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Texas Plains Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Matador: Motley County Jail


Photo by Rick Vanderpool

MOTLEY COUNTY GALLOWS

Matador, Motley County seat, received both a courthouse and a jail in 1891. The courthouse (the first of three) burned down but the original jail, a two-story limestone structure, survives. The first floor housed an office and living quarters while the second held cells and the hanging gallows. Although the gallows were never used, the one Motley County criminal to come closest to the hangman’s drop was a local man named Digger Dansby, convicted and sentenced to hang for killing a local cowboy during a gunfight. Dansby was a well digger and water diviner, a somewhat esoteric skill still used today to locate underground water. Dansby’s value to the community as diviner proved greater than the legal requirements of his incarceration and he was allowed to vacate his prison cell whenever his expertise was required. Not surprisingly, he disappeared for good during one of his jobs, thereby avoiding the noose. By the time capital punishment procedures changed in 1923, prohibiting local authorities from conducting executions, the Motley County gallows had yet to see a hanging so the county sealed the trapdoor shut. Today, Friends of the Motley County Jail are pioneering efforts to restore and preserve this Texas Historical Landmark.


Location

  • 902 Main Street
  • Matador, Texas
  • 79244

Contact

Hours & Fees

  • By appointment only.

  • Free


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