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The Coby Jail

July 12, 2023

Coby Jail from Summer Times, 1986

Originally Published in the Summer Times, May 27, 1986

Today the Coboconk jail is home to a senior citizen’s arts and crafts outlet, operated through the New Horizons Club, however, in the past it served as the part time home for some of the village’s characters. Located on Water Street right next to Thompson’s Marina, Coboconk’s old former jail sits quietly. However, in the early 1900s, the jail was not so silent.

Seated on an 18×20 square foot lot, the square building measures 15 x 19.2 square feet (288 square feet). The jail was constructed by Albert Ryckman in about 1890. Today it stands, still solid with the original 2 foot thick limestone walls, the limestone of which was mined straight from Coboconk’s quarry. Originally, the jail contained two separate cells as well as the sheriff’s desk. A wooden door with a barred window led into each cell. Presently these two doors are used in Mr. Garnet Ryckman’s cottage on Water Street as permanent fixtures. The two windows in the jail still contain the original iron bars in them.

Evidence of the box woodstove which was used to heat the small jail is visible as the brick chimney can still be seen on the roof the jail. Inside a small duct leading into the jail where the stove would have been hooked up can be seen. Although the jail has been fixed up inside, the general building has remained the same. Mr. Joseph Wakelin was the first and only constable known who took charge of the jail. Mr. Wakelin was appointed as County Constable and jail master in 1899. He also held the position of Truant Officer for the Coboconk Public School at that time.

Constable Wakelin is often remembered as putting someone away for the night because one-too-many were had at the Pattie House or because someone was caught speeding down the main street in his buggy. Constable Wakelin seems to have been particularly strict on moonshiners and people fishing or hunting on Sunday. After serving the village of Coboconk for 23 years, Constable Wakelin resigned and the Lindsay Post explains his ill health as his reason for resignation.

With Constable Wakelin’s resignation, the small jail stood vacant for about 50 years. Finally, in 1974, when the jail faced possible destruction because there was thought to be no use for it, the ‘New Horizons’ group took it over. In its eleventh year now, ‘Ye Old Jail, continues to display and sell the arts and crafts made by this local senior citizens group. This unique stone jail, possibly the smallest in Ontario, is an interesting and important part of our heritage. Soon to be celebrating its 100th birthday, the jail, having been kept up well over the years, is a logical building to be designated historical and preserved for the future.

Material and research into sites selected are provided by Bexley’s Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee, through a grant from the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. The project was presented by Coboconk student Jenni Moffett. Complete project listings are available in the Bexley Township Office.

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