GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Old Greene County Jail is still standing over 200 years later and is open to the public for tours.
The jail was built in 1804 and was originally placed in the middle of Depot Street, nearly touching Richland Creek. It wasn’t until 1838 that the building was relocated to its current spot behind the present-day Greene County jail and courthouse. Once relocated to its new home, the jail has stood there ever since, over 180 years.
Even in broad daylight, it feels eerie in the now-empty cells.
“When you enter in, you come in from the outside, which is well lit into a darkened area,” said Greeneville Tour Guide Patricia Beaulieu. “If a person was housed here for, let’s say a day or two, they would actually live in semi-darkness the whole time.”
Beaulieu has been working as a guide for nine seasons and said she’s honored to pass on the history of the region, especially when it comes to telling the story of the old jail. She said there’s no telling how many people the jail served.
The first floor is very basic, with just an iron cell door and a spot for inmates to relieve themselves. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a second floor with four additional, more updated cells was added.
“When the second floor went in back in 1882, their stays were longer, but the rule here was your attitude would determine whatever cell you went into,” she said. “In some of the cells, downstairs we have a hole in the floor, others have a platform where you can comfortably sit to relieve yourself, but your attitude got you the cell you were in.”
Tour guides say they’ve never experienced a haunting firsthand, yet the old jail has found itself on a number of haunted attraction lists. Rumors of the haunts might be attributed to the prisoners who were taken from the jail in the late 1800s to be executed by hanging. The last legal execution in the county took place in September of 1890 when the jail was still in its prime.
Visitors say it’s an experience no matter what you believe, and it actually housed criminals up until 1987. However, the history reaches beyond the jail, and just down the road, old souls are at rest at the Old Harmony Graveyard.
“It was where our original people that came over the mountains following the Indian trails that came here, this is where they are buried,” said Beaulieu.
Veterans of four wars are buried in that cemetery, including The War of 1812, The Mexican War, The American Revolution, and The Civil War, according to Beaulieu.
Rich with history, the jail still holds some untold tales and will most likely be around well into the future.
“By the limestone that is very common here, you can see that it’s going to last well beyond probably our years,” she said.
Beaulieu said around Halloween time, students in Greeneville convert the jail into a haunted house as a part of their haunted happenings, and it’ll be taking place Oct. 29.
If you’re interested in touring the jail, tours are open from April 1 to Oct. 31.