January 30, 2022
(photos and memories of Silverton, Texas from January 2013)
Silverton (often slurred to ‘Sillton’) is the home of Jerry Baker, proprietor & curator of the old Briscoe County Jail Museum. As I was taking photos of the county courthouse and the old county jail, Jerry found me and introduced himself. Jerry can always spot the tourists, he says, and he told me, “Sillton is such a small town I know everybody here already and can easily pick out the strangers.”
Jerry was born in Silverton, lived in larger towns and cities for a while, sold drugs, did drugs, got medication for bipolar disorder, then came back home to enjoy life. He’ll tell you all this while showing off the old jailer’s bottom floor cot and the stairs up to the two jail cells on the second floor. Jail capacity was 8 prisoners. The jailer stayed on the ground floor so that prisoners would have to go past him if trying to escape.
Outside the jail, Jerry will point out the hand-made bat houses on the upper floor jail cell windows. Building bat houses on the old jail kept bats from making homes in the nearby courthouse.
Being a jail museum curator is only a part-time job, so Jerry runs a mowing business in the summer. He’s such a good talker that he’s become pretty well-known around Texas and has been interviewed by TV stations — he has even appeared a few times giving the Texas weather on morning TV news shows. Jerry seems to like everyone and everyone seems to like him.
I searched the internet and found a link to a YouTube video of Jerry Baker discussing tornadoes with storm chasers from the Vortex2 project in 2009: Jerry Baker from Silverton, Texas talks about tornadoes. (His accent is as strong as a Texas wind!)
The Briscoe County Courthouse was built in 1922 and is still in use today. The old jail remains on the courthouse grounds, but prisoners are now housed in a newer facility.
Of course, Silverton is a small place. There are a few churches, a high school, and a couple of convenience stores. The largest bank in town is the Happy State Bank — named for the town of Happy, Texas but a great name for a bank nevertheless.
In Silverton, houses line gravel streets. Only courthouse square is paved. Dogs are often found lying on front lawns. I saw one house that had two border collies, a black lab, and a gray cat staring me down as I drove past. There was another dog in the back, a brown hound dog kept in a cage. I suppose he is the mean one.
If you happen to be in the Texas Panhandle, or specifically in Briscoe County, check out the Caprock Canyons State Park along the escarpment of the Llano Estacado. The park is situated at the spot where the plateau drops off into west Texas sagebrush prairies. I copied a photo from the park website below. A gallery of brilliant photos of the park can be found here: (photos of Caprock Canyons State Park).
So, if you’re on a road trip, escaping the northern winter’s cold with a warm and dry sojourn in the Texas Panhandle, do stop by Silverton if you have a chance. Jerry Baker will find you if he is able, and you’ll add him to your list of friends.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
All photos were taken by the author on January 15, 2013.
I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
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