Huntsville Mayor Dennis Jeffers looks over the cell block on the third floor of the old Scott County Jail. The Town of Huntsville has assumed ownership of the historic facility and is working to restore it. (Ben Garrett/IH)

HUNTSVILLE — “Here’s the thing,” says Huntsville Mayor Dennis Jeffers, “this jail has touched all of us in some way.”

Jeffers is standing on the third floor of the century-old stone-and-concrete structure that served as Scott County’s jail for more than 100 years. It’s where he’s spent a not-insignificant amount of time lately, helping town crews scrape, clean and work through the beginning stages of restoring the jail.

“Whether it was through an inmate or whether it was through an officer, if you look far enough back, this place has touched all of us in some way, shape or form,” Jeffers adds.

It’s the history behind the jail that has inspired Jeffers’ efforts to save it. He successfully lobbied Scott County to turn the dilapidated old structure over to the town earlier this year. He wasn’t the first person to want the jail; not even the first Huntsville mayor to want it. But he convinced County Commission to do something no one else had asked for: to give it to him — or, rather, his town — for free.

Jeffers feels that personal connection. He has told the story of his mother learning to cook biscuits and gravy from Alma Laxton — wife of the late former sheriff, Jack Laxton — inside the old jail’s kitchen. Others might not feel so intimately connected to the old jail. But if those walls could talk . . .

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The complete story can be found in the December 28, 2017 print edition of the Independent Herald.