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W. Va. Penitentiary, 1899

W. Va. Penitentiary, 1899


from the Moundsville Daily Echo, December 20, 1899.


(But this is not the Ga-zet-tee)

Mr. Editor Echo -- As the Ga-zet-tee's prison notes have grown threadbare and lots of time entirely blank, we write to your paper to keep this great institution (according to that sheet a few months ago) prominently in the public eye. Maybe no more interesting stuff could be penned than to tell why this dearth of convict tommyrot in the Gazettee. It starts at the beginning away back and ends some time in the future.

Once upon a time some men who had been appointed to jobs at this place got heads as big as Chris Magee and thought that they would have to own a newspaper like Chris owns the Pittsburg Times and that would make them powers as big along side Elkins as Chris is against Quay. So they passed around the hat and got the Gazettee to start a daily paper and the guards subscribed for ten copies each and a great many of the convicts were "induced" to subscribe. A gutter politician convict from Washington City who came here for stealing a gallon of whiskey and because Mark's letter to the judge had no pull, -- (but that, as Kipling says, is another story) -- that Washington convict was made prison correspondent. Well, you all know what coal tar taffy he wrote -- and the paper printed! Two or three fainting spells were reported to result from reading it and a number of people lost their appetites.

The way it was produced was marvelous. A guard would coach the poor fellow to write up a vulgar joke on another guard and so on et cetera, until some true friends of the paper prevailed on the publishers to stiffen their spinal column about five seconds each day and put the stuff into a pigeonhole alongside their resolutions to slaughter republican candidates in the convention if it should look the most profitable -- but this is another story too.

Well, that lost subscribers, of course. Now, about that time the political ambition of some guards had grown up to the ticket naming size. The captain, so the story goes, had a story written in the shape of an interview with a prominent visitor -- prominent visitors interviews were numerous those days(?) -- booming General Duvall for governor and making a dire threat of what would be done if an Elkins man were nominated. The story with some affidavits was sent to S. B. himself. A prominent state republican then actually called at the prison -- but let's not open that closet door for a time yet.

Well, to jump a few pages, there were five or six kinds of trouble and a couple of colors too, for that matter, here last week before the board. For a long time there have been stories about the inhuman floggings said to be given colored convicts under the personal direction of the captain who usually jeers at the poor wretches while they are being punished, and the women about Tenth street are startled by the cries that emanate through the walls.

The colored republic club of the city met recently and appointed a committee to investigate the matter. The warden allowed them to go inside the prison and examine a number of the convicts and they found ample evidence of what they were seeking and later secured some affidavits from people who knew what they were talking about and were not convicts, either. They next day they went before the board and asked for the removal of Capt Reece. The warden replied, "File your charges." They told him that they were not there to be pigeonholed in that way, that they all well knew what the conditions were and that if at the end of thirty days the warden had not removed that captain they would have every colored republican club in the state pass resolutions that would make an interesting condition of affairs in politics in the next state campaign.

Now today comes "heap big trouble," as [t]he noble red man would say in classical English. The colored guard felt a curiosity to know what the colored club was doing at their meeting last night, (course nobody else about the prison had spoken to him about the matter!), and when the club doorkeeper concluded that his actions might be considered eavesdropping there was trouble, followed by warrant and the end is not yet.

Hawkeye.[ . . . ]

Colored Guard Arrested.

In Squire Edwards court today a warrant was issued for J H Campbell, colored guard at the prison, and the writ was served by constable G W Evans. Campbell gave bond and the hearing was set for New Years Day. He is charged by members of the colored club with causing such a racket outside the door that the meeting was compelled to adjourn.

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