About the Calaboose
Located in Hays County’s first jail constructed in 1873, the Calaboose African American History Museum (CAAHM) was organized in 1997 by Mrs. Johnnie Armstead. Actor and director, Robert Redford’s great-grandfather, Zachariah P. Bugg, a former Confederate soldier, was the sheriff of Hays County when the Calaboose was built. When the second Hays County jail was built in 1884, the Calaboose was used to house black prisoners. Recognized as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1990, the building served as a USO facility for black soldiers during World War II and as a community center and café.
Mrs. Johnnie M. Armstead (left) rescued the building from the wrecker’s ball and helped raise funds for its renovation under the direction of architect Jeffrey H. Kester. In May of 1997, the San Marcos City Council approved a resolution to designate the building for use as a history museum.
The core of the museum's collection consists of artifacts from Mrs. Armstead's personal holdings accumulated over the years. The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 500 items, including photographs, letters, books, textiles, drawings, and other artifacts. A 501-c3 tax-exempt institution, the CAAHM is administered by a board of directors under the auspices of the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department.
A devoted wife and mother of three children, Mrs. Johnnie Armstead served as a Girl Scouts leader for many years, and she was superintendent of the Sunday School department at her church. Mrs. Armstead held memberships in the Hays County Historical Commission, The San Marcos Heritage Association, and Preservation Associates. Mrs. Armstead was the office manager for the local Democratic Party, and she was active in the NAACP Chapter, etc. Mrs. Armstead served as president of the Calaboose Board of Directors and museum director until her death in 2008.
Current Board Members
Dr. Elvin Holt
Coordinator of Children's Activities
Dr. Margo Handwerker