Venango County was founded in 1800, and the first jail utilized a blockhouse, located in Franklin, Pennsylvania. It was built by the American government in 1799 and abandoned a few years later when the threat of Indian uprisings in the area had subsided.
This blockhouse was commonly referred to as the Old Garrison and was located just north of the Allegheny River on the western shore of French Creek. The Old Garrison was used as the jail until 1819 when the building became dilapidated and was replaced.
The first jailer for the County was Captain George Fowler. Captain Fowler had been a soldier with the British Army during the Revolutionary War but stayed in the country following the war.
The Second Jail
The second jail was built in South Park near the site of the current Court House in 1819 for a price of $2,995. The jail housed the Sheriff and his family and also had an annex which gave the inmates an opportunity to go outside.
There were several problems with the jail as its walls could be easily climbed and many inmates escaped. It was documented that when a circus once came to town, the inmates climbed the walls and watched the circus from that vantage point. This building was in use for over 30 years until it was replaced.
The Third Jail
The third jail was built on the site of the present jail and was completed in 1853 for a price of $9,500. In 1868, the jail was expanded to contain 20 cells in two tiers built around an open courtyard.
The Fourth Jail
In 1909, the jail was reported to be one of the worst in the state, and plans were made to construct a new jail. The plans called for the removal of the present jail and the new one to built upon the existing site.
At the time of construction, there were only two inmates housed in the jail. They were moved into the female section, and assisted in part of the demolition. After one of the inmates escaped by climbing down a wall, the inmates were then housed in Crawford County until the new building was completed in 1911.
This building was constructed at a cost of $40,000 and was designed to hold approximately 30 inmates.