BRUNSVILLE, Iowa | In December 1952, newlyweds Elmer and Peggy Wilken moved to the 300 block of Linn Street in Brunsville.

To a home across the street from the Brunsville jail.

"Our boys played in the jail," Peggy told me on Thursday. "They'd ride their bikes and play outdoors all day. The old jail was part of it."

The old jail, which was -- and still is -- open and unused, was built in 1911, as far as local historian Susan Willer can ascertain, same year Brunsville was incorporated.

The 12-foot by 15-foot block and brick brig features two cells, a couple of windows with iron bars, and a hole where a pot-belly stove once connected to the chimney. The stove is gone, as are locks on cell doors.

A robin remains, chirping at visitors, guarding three eggs in a nest atop the south cell.

Willer and the Four Seasons Club, of which she's a member, will unveil a plaque detailing the history of the Brunsville jail in a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Coffee and treats follow at the Corner Cafe located a couple of blocks to the south and west.

A ribbon-cutting for a hoosegow built 106 years ago?

The question elicits a laugh from Willer, who enjoys the legend of Brunsville's joint-building duo, whom she won't reveal because they still have relatives in this Plymouth County town of 149. According to Willer, two men built the prison and quickly became its first prisoners.

"From what I've learned, two men built the jail and got paid for doing so," Willer says. "They took their money that night and went to the local tavern and became a bit too rowdy."

How rowdy? Rowdy enough to find themselves slammed into their slammer that night.

They didn't stay locked up for long. According to Willer, the men escaped and returned to the tavern to raise more commotion. The police officer was summoned a second time and subsequently locked them up again.

"And, again, they broke out of jail and returned to the tavern," Willer said.

Only then, did the officer notice some loose bricks, which sprang the miscreants from their place in the pen.

Willer will share that story and more in her short program. The idea came about after she walked by the jail one day several months ago.

"I walked past a father who had brought his sons to town to show them the old jail," she says. "I realized it's a piece of Brunsville history that we should share by telling the story. It might bring people to town."

Willer will place a journal inside, inviting visitors to sign the ledger and record an observation if they'd like.

She'll also praise folks in town who quietly took it upon themselves to keep the clink clean for years.

It is a wonder this sturdy little structure has remained in place, though unused, for generations. It stands quietly aside the old Brunsville City Hall, a wooden structure Willer would love to transform into a museum someday.

Wilken may like that idea. As with the old jail, she has history across Linn Street. "I used to work elections in the old city hall," she said.

Elections these days unfold one-half block south and east in the spacious Heeren-McHale-Wilkens American Legion Post No. 724.

So that's where you go to vote. And, if you raise a ruckus at the tavern? Well, you won't stay in Brunsville. You'll be cuffed and carted off to Le Mars, the county seat.



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