By Harold Fuller

A Melodious Jail

When Esmeralda County Sheriff Dan Robb brought the prisoners down from Aurora and placed them in the new Courthouse Jail, they naturally made a careful inspection of the premises. The walls were tapped and the floors were critically examined to learn if they were sound. As a last measure of precaution against outside vagrants breaking in on them at night, the tanks (cells) were thoroughly looked over. During the sounding of these cells by the prisoners for purposes of detecting any flaws in the material or construction which might enable an escape, an interesting discovery was made.

One of the prisoners had a good ear for music, and he observed that the cells, with the doors open, if struck by a hard substance, sounded the lower six notes of the scale. Shutting the door raised the note one-half, and the performer, by leaning against one corner could raise the pitch of the cell three notes. A company of cell-ringers was immediately organized, and practice was started on several simple airs (music of the period) that do not require an extensive register.

They progressed rapidly in honing their skills and moved on to such airs as “Days of Absence”, “We Won’t Go Home Till Morning”, “The Breakfast Call” and others which do not require more than one octave. A very little alteration in the length of the stovepipe would enable them to add several notes to the upper register and it is thought that a very successful and satisfactory concert could be given. The proceeds would be donated to the jail-delivery fund, and as sticking with the naked hand on the bare walls of the cell is somewhat painful when continued through a long air in quick time, it is thought that the county commissioners might be induced to order the purchase of drumsticks for the performers.

I found no evidence of that ever happening.