The Convict Cage, or "Jail on Wheels," was actually a prison pulled by a team of horses or mules. During the early 20th century, it was not possible to return prisoners doing work in the remote areas of Pickens County back (here) to the Pickens "Gaol" every night. Although the wagon-cage is only twelve feet long, seven feet wide, and eight feet high, there were six metal bunk beds of three tiers each inside for a total of eighteen beds. A small metal barrel in the center of the floor was used for a fire on cold nights, and canvas covered the sides of the cage to protect the men from cold winds. While the treatment of prisoners seems horrible by today's standards, it was hardly unusual for the early 1900s, and it was certainly far better than the treatment many prisoners received in the years before 1900.
The People's Journal reported in the issue of March 19, 1903: "As the Pickens County, S.C., portable caravansary, made for the county chain-gang, passed through Pickens on Saturday the earth trembled. It might prove a solution of the road problem, if enough mules could be attached to it to draw it over the county. It is a road picker."
The men who worked on the roads in the county and who slept in the cage at night were often serving short sentences. On weekends, their families sometimes visited them and brought small baskets of food from home. One man, who remembers visiting a relative assigned to the cage while performing county work, remarked that everyone including the guards would have lunch together on Sunday and talk about friends and local happenings. A typical "road meal" consisted of foods such as fried bacon, biscuits and syrup, and coffee for breakfast; cabbage, bacon, and cornbread for lunch; and fried bacon, biscuits and syrup for supper.
After the county acquired gasoline powered trucks and machinery in the 1930s the cage ceased to be used.