Old County Jail

Opening Hours

Monday: Closed

Tuesday - Thursday: 10AM - 4PM

Friday - Sunday: 10AM - 6PM

Old County Jail Museum

The building dates back to 1821. It is built from adobe and it used to be a residence for about 20 years before it was converted into the jail in 1850 after San Elizario was made the first county seat. It remained in use while San Elizario was the county seat - except for two short spans (1854 and 1866). The Commissioners Court approved the purchase of a prefabricated iron cell from Chicago, Illinois that had two areas that could hold up to 6 prisoners each. The cell is steel reinforced and was brought piece by piece. The building housed both the jail and courtroom. It was decommissioned after the town of San Elizario was no longer the county seat.  Unfortunately, very little records exist of those who were jailed here or their crimes. We are doing as much research as possible to dig up some interesting facts for the next time you guys come along.

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Billy The Kid

He was an Irish American immigrant, born in New York City in 1859. Very little is known about his early life, but historians have found baptism records that state his real name might have been Henry McCarty, however, in his later life he called himself William S Bonney. His mother died when he was 14 and he left his brother and step father to live the life of crime that 

seemed to follow him around. He killed several people - with 9 deaths being directly attributed to him - and broke out of several jails in his lifetime, but this was the only time he broke INTO a jail. The following story is taken directly from the records of Pat Garrett, a friend and later foe of Billy the Kid. Garret was the officer who eventually shot and killed Billy the kid when he was only 21 years old.

County Jail Break-in

According to Garrett's records, Billy the Kid traveled from Las Cruces into San Elizario after learning that his friend, Melquiades Segura, had been arrested in San Elizario. Upon his arrival at around 3am, Billy the Kid knocked on the door of the jail waking up the guards. Billy the Kid posed as a Texas Ranger and told the guard he had two American Prisoners. As the guard opened the door, he found himself eye to eye with Billy's 44 revolver. Billy quickly confiscated the guard's guns, helped his friend out, put the guards in the jail and threw away the key. Immediately, Billy the Kid and his friend Segura crossed the river into Mexico, which at that time was only two and a half miles away from San Elizario.

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Jail after County Seat

Despite no longer being the county seat and the jail no longer being actively used, there have been records that state the jail was still in use sporadically. Our favorite story is that of local constable Antonio Trujillo, whose career lasted almost 50 years 

from the 1920's until the 1970's. 

He was known to sometimes use the jail to house prisoners temporarily until he could take them into El Paso. Since San Elizario was no longer the county seat, prisoners had to be taken to the El Paso jail.