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Carthage Jail, located in Carthage, Illinois, was the location of the death of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, and his brother Hyrum by a mob of approximately 150 men. Friends John Taylor and Willard Richards were also members of the incarcerated party, but were not killed. The group had reported to Carthage, the county seat, to face charges brought against Joseph. On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the upper room of the prison and killed Joseph and Hyrum. John Taylor was badly wounded and Willard Richards was scathed, but not injured.
The jail was built in 1839. Constructed of native red limestone, the two-story, rectangular, gable-front building measures twenty-nine by thirty-five feet. Like other county jails in Illinois, Carthage Jail was built to incarcerate petty thieves and debtors and to serve as a temporary holding place for violent criminals. It housed a debtor's room in the northwest corner of the first floor, and a dungeon, or "criminal cell" on the second floor, north side. There was also a living area for the jailer's family that included a kitchen, a dining room, and bedrooms.
The Jail today
The Carthage Jail is currently restored to an approximation of its condition at the time of the Smiths' deaths. The site and the city block it stands on is currently owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and has been established as a historical site and visitor's center.
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