Old Mecosta County Jail
Brief History




1868 - The first Mecosta County Jail was built for $2,000. It is believed it was later destroyed by fire.

1893 - The second Mecosta County Jail was built for $25,000, which is now referred to as the Old Jail. the Sheriff's resodence was included as a part of the Jail.

1893-97 - W. D. Moodey, Sheriff. West cellblock wing was added to the original structure which only had a few cellblocks on the third floor which was over the residence area.

1897-1901 - Bert Moodey, Sheriff.

1901-1905 - A. R. Streeter, Sheriff.

1905-1907 - John Brower, Sheriff.

1907-1911 - J. J. Menderson, Sheriff.

1911-1915 - Charles Kanehl, Sheriff.

1915-1919 - M. S. Merchant, Sheriff.

1919-1923 - George Hurst, Sheriff.

1923-1931 - Charles Kanehl, Sheriff.

1931-1939 - Caesar Hampel, Sheriff.

1939-1949 - Judd Arnold, Sheriff.

1949-1959 - Howard Soper, Sheriff. The North wing was added and used as a Sheriff's Office.

1959-1961 - Don Ramsdell, Sheriff.

1961-1985 - Gerald Weis, Sheriff.

1986-1998 - Henry Wayer, Sheriff.

1998-2010 - John Sonntag, Sheriff

2010-Present - Todd Purcell

1893 - present jail $15,000. The old frame jail proper being torn down and the dwelling given to Ira Coleson who moved it a couple blocks south abd nade it over into a residence.

1964 - New Mecosta County Jail was built for a cost of $270,000. It was located across the street from the Old Jail. Prisoners were moved to the new Jail in February, 1965.

1965-1970 - The Old Jail was used as an office building for the County Health Department and the Intermediate School District.

1970-1974 - The Old Jail was used as a Teen Center sponsored by the Mayor's Youth Committee.

1974 - The "Save The Jail Committee" was formed to preserve the Old Jail as a historic landmark; The Old Jail was listed on the Michigan Registry of Historic Sites.

1975 - The ownership of the Old Jail was transferred from Mecosta County to the City of Big Rapids, September 22. The City appointed a Big Rapids Historic Preservation Commission (BRHPC) to "oversee the restoration, funding and uses" of the Old Jail.

1975-1981 - Old Jail begins use by community groups as a meeting and activity center; BRHPC gets funding from private donations and major grants from Community Development & Michigan History Division of the Department of State; BRHPC supervises the work of volunteers and contractors for restoration and refurbishing of the building.

1980 - Old Jail dedicated during observance of the Big Rapids 125th Anniversary Celebration, July 1, 1980.

1981 - Upstairs apartment renovation completed with grant from the family of Sheriff and Mrs. Judd Arnold in memory of them; caretakers move into building; about 85% of the refurbishing/restoration completed; Old Jail operates as a community center and a focal point for local history.

1986 - The new Jail was renovated.

2001 - Renovation and expansion of the County Jail.


News briefs regarding the Old Jail

1930 - Taking advantage of Sheriff Charles H. Kanehl's absence, a prisoner in the jail attempted to break free from the Mecosta County jail by using a wire from a mop to pick away at the loose mortar and a mop stick to pry away the bricks. When deputies found him he had taken away a number of bricks, almost enough to permit his passage.

1930 - Clever detective work by Sheriff Charles H. Kanehl and Deputy Charles Howlett resulted in a confession of a bean theif in less than five hours from the time the theft was committed Saturday morning when several hundred pounds of beans were stolen from Theodore Sevenski, Remus.

1949 - Appointment oif the eight deputy sheriff's were announced today by Sheriff Howard L. Soper. They are Russell Borst, Cecil Darnell, Ray Kirvan, Ivan Sloat, Patrick Schiffer, Chester Bender, James Bates, and William E. Hawkins. Darnell, Kirvan and Sloat served under former Sheriff Judd Arnold.

1949 - Broad activities of a Mecosta County gang of alleged house breakers and petty thieves were revealed today as law enforcement officers continued a week long investigation of a series of crimes dating back to 1947. A 20 year old Big Rapids youth, described as the "brains" of the gang, is in custody at the county jail.