The jail was built in 1862 and used until 1969. The jailer and his family lived on one side of the house, both upstairs and down. On the other side of the house were five jail cells – three downstairs and two upstairs. The cells were lined with metal on the ceilings, walls, and floors. The bars on the windows were made by the local blacksmith. The cells were heated by a small stove in the hallway. Heavy, thick wooden doors helped to block out noise from rowdy prisoners.
Before Sherbrooke had its own jail, prisoners were sent to the Guysborough Jail. The first jailer from Sherbrooke was John MacIntosh, who served from 1842-55, and the last was Henry Barnes, who held the position from 1947 until his death in 1968. The jailer for the Sherbrooke Jail received a place to live and a small payment for each prisoner’s upkeep. The pay was so small that the jailer often held another job. One jailer worked as a photographer while others were constables for the area. The jailer’s wife sometimes took on sewing jobs as a way to earn extra money or worked as a midwife, using empty cells upstairs to house expecting mothers. The jailer’s wife was also responsible for the cooking not only for her family but for the prisoners as well.
Typically, people from Sherbrooke and surrounding areas were detained for minor offences such as driving their horse too fast down the street (recklessness, endangering lives); being drunk and disorderly; illegal hunting and fishing; stealing; not paying their bills; or selling illegal liquor. In addition to prisoners, peddlers, backpackers, and hobos stayed at the jail when there was room.
After Henry Barnes died, his wife and family lived in the house until 1970, when the building was purchased by the Sherbrooke Restoration Commission. Now restored, the Sherbrooke Jail appears much as it would have in its early days. The upstairs cells have bars on the windows but not on the doors. In the jailer’s residence, are several rooms. The parlor includes furniture covered with woven horsehair, and there is a wreath made from human hair. In the hall is a butter churn, an apple peeler, and a beehive stove. Upstairs there are two family bedrooms and a sewing room.
In the kitchen is a stove called a Waterloo, which is over 125 years old and was built in Yarmouth. The stove continues to be used by Village staff for cooking and baking. In the kitchen is a brick bath used to clean silver, a razor sharpener, a shaving mirror and a sausage maker. The clock dates to the early 1800s.