Detailed History of the Gaol 

Compilation of information on the Gaol with primary research by summer student Nick Smith in 2018 and updated by summer student Carmen Hickey in 2023:

The Timeline. 

1784 - New Brunswick becomes a self governing colony, separate from Nova Scotia.

1786 - Kingston becomes the shiretown of Kings County.

1788 - Benjamin Woolsy was considered the high sheriff.

1788 - Philip Marchinton deeded his lot to the justices of Kings County. Patrick Roger leased a part of his land to Philip. 

1789 - Petition from the Magistrates of Kings County asking for money granted from the legislative assembly to pay for the house of Patrick Rogers. The house is purchased to be used for a Court House and Gaol. The Gaol is said to be on the water and located on Lot #13 in Kingston, New Brunswick, thus in the photo below outlined in red is the only area on the lot that could have had a courthouse on the water.

Loyalist Land Grant map showing Lot #13

1795 - The lot was to be let for the term of 21 years to whoever wished to take it.

-Jonathan Ketchum became High Sheriff. 

-The Execution of James Shanks took place. (Find the full story in “All Our Born Days” by Doris Calder)

1798-1799-William Puddington took over the couthouse at this time due to the fact in 1800 bills were paid by the County Treasurer which had been submitted by Puddington for work done at the court house.

1801 - David B. Wetmore, Esq fed or boarded Grace Walker. Puddington was still the jailor. 

1802 - A bill before the legislative assembly was to sell the unusable Gaols in the province. The Kingston gaol was not mentioned at first but was mentioned later.

1804 or 1805 - Original courthouse burned down as stated in Wetmore’s Historical “Memoirs” and All Our Born Days and it was decided to build the new one at Kingston Corner, opposite Trinity Church.

1805 - Walter Bates becomes Sheriff.

1807-1808 - Sometime in this period the new courthouse and gaol are built. It has been described as being a plain wooden building on a stone basement, and contained the court rooms, jury rooms, ante rooms and, upstairs, the residence of the jailor. The Gaol was in the basement.

1814 - M. William Dibblee is jailor

1814-1815- The events of Henry More Smith took place during this time.

1830’s- James Barnes becomes the jailor at Kingston

1831 - A new gaol was considered in lower Kingston. 

1837- Walter Bates leaves his position as Sheriff and Asa Davidson takes over.

1837-1839- Walter Bates requests a new prison saying the old one is inadequate and can’t hold that many prisoners. As well a couple of men tried to break their friends out by smashing the windows. The jailors presence stopped the escape but the men who tried to break their friends out escaped. The gaol wasn’t well constructed nor fortified. 

1839 - In October of that year Terrance Leonard and James McMonagle were hanged for a murder in Hampton. A third man, Mr Haley, was sentenced to hang with them but had petitioned for pardon to Queen Victoria. He was pardoned, but years later he confessed he was the murderer and his two friends were innocent men.

1839 - James Barnes leaves his position. 

-The "New" (1840) Gaol could have been under development at this time.

1840- March 25th, An act authorizing the building of a separate gaol and granting an assessment of 500 pounds, to be levied and collected as any other country rates was passed. 

1840 - The year the Gaol was finished.

1842 - Walter Bates dies. 

1843 - Asa Davidson leaves his position as High Sheriff.

1846 - Munson Gould Pickett: On December 26th 1846 Munson shot his brother Seymour in a quarrel. He was originally sentenced to death but his sentence was commuted to 14 years hard labour. The brothers had a falling out over some property left by their father. 

1847 - Below is a newspaper article regarding the court case of Munson Gould Pickett:

Date July 24 1847

Newspaper New Brunswick Courier

“The Circuit Court for Kings Co. commenced its sittings at Kingston on 13th inst. His Honor Judge Carter presiding. On Monday, Munson Gould Pickett and Charles Deforest who had been indicted for the murder of Seymour Picket (brother of the former and brother-in-law of the latter) at Golden Vale near Kingston on 26th Dec. last were put on trial and the day following the jury returned a verdict of guilty against the prisoner Pickett but recommended him to mercy on account of his youth (age 22) and acquitted Deforest. . . . The brothers, with some of their sisters, who were not upon good terms owing to a dispute about the property left by their father, resided in separate apartments in the same house. During the absence of the deceased and his wife in St. John, the part of the house occupied by them was broken into and a bed and other articles taken away. On their return at night, after some ineffectual attempts to obtain the property, Seymour undertook to break open the door of a room occupied by Munson with an axe, and in doing so, the latter fired upon him with a fowling piece loaded with what appeared to be the largest description of swan shot, several of which entered the abdomen and caused his death in about two hours. His Honor the Judge passed the awful sentence of law upon the prisoner and ordered him for execution on 29 October.”

