Cell Block Museum

120 North Waco Street, Hillsboro, Texas
Open Saturdays, April – October, 10 am – 4 pm
Admission free.  Donations accepted.

Located one block north of the courthouse square in Hillsboro, the Cell Block Museum was originally built in 1893 and served as the county jailhouse until 1983, when it was converted to a museum to house memorabilia from throughout Hill County.  Architect W. C. Dodson [more] of Waco designed the structure along with the Hill County Courthouse and many other notable Texas buildings.

Traditional for the time that it was built, from the outside the jailhouse has the appearance of a two-story Victorian home with a long porch and gothic wrought iron fence. The front part of the first floor and the second story of the building were the living quarters for the Sheriff and his family. 

Kitchen Pass-through
Pass-through in wall, for serving meals to the prisoners  

The Sheriff’s wife typically did the cooking for both the family and the prisoners.  Downstairs in the former kitchen is a pass-through window in the wall, through which meals were served to the prisoners.  Minnie Beall Long, who lived here in the mid to late 1910’s when her father was Sheriff, wrote about many of the daily routines in the county jailhouse.

The back of the building housed the prisoners.  Tall windows with steel bars and iron shutters are evidence that this served as "home" to many of Hill County’s most notorious criminals.  This included Raymond Hamilton, a friend of Clyde Barrow of "Bonnie and Clyde" fame and a member of the Barrow Gang in the 1930s.

Jail Cell
  Jail Cell with lever used to lock the cells

While in the Army, Elvis Presley, the "King of Rock and Roll," was stationed just south of Hill County at Fort Hood.  As a friend of the owners of the Andrews Café, he often came to Hillsboro to visit.  It is rumored that he once spent a night in the county jail for drunken behavior, but the sheriff’s records to prove it have disappeared.

Many of the jail cells have now been removed to accommodate exhibits, but several still remain, including the cell known as “Solitary” and the cell of the jail’s final inmate.  Graffiti immortalizing him still remains:  "The Last Man Here – Joe Kelly 12.31.82."

Everything in the museum has been donated by various Hill County residents.  Displays include

  • Early Hill County photographs and artwork
  • Original cell blocks used to house prisoners
  • Sheriff’s office
  • Memorabilia from Jack Loftis, Hill County native and editor of the Houston Chronicle
  • Arrowheads
  • Native American artifacts and arrowheads
  • Medical equipment
  • Military uniforms and medals
  • Cotton industry exhibit
  • Restaurant memorabilia
  • Vintage clothing exhibit 
  • Early Texas kitchen
  • Sewing machine
  • Bank interior from Irene, Texas
  • Dolls and toys
  • Panel murals by Margaret Buie depicting Hill County’s history

Willie Nelson, who was born and raised in Abbott, donated many personal items, including some of his platinum albums.  The display of these is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.

True Texas Tales of the People, Places, and Events of Hill County, Texas