Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living in a Squirrel Cage

Across the river from Omaha is Council Bluffs, Iowa, home to a very unique building. Built in 1885, this "squirrel cage jail" was in use until 1969. But what in the world is a "squirrel cage jail?"

A model in the gift shop shows how it works.

The round floors and inside walls rotate on cogs, and are cranked by hand. Only when the opening of the cell lines up with the sole door on each floor can prisoners go in or out.

There are 3 levels of cells, with 10 cells per level. Can you see the hand sticking out on the third level? Creepy...

Ideally, each cell held 2 prisoners, although there are reports of 5 per cell.

This is one of only 3 squirrel cage jails remaining in the US.

Leaving Omaha for our next stop on the Lewis and Clark Trail, we passed by this monument high on a hill overlooking the Missouri River.

It marks the grave of the only member of the Lewis and Clark team to die on the expedition - truly amazing considering all the perils they faced.

Sgt. Floyd died on August 20, 1804 from what is now believed to be a ruptured appendix.

They named the hill "Sgt. Floyd's Bluff," and the nearby river where they set up camp "Floyd's River." They are located near the present-day town of Sioux City, Iowa.


  1. So neat to see these pictures. According to my father, Charles Floyd, we are related to Sgt. Floyd (whose first name was Charles, too).

  2. What a great story about the jail cells. I had never heard of such an arrangement of cells but I guess it worked well enough for them. Thanks.

  3. Thats a very creepy looking place-knowing one could end up there is enough to keep me on the straight and narrow!! That Memorial looks like the Washington Monument! Hows the weather hope its nice n cool!! Safe Travels!

  4. Yep, quite a jail. They sure have changed!!

  5. That jail sounds kinda creepy to me, what in the world if the thing got stuck, I guess the prisoners aren't going anywhere anyways eh? I had never heard of that though so thanks again for sharing :o)

  6. I guess that kind of jail controls the number of prisoners that can be out at one time. No riots, etc. What a depressing place.

  7. What an interesting place! I'm amazed that one guy could move all that. I guess it would be a bad idea in a fire, though.

  8. OMG! who knew? That's fascinating history. Love it! Thanks for sharing, now I have to add that to the bucket list. LOL! Cheers! Merri

  9. A very interesting post. Thanks. Its sounds such an interesting trail to follow.


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