrage.  New posses started out for the Stinton place.

Thinking this would prove a new clew on which blood hounds could be used, a telegram was sent down the line to Ross C. Baldwin, of Waterloo, to intercept him on the road and bring back the bloodhounds, which he had taken east after working them here on Sunday.  The message got him at Storm Lake and he returned to LeMars yesterday morning.  The dogs were taken to the spot where Stinton was held up and started on a trail which led to a school house a little ways off.  Here the dogs seemed puzzled and were casting about for a scent.  Dick Stewart of LeMars
appeared on the scene and informed the members of this posse that two of the members of the Convey gang were corralled in a bunk house on the Great Northern railway at Maurice, by a party of Maurice men.

Stewart added that he was on his way from LeMars to Ireton and stopped at Maurice where he learned two men had been seen to enter a bunk house.

He left the Maurice man on guard while he went to the Stinton place to inform Mayor Eilers.

Sheriff Groneweg, of Council Bluffs, says when the LeMars men arrived at Maurice they found Convey and Lee Barrington had been captured by men in Maurice.  Convey appeared cowed and was shaking and shivering and was suffering from frost bite.  There were brought to LeMars in R. B. Dalton's car, he having driven the officers out.  Near LeMars Convey and Barrington were switched into a car which skirted the outlying part of town and taken by Deputy Sheriff Sickler and Cecil McGruder to Sioux City to avert possible mob violence which had been threatened by some.

Barrington was talkative and answered some questions.  Convey remained silent and acted as if he was scared to death.

Philip Deuschle, section foreman at Maurice, was in LeMars yesterday. He said he was startled when going into the bunkhouse to find five men in there.  They had evidently slept there all night and built a fire at which to warm themselves.  They wanted him to get them something to eat and said if he squawked it was “dead or alive.”

The posse immediately took up the chase for the three outlaws who had escaped, O'Keefe, Smith and Cullon, who had gone on up toward Sioux Center and bout three or four miles up the track came up with them.  The men were lying at the side of the railroad partially hidden by when a
rifle was brought to bear on them, rose up and surrendered without offering any resistance. There were hungry and cold and broken in spirit by the experience of the previous three days and looked like whipped curs.  There were loaded in cars and brought to LeMars and put in jail, arrive here about 12 o'clock.  An hour later they were taken on to Sioux City in the same care that had brought them in, L. H. Hatiliop at the wheel and Chas. Lewsberry, Carl Witt and C. A. Lowell, an Illinois Central special officer, having them in charge.  These men were armed when captured but had no fight left in them.

A crowd of several hundred people had gathered at the jail and shouts of “hang them” were heard from the crowd as the prisoners were brought ought and the officers drew revolvers and waved the crowd back. [the rest of the newspaper microfilm for this paragraph about the crowd
is extremely faded.]


To serve his country during the great war with credit and honor and to return safe and meet death at the hands of dastard was the fate of William Maxwell, who died from bullet wounds he received during the jail break on Friday night.  He passed away on Sunday morning.

William Maxwell was born in Plymouth county and lived here all his life until called to service.  He was born on May 5, twenty-two years ago and was educated in the country schools and the LeMars school.  He enlisted when 19 years of age and served in Company K on the border and went to France with the Sandstorm division and returned home seven weeks ago to the day he was killed.

He was a fine young man, liked by everybody and his death is mourned by his family, his friends, and host of friends.

The funeral will be held this afternoon at 1:30 from the house and at 2 o'clock at the Presbyterian church.  The funeral will be under military auspices.  The order of the procession will be as follows:
Escort – One Platoon.
Service Men.
The pallbearers will be friends of his with who he serve in the army:
Ben Thelles,
Fay Terpenning,
Otto H. Heeren,
Luther C. Green,
George Hes___?
George Pech.

All the business houses and offices in the city will be closed during the hours of the funeral in honor of the deceased.

LeMars Sentinel
Nov. 21, 1919


Desperadoes Were Brought to Court House in LeMars Under Cover of Darkness and Hurried Away After the Sentence is Pronounced

Lee Barrington, Harry Smith, James O'Keefe, William Cullon and William Convey must sever the rest of their lives in the Iowa state penitentiary at Fort Madison as punishment for the murder of William Maxwell, who was killed by the five men when they escaped from the county jail here last Friday.  There were sentenced by Judge C. C. Bradley, of the Plymouth county district court at 8 o'clock Wednesday after the grand jury at LeMars had returned indictments of first degree murder against the five men at 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon.  It is the first time in the
history of the state that so great a number were given life terms for one offense.

The men were brought to LeMars under cover of darkness and as soon as sentence was pronounced the prisoners were taken back to the Woodbury county jail.  They were taken from there under a heavy guard yesterday morning to the penitentiary at Fort Madison.

The formal court proceedings occupied less than half an hour.

J. W. Kindig, of Sioux City, deputy state attorney, was retained by the state to assist County Attorney Bedell.  J. W. Parsons, of Des Moines, also was here, representing the State Banker's association to take a hand in the proceedings.

The rapid disposal of the men came after J. W. Kindig, special prosecutor, held a conference with the men and secured their promise to plead guilty.  All of the bandits accepted the murder indictment, although it is the option of several officials that not more than two of them would be made to answer for the killing of young Maxwell.  The men feel satisfied, however, and are appreciative of the protection they received from the civilian posse that captured them and did not want to risk any further exposure to a mob at a trial.

