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The 1879 History of Jones County Iowa was transcribed by Janet A. Brandt.


Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Cellblock corridor.

Prison shop.

Prison yard.


On the 8th of May, 1872, the Penitentiary Commissioners, Messrs. Martin Heisey, formerly Warden of the State Penitentiary at Fort Madison, William Ure, of Linn County, and Maj. F. L. Downing, of Oskaloosa, inspected several sites talked of for the location of the Anamosa Penitentiary building. The Commissioners were accompanied by Messrs. John McKean, John Tasker, B. F. Shaw, C. H. Lull, Dr. N. G. Sales, T. W. Shapley, E. C. Holt, G. W. Field, J. S. McClure and others. The tract first examined in the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 3, and at the time was the property of Dr. N. G. Sales, except ten acres owned by R. N. Fowler.
Having made an examination of this tract, the party returned by way of what was known at the time as the thirteen-acre tract talked of for a county fair ground, lying within the northwestern limits of the corporation. An examination of this tract over, the party returned to the Fisher House. At 1 o'clock, a complimentary banquet was given in honor of the Hon. John McKean, Hon. P. G. Bonewitz and Hon. John Tasker, the Jones County members of the General Assembly, as a recognition of their efforts in behalf of the Penitentiary project, and also in honor of the Commissioners, who were present for the first time in official capacity. At the conclusion of the banquet, Senator John McKean called the house to order, and Capt. E. B. Alderman was made Chairman.
Messrs. H. C. Metcalf, C. H. Lull and R. N. Fowler were appointed a committee to act for the city of Anamosa with the Penitentiary Commissioners, in matters pertaining to the location of the Penitentiary buildings, and other things coming within the province of the Commissioners as to the city of Anamosa. T. R. Ercanbrack, Milton Remley and J. L. Sheean were appointed a committee, and reported resolutions expressive of the sentiments of those present toward the Jones County members and others, for their efforts and services in behalf of the penitentiary project. The report was unanimously adopted, after which the meeting adjourned, and the Commissioners took their departure for a tour of observation to the prisons of other States.
About the 4th of June, 1872, the Commissioners met and located the Penitentiary just northwest of the town, on the ground in the angle formed by the Dubuque & Southwestern Railroad and the public highway leading from Anamosa to Fisherville. A subscription of $3,500 was raised by the citizens to purchase such lands as were not donated. Dr. Sales donated twelve lots, and sold two more at $50 each. On the west side of the Buffalo, the Doctor donated thirty-six acres, and sold twenty-five acres for $1,250, the citizens paying for the same. The Doctor also gave the right of way over his land to the quarries, as did also Mr. Israel Fisher. The first quarry bought by the State lies three mils west of the land donated to the State. This quarry includes twenty acres within boundaries, more or less being suitable for the purpose for which it was purchased. The second quarry comprises a tract of eighty acres, a large part of which is underlaid with the finest building-stone. The latter was the well-known and valuable quarry of Messrs. Krause, Shaw & Weaver, which had been running for years, and, at the time, was owned by Dr Sales.
The State has 100 acres of land at the quarries, sixty-one acres of pasture or tillable land in the forks of the Buffalo, and fifteen acres for the Penitentiary buildings-in all, about 175 acres. The State paid to Dr. Sales for the quarries, $15,000; the citizens paid to him, $1,250; Orrin Sage, of Ware, Mass., donated one block of ten lots for the buildings, and other lots were purchased by the citizens to the full amount of their subscriptions, and donated by them to the State. The State thus secures more than was called for in the bill for its location, to wit: Ten acres of stone quarry, at a cost not to exceed $15,000, and seventy acres for penitentiary and other purposes. The pledges of the citizens to the State were fully carried out, we are glad to record, to the honor of the people of Jones County.
The plan of the new Penitentiary was the work of L. W. Foster & Co., and the proper authorities approved the same, at Des Moines, about the 1st of September, 1872.
The following is a synopsis of the plan adopted: The structure is to be of cut stone, 636x933 feet on the ground. In the center of the front is the Warden's house, 50x60 feet and five stores high, the last a tower whose summit is 112 feet above the base. These apartments will be furnished in comfortable and substantial style. In the rear of the Warden's house is the guardhouse, 20x40 feet in size, and in the rear of that the guards' rotunda, 50x50 feet. Opening off from the rotunda to the right and left are the cellrooms, each 52x190 feet, and each containing 320 cells. In the rear of the rotunda is the dining-room, 50x120 feet. Over this apartment are the chapel, schoolroom, library and hospital, all connected with the center building by an inclosed corridor. All the rooms are well lighted and fully ventilated. The grounds are to be inclosed with a stone wall twenty-two feet high, six feet thick at the base and four feet thick at the top.
Whoever remembers the State Penitentiaries of forty years ago, will readily see and appreciate the vast progress made in a single generation in providing for the prisoners a dining-room, chapel, library and schoolroom. Such things were undreamed of by lawmakers not many years ago.
The work on the buildings was commenced on the 28th of September, 1872. A good degree of progress has been made, and, at present writing, there are cells and accommodations for about two hundred convicts, who are employed in the quarries and in labor at stone-cutting and construction labor. The cells, dining-room, cook department, chapel and hospital are now in what is to be one of the workshops, when the additional buildings are completed. About 20 per cent of the work necessary to the completion of specifications laid down in the plan is already accomplished, and the work is progressing nicely under the present management. The building, when completed, will be an imposing structure, one of the largest and most thoroughly modern, in all of its appointments, of any prison in the country. When completed, the Warden's house, prison cells, guards' hall, entrance hall to the dining-room, will be in the shape of a cross, and a guard standing in the center of this hall can see to the extremity of either wing. A provision is made whereby the guards mount the wall from the outside, and avoid the necessity of passing among the prisoners in mounting guard. The buildings, shops and walls, will be built of stone obtained from the State quarries, elsewhere described, and the labor is done by the prisoners.
On the 13th of May, 1873, twenty convicts were transferred from the Penitentiary at Fort Madison, and with these there have been received, up to present writing, 606 convicts; 435 have been discharged, by reason of expiration of term of service, by pardon and other causes, leaving in the prison 171 prisoners. A few have escaped during this time, but are counted with the 435.
Of the Commissioners first appointed, Mr. Heisey was made Acting Warden and served in that capacity until the 1st of April, 1876, when the Hon. A. E. Martin, of Delhi, was made Warden, and still continues in that position. The financial affairs during Mr. Heisey's administration seem to have been somewhat defective, as disclosed by an examination of the books. We understand that an investigation has been had, and that a final adjustment was made with the State of Iowa, and Mr. Heisey exonerated from any criminal negligence while acting in the capacity of Warden.
The accommodations for prisoners, to the number now held, are passably commodious, and as healthful as it is possible to make them under the circumstances. The prisoners are kindly treated, and most excellent discipline secured by firm and judicious treatment. The present officers are:
Hon. A. E. Martin, Warden.
L. B. Peet, Acting Deputy Warden.
W. H. Pearson, Clerk.
L. J. Adair, Physician.
Mrs. A. C. Merrill, Chaplain.
Lew Kinsey, Turnkey.
Number of guards, twenty-one.
Mr. Martin not only insists that each one shall be faithful to the purposes for which he is appointed, but likewise is always on hand to give personal supervision to all matters of importance.
Mrs. A. C. Merrill is the only lady chaplain of a similar institution in the United States, and is eminently satisfactory to the officers, and universally popular with the prisoners. With the assistance of some of the citizens of Anamosa, she conducts a good Sabbath school each Sunday morning, after which the chapel exercises continue for the space of an hour. The convicts who are well enough are required to attend chapel service, but volunteers compose the Sunday-school scholars. In addition to the devotional and singing exercises at the chapel service, a sermon is delivered by some one-Mrs. Merrill frequently acting in this capacity herself-or some one is invited to deliver a didactic discourse. From a small beginning a library of upwards of 700 volumes has been secured, and the prisoners-a goodly number of them-thoroughly interested in reading. The books are mostly standard works, and reflect credit upon those who have made the selections from time to time. Those in the hospital are well and kindly cared for. The treatment of the sick is both rational and scientific.
Very little punishment is necessary, for the rules of discipline are so reasonable that only the most obstinate and willful could refuse to obey them. Out of seventy-six last discharged, forty-six gained a full reduction in time by reason of good conduct. Most of the others gained nearly full time, losing a few days only. Everything in and about the building is neatly and cleanly kept, and bears a cheerful and healthful appearance.
An examination at sundry times of the management of affairs warrants the conclusion that the interests of the State at this institution are carefully guarded. Mr. Pearson, the clerk, is an accurate and faithful accountant, and the books of the institution are kept by the most approved methods.


