Office of the Sheriff
Sheriff’s Office History
1830 – The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office was established. Delamore Duncan, a native of New Hampshire, came to Prairie Ronde, Michigan making his land claim.
Delamore Duncan held numerous offices in the township and was the first sheriff of Kalamazoo County. His widow remarks that " her house was the first jail in the county, and she was the jailer."
1831 – Titus Bronson and Stephen Richardson, the founders of the Village of Bronson (now Kalamazoo), platted the town and donated four squares in the center for public use. The squares were designated Church Square, Court House Square, Academy Square, and Jail Square.
1835 – The first county jail was built on Jail Square on what is now Bronson Park’s southwest corner. The jail was located directly east of the the indian mound and used the mound as the cellar. The building was constructed of wood and had no viable security.
On 3 March 1835, the Board of Supervisors discussed the first county jail which they planned to build on the southwestern square.
Rix Robinson suggested the following inscription be entered:
Thirty-two feet by sixteen, one story high, and divided into two apartments; one of which is to be twenty feet by sixteen, and framed in a substantial and workmanlike manner; the other is to be twelve feet by sixteen, of sound white-oak timber of same quality and dimensions. The whole to be well boarded with good whitewood siding planed, and covered with pine shingles in a workmanlike manner. The door of jail-room to be composed of plank, three inches thick, doubled and riveted. In the other apartment are to be three windows, each fifteen 'lites', 'eight by ten inches'.
(History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers (Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott, 1880)
This building was erected in 1835 by David Hubbard on ground just east of the Indian mound. The mound itself served as the cellar of the jail. From all accounts the citizens were never very satisfied with this first jail; the criminals found it possible to come and go as it suited them. James M. Thomas, author of the 1869 Kalamazoo County History, described this building as "a very poor apology for a prison." Following the general consensus, the county demolished the structure ten years later and built a new one on Court House Square.
Source: KNAUSS, CAROL ANN. A HISTORY OF BRONSON PARK, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN FROM 1829 TO 1940. (WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY M.A. 1982)
1836 – Titus Bronson’s opponents succeeded in changing the name of the village from Bronson to Kalamazoo.
1836 – A white, two story clapboard courthouse was constructed in the center of Court House Square.
1845 – The second county jail was built on Court House Square on the corner of Academy and Rose, directly south of the first court house. The building was again constructed of wood and was vulnerable to escape.
1847 – A kitchen was added to the rear of the facility at a cost of $200.
1867 – Sheriff Benjamin Orcutt was shot and mortally wounded by two men who were attempting to free prisoners from the county jail.
Sheriff Orcutt, whose home was beside the jail, awoke to a loud noise and went out and discovered two men attempting to make a jail window into an exit for his prisoners. As he pursued the two men into an alley, one or both opened fire striking the sheriff in the chest.
Sheriff Orcutt was able to return to his home. Physicians were sent for but his wound was fatal. He died at his home nine days later.
The two suspects were never positively identified. It was believed that they were accomplices of three prisoners who burglarized the Kalamazoo County Treasurer's Office the month before. Several suspects were questioned but none were charged. The case was never solved.
Sheriff Orcutt had served with the agency for 15 years. He was a Lieutenant Colonel for the Union Army with the 25th Michigan Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. He was survived by his wife and three young sons.
1868 – Following Sheriff Orcutt’s death, the third county jail was built on Court House Square in the same location as the second county jail. The building was constructed of brick and had two stories housing the Sheriff’s office and jail. The building was nicknamed the Red Eagle and was built by Isreal Kellogg. It featured 27 cells with a maximum capacity of 65.
1884 – The 1837 courthouse was moved to another location and a new courthouse constructed. The old 1837 courthouse was razed in 1921 and no longer exists.
1937 – The County Building was constructed in Courthouse Square, holding all county offices. It was considered state of the art at its time. The Sheriff’s Office patrol offices occupied the part of the first floor, while the (fourth) county jail occupied the County Building’s fifth floor.
1972 – The fifth and current jail was built on Lamont Ave on the City of Kalamazoo’s east city limit.
2013 - The Lamont Ave jail received an addition on the northwest corner of the building.