Our County Through Time: Old Log Jail – 1853

Old Log Jail 2The Old Log Jail is one of the oldest log structures in Oregon. In 1853, Washington County included all of what is now Multnomah and Columbia Counties. Hillsboro (originally Hillsborough) was the county seat. The town was composed of twelve houses, a hotel, the Courthouse (built in 1852) and a log schoolhouse. The Old Log Jail was built on the southwest corner of Fourth and Washington Steets.

The Old Log Jail measures 9 feet 6 inches wide, is 16 feet long and approximately 12 feet tall from the ground to the top of the gable roof. The logs came from local trees, most likely Douglas fir, that were about 18 inches to 20 inches in diameter. Each wall timber is about 11 inches on each side, carved or “hewn” square with a broad axe, and finished smooth with an adze.
The building operated as a jail for seventeen years, from 1853 to 1870, holding both count and territorial prisoners. Two men are known to have died within these walls, one by his own hand, the other of natural causes after spending eighteen months here.

In 1870, the Old Log Jail was sold to Riley Cave, the local blacksmith and Justice of the Peace, for $75 in gold coin. It functioned as a temporary home while the Cave family built their new residence on the property. Scraps of wall paper and newspaper found inside the jail suggest they hung red cloth wall covering and newspaper articles on the interior walls. Melinda Cave gave birth to their second child in the building.

The Old Log Jail functioned as an outbuilding until 1953 when the property was sold to be redeveloped for business. The structure was moved from its original location to the Washington County Fairgrounds. The original location in Hillsboro where the jail stood is now a parking lot. In 1985, the building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places for its architectural and historical significance.

By 2002 the sill logs and lower course logs had reached a state of severe deterioration. The Washington County Museum commissioned a timber building conservator to restore and preserve the Old Log Jail. The restoration was conducted following the structure’s physical relocation to the Washington County Museum on the campus of PCC-Rock Creek.

Old Log Jail Restoration

The Washington County Museum is proud to preserve the fully restored Log Jail and wishes to thank the generosity of everyone who made this restoration possible:

Bobsy Graham, Oregon Cultural Trust, Washington County Fair Complex, Washington County Sheriff’s Foundation, Hillsboro Coffee Club, Beaverton Kiwanis Club, The Greater Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, Friends of H.A.R.T Inc., Tigard Area Historical Society, Eugene Zurbrugg, The Moore Family, John Rinkes, and many other private individuals.

Want to learn more about Washington County History? Return to our History Page