Three automobiles carrying the bandits, and guarded by Sheriff W. H. Jones, of Sioux City; Sheriff Harlow, of Onawa; Sheriff Groneweg, of Council Bluffs; Sheriff Myers, of Logan; Deputy Sheriff Jackson, Special deputies Ed. Crook and Lee Glew and State Agents Risden and Van Wagnen, left Sioux City at 6:30 and delivered the me to LeMars and returned them to jail at Sioux City at 11 o'clock.

Sheriff Maxwell was consulted in the matter and inasmuch as capital punishment has rarely been enforced in the state of Iowa, acquiesced in the disposal of the men.

Only court officials were present at the dramatic scene which was enacted in the courthouse.  The prisoners, guarded by officers were heavily manacled and presented a coward, craven appearance.  There were apparently glad to save their worthless skins.

Citizens on the street yesterday expressed their gladness that swift punishment was meted out to the desperadoes but regretted that the murderers of William Maxwell would not hang.

History of the “New” Plymouth County Jail
 (Law Enforcement Center)

Le Mars Daily Sentinel, Monday, October 22, 2001

The Plymouth County board of supervisors signed a contract with Professional Consulting Services for $310,000 to manage construction of the law enforcement center which includes the county's new jail. Brian Gibson of PCS, who has been working on the planning stages of the project noted in a letter to the supervisors several advantages to the contract. The consultant would manage the bidding process in such a way that could make sure the winner bid showed experience related to jail construction. Without a project manager, the contractor would be granted an additional 15 percent toward construction, according to industry practice. The PCS management contract was approved by all five supervisors at a cost of $310,000. Earlier this month, supervisors signed a contract with Moore and Associates architectural firm for $267,000. Supervisor Jim Kestner reminded his fellow board members that both costs had been included in the $5.4 million total for the law enforcement center.

Le Mars Daily Sentinel, Friday, August 1, 2003
Tour new jail Saturday afternoon

Although the county cannot yet take "owner acceptance" of the new law enforcement center, some portions are in use, the Aug. 2 open house will be held, and plans to move prisoners into the new facility the week of Aug. 11 are "still very much on target," according to Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo.

Also on the schedule is a mock lock-in from 6:30-11 p.m. tonight, Aug. 1.
Van Otterloo describes the lock-in as a dry run for jail staff to practice the whole process from prisoner intake to cell block.

County Supervisor Paul Sitzmann, Kingsley Mayor Gary Hunwardsen, Brunsville Mayor Wayne Schlotfeldt, Mark Bohner of the Farm Bureau and Bob Kenaley, a member of the committee that studied the jail issue, have all agreed to be locked in.

"We'll let them go at 11," said Van Otterloo. "Maybe. Say that the Sheriff says their behavior will dictate their time of release," the Sheriff joked.

A few others may be part of the lock-in, although the plan was not to have more than 10 for the simulation.

The county won't take possession of the jail, known as "owner acceptance" until contractors' work on "punch lists" has been completed and they still have time to perform those duties, Van Otterloo said.

"That doesn't mean we can't occupy," he explained. For the law enforcement center to be occupied, it must have passed inspections by the fire marshall, elevator inspector and jail inspector.

Portions of the facility have already met those guidelines and are in use, namely, the communication center and parts of the administration area.

"Slowly but surely we're moving office people over," the sheriff said, but, "the jail is off limits."
The state jail inspector was on site yesterday, July 31, and noted a few items regarding the policy and procedures manual, the Sheriff indicated.

"Everything looked real good. I felt very, very good about the inspection," he said.
Van Otterloo noted that the jail inspector doesn't consider cosmetic items, like caulking and painting, in his review, so those "punch list" items are not a concern for occupancy.
The public is invited to the open house which will begin with a 1:30 p.m. ribbon cutting and includes tours from 2-5 p.m.

The Law Enforcement Center (LEC), at 451 14th Ave. N.E., can be accessed from Iowa Highway 3 East or Plymouth Street to First Street Northeast.
451 14th Ave. N.E.

Le Mars Daily Sentinel, Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Jail passes inspection

The Plymouth County Law Enforcement Center passed its jail inspection by the state.
Supervisors received a letter last week from the Iowa Department of Corrections noting the inspection Aug. 31. The examination included staff training documents, prisoner files, jail policy and procedures as well as a tour of the jail on 14th Avenue Northeast.

The Law Enforcement Center completed its first year of operation in August. It had been approved as new construction by the department before inmates were initially moved from the jail a year ago.

With the change to meals prepared onsite, state officials said the kitchen area must be inspected by an appropriate agency. Siouxland Health has since visited and approved the kitchen area, according to Tom Schneider, jail administrator, the only corrective action the state required.
Schneider told the Daily Sentinel this week, "We passed with flying colors with Siouxland District Health."

In January, Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo asked permission of the supervisors to switch to contracting for meals with CBM, a Sioux Falls company, which specializes in corrections facilities.

The state inspector noted: "The jail is very clean, well-maintained and managed. The jail policy and procedures manual and prisoner rules are complete and well-written. It appears that the transition into the new jail has gone very well and the new facility is being operated in a very professional manner."







Return to Home Page

IAGenWeb 2012