Statement of convicts received into and discharged from the Additional Penitentiary from October 1, 1877, to September 30, 1879, both dates inclusive:

In confinement October 1, 1877149
Received by conviction of courts up to
September 30, 1879
Received for safe keeping5
Escaped prisoners, recaptured and returned  6

Convicts Discharged—By expiration of term, 178; by pardon, 41; by commutation, 2; by escape, 14; by death, 3; by order of State Courts, 10; by order of United States Court, 6; sent to Asylum, 1; by transfer to Fort Madison Prison, 20; in confinement September 30, 1879, 180; total, 455.
Statement of Habits—Temperate, 199; intemperate, 101; total, 300.
Social State—Married, 92; widowers, 11; single, 197.
Sex—Male, 299; female, 1.
Education—Good, 36; fair, 8; common, 215; poor, 41.
Religious Education—Adventist, 2; Baptist, 12; Catholic, 65; Christian, 6; Congregational, 7; Episcopal, 10; Evangelistic, 1; Friends, 1; Jew, 1; Lutheran, 26; Methodist, 87; None, 53; Presbyterian, 23; Quaker, 1; Unitarians, 1; United Brethren, 2; Universalist, 2.
Statement of Term—Thirty days, 1; sixty days, 1; seventy days, 1; three months, 7; one hundred days, 3; four months, 7; five months, 1; six months, 37; eight months, 5; nine months, 12; ten months, 3; one year, 44; fourteen months, 1; fifteen months, 3; sixteen months, 