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Old Lockeford jail has colorful past

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Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:48 am, Sat Aug 18, 2012.

Did you know that Lockeford once had a jail, complete with a constable, circuit court and justice of the peace?

The jail is no longer occupied, but the building still sits on Elliott Road, just north of the town water tower and across from the Lockeford Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"I can remember them building that thing," said Elmer Anderson, whose father, Tip, was the town constable for more than 30 years. "I was 4 or 5 years old." Elmer Anderson was a child when the current building was constructed in about 1930.

Alaina Young, vice president of the Lockeford Historical Society, is doing some research on the old jail.

"No one living knows (exactly) when this building was built," said Young, who hopes to someday comb any available historical records at the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office. "I find more questions than answers when I research."

Lockeford had a jail at the same location as early as 1880, but the original building was destroyed sometime after 1880, supposedly when a cowboy riding a horse lassoed the building and pulled it over on its side.

"That's the town lore," Young said.

Young has talked to long-time Lockeford residents like Elmer and Bernice Anderson. She's also checked records with Lodi historian Ralph Lea and at the San Joaquin County History Museum.

Young only began researching the old Lockeford jail six weeks ago. She became interested in town history because she married into the pioneer Locke family. Her husband, Jeff, is a sixth-generation Locke family member, and their daughter, Brittany, 21, is a seventh-generation descendent.

Not only is Young researching the Lockeford jail, she's also trying to track down the 500 to 600 unmarked burials at the historic Harmony Grove Cemetery.

Tip Anderson, who also married a Locke family descendent, was known as a well-liked constable who moved to Lockeford from Tulare County, said Elmer Anderson's wife, Bernice. However, he rarely discussed his job with his family, she said.

There were a couple of exceptions — when Tip Anderson reportedly shot a bank robber in the 1920s, and the time someone tried to help an inmate escape.

The bank robbery was at Union Safe Deposit Bank on Highway 88, near the current Napa Auto Parts building. Legend has it, according to Bernice Anderson, that Tip, as constable, was allowed to go upstairs to a bar and shoot the robber from the window. The robber was across Highway 88 at the bank, located on the ground floor of where Lockeford Sausage is located today, she said.

A few years later, Tip Anderson foiled a jail escape. The constable was asleep at home when his daughter woke him up. She told him she had just driven past the jail and saw a vehicle parked in front.

Tip Anderson left home and spent the night at the jail to make sure the suspect didn't get away, Bernice Anderson said. A Sheriff's deputy arrived the next day to pick up the suspect and take him to county jail, she added.

Tip, which was his real name, moved to Lockeford in 1914. He retired as constable in 1959 and died in 1973 at the age of 93. He is buried at historic Harmony Grove Cemetery on Locke Road.

The jail, with two cells inside, isn't open to the community because it contains some mold inside. Members of the Lockeford Historical Society hope it gets refurbished so that one of the cells can be converted into a small museum.

However, it will be up to the Lockeford Community Services District, which owns the small, gray structure, to decide if it will be accessible to the public.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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