Munson had been found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The people of Kingston felt they couldn't allow another tragedy to happen in the Pickett family, even in the name of justice. They agreed that Munson had done wrong to kill his brother, but they realized that Seymour was not without blame. They knew that Munson had tried repeatedly to gain his rights through peaceful means, although constantly rebuffed by Seymour. In view of this, they circulated a petition for mercy which was numerously signed. One of those signatures was that of Letitia Pickett, Seymour’s widow. The petition was sent to the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, forwarded to the Secretary of State in England, and Munson's sentence was changed to life imprisonment. While in prison Munson's health suffered, and after four years he was pardoned.

1870 - Hampton replaces Kingston as the shiretown because of the railway being put through. 

1871 - The Gaol is dismantled and moved stone by stone to Hampton where it sits today; the only change was the shingled roof was replaced with a slate roof. The Jailer’s Quarters were added shortly thereafter.

1872- The Courthouse in Hampton is built and opens.

1874 - A two story court house with a Gaol at the bottom is built in Sussex N.B. at the intersection of what is now known as Court Street and St. George Street. It was described as being, “built of logs.” No drawing, photos or any other detailed description have been located. There is a mention of this Gaol in “The Story of Sussex and Vicinity” by: Grace Aiton on page 123.

1884 -The 1807 Courthouse and Gaol in Kingston burns.

(Picture is from Kingston square taken between 1872 to 1883. The circled building is the gaol where Henry More Smith was imprisoned.)

July 1930- Gordon Dobson: Awaiting trial on charges of breaking, entering and theft, Dobson escaped from the Gaol early on a Monday morning by cutting a hole in the roof, ascending to the garret and exiting through the skylight. This was a few hours before he was to appear for trial. He was captured by the St Stephen RCMP detachment and returned to the gaol. His jail break got him an additional 5 year sentence. After this escape the jail yard between the gaol building and the Courthouse was enclosed with a high fence. It is unknown which jail cell he cut the hole through. 

The photo to the left is taken from the attic of the jail. This is a trap door in the roof and it is very likely this is where the prisoner made the cut in the roof.

1945-John Joseph Casey Facing charges of theft, Casey escaped from the jail on January 25, 1945 by using razor blades to cut a hole in the floor in the bathroom (which was badly rotted at the time), which gave him access to the lower floor and the corridor leading to the jailer’s quarters. Although the cell doors were normally unlocked because of the danger of fire, none of the other prisoners admitted to hearing anything during the daring escape. Casey then picked the lock of the iron barred door, entered the living quarters of Deputy Sheriff Benjamin Keith and exited through the kitchen door to the street, thus avoiding the fenced in jail yard in the back of the building. He proceeded to break into the Courthouse by scaling the balcony over the front entrance and stole the evidence against him. He was soon recaptured in the Hammond River/Quispamsis area and most of the evidence recovered.

1949-1961:  When Clifford Scullion was jailor, he was also a deputy Sheriff. His son Cecil mentioned he worked under Leon Seely who was the Sheriff of Kings County. Clifford left his job in 1954 to go work in the annex in Saint John. He received his stationary engineer license. Chester McMackin started boarding in 1951 with the jailer’s family. Mrs Scullion, the jailer’s wife, was the one who really took care of the prisoners and a woman named Faye Gray who boarded with them did the cooking. It is unsure how long she was there.

Other Stories:

Another story is prisoners in one of the cells managed to saw off the ends of one of the bars and would swing it open and would go out at night and steal alcohol from the Wayside Inn. They were caught when the Jailer came through the cell and found the bottles.

The final story is that the prisoners were responsible for keeping the stoves going that kept them warm and one time during the winter a drunken man was thrown in a cell and he wasn’t able to heat himself so he froze to death.-This is a story that has been told a lot so I wouldn’t say it’s a rumour. It would definitely be good to double check though and find out what date it took place in. The cell it supposedly happened in was cell # 9 but it would be good to find out which cell.

Late 1950’s to mid-1960’s: Douglas Mann is the jailer and has Baptist Church sessions in the first floor of the jail. –Source: Raymond Smith 

1966 -Solitary cells deemed inhumane for prisoners and stopped being used. 

1968- Museum opens in the Centennial building. 

September 30th 1971-The jail was closed and all prisoners transferred, primarily to Saint John.  

1979 - There were attempts to refit the jail to modern day standards but it the funding did not come through.

1989 - The museum obtained a lease for the prison side of the building. 

2002 - The Town buys the entire jail building and the Centennial building.

The Kitchen: The kitchen was an addition to the back of the jailer’s quarters. As mentioned before the area used to be fenced off so prisoners could go outside to the kitchen window and get their food. However the kitchen no longer exists and it used to be an extension of the building. It is unknown when it was removed

There were double gates between the Courthouse and the jail you could drive in through. They were 8 or 9 feet tall with barbed wire at the top. The area behind the gaol and over to the Courthouse was fenced in as the prisioners' exercise yard.

The Store: During the 1949-1951 span of the jail the jailor’s wife ran a store out of the fourth solitary cell (now on the jailor’s side of the building) where she would sell the prisoners chips, pop, candy and possibly comic books because some of the prisoners gave some to the jailor’s son. 

The Wall: The wall that now separates the jailor’s apartment and the prison leaves a solitary cell and a regular jail cell on the jailer’s quarters side of the wall. I’m not quite sure why it was put there because it cuts off two cells and you can still see where the original iron door would have been that separated the two sides. Notice as you walk outside the front of the building there is a third set of bars on the bottom row and from the back of the building a fourth solitary cell. When asking Cecil Scullion, the son of the jailor who lived there during 1949-1954, about the wall he said he didn’t remember it. However when we were on the prison side he saw the last solitary cell which he figured was his Mom’s old store and he made a comment saying there should be a wall right in front of it. When asking Raymond Smith, a local in the Hampton area who had connections to the jail when Douglas Mann was the jailor, he said he didn’t remember the wall and was sure it wasn’t there. When asking Chester McMackin who rented a room there sometime during 1951-1954 about the wall he said he had no idea if it was there or not. 

      Cecil mentioned that the cell on the other end of the wall that is a bathroom now was their bathroom when they stayed there. When his family was staying there indoor plumbing was around and the prisoners had toilets so the family definitely had indoor plumbing. Unless there was another attachment to the house like the kitchen besides that refitted jail cell there was no indoor bathroom. The wall must have been up there when that happened because if one of the kids or boarders or the wife would have had to have the keys to open the big iron door and then most likely the big iron door would have been too heavy for them to open. As well the prisoners downstairs were allowed to roam the hall so I can’t see the family having to open up the iron door and then greeting the prisoners as they turned to use the bathroom. In conclusion the wall was probably put up when indoor plumbing came around. However, the less likely theory is the wall was put up sometime during the 1979 renovations.

To the left is the door from inside the Gaol going into the jailor's quarters. The photo to the right is the view from the jailor's quarters side. The section between the two doors was originally part of the Gaol, with a fourth solitary cell to the left and another large cell to the right which was converted into a bathroom for the jailor's family.

Jailors Apartment: 

1st Floor: Note at the time the photos were taken the first floor was operating as a community library. In 2023 the library was relocated and the Town of Hampton repurposed the space for additional office space.

In the photos below, the room to the front of the building (facing Centennial Road) was the living room (far left). The room behind it was the dining room (middle), and on the interior side of the dining room was a galley pantry (far right). As mentioned previously, the kitchen add-on has since been removed.

2nd Floor: The staircase faces the front door of the apartment. On one side are two bedrooms and on the opposite is the master bedroom.

Pictured to the left is the staircase and to the right is the upstairs hallway.

3rd Floor and Attic: The third floor had 4 rooms, two of which did not have windows. One of these was used by the woman who assisted the jailor's wife,  The other two rooms were sometimes rented out. Above this is an attic space.

There is  also a cellar under the jailor’s apartment, which is accessed through a door in the back of the first floor staircase. It appears to continue under the gaol as well, and was likely used for coal storage at one time. 

Known Jailors of the 1840 Jail of Kings County: 

Mr. and Mrs. Ben Keith

Vaughan Keith

Clifford Scullion

Douglas Mann

Everett Walker

Sheriffs of Kings County:

1785-1787: Lt. Cosby

1787-?: Benjamin Woolsey 

1792-1802: Samuel Ketchum

1805-1837: Walter Bates

1837-1843: Asa Davidson

1843-1858: LeBaron Dury 

1850-1863: Justice Earle

1864-1899: Samuel N. Freeze

1899-1906: D. Beverly Hatfield 

1906-1915: Frederick Wm. Freeze 

1915-1926: Samuel A. Macleod            

1926-1927: Isaac Campbell

1927-1930: Dallas Carleton

1930-1936: Hedley V. Dickson

1936-1953: Fred E. Sharp

1953-1961: Leon Seely

1961-1967: Harold McCready

1967-1973: William G. Granderton

1973-1981: Desmond Gillespie

1981-1989: Harold Gillespie

1990-1990: Linda Elrick, Carl Brown & Peter Miller (acting)

1990-?: Joan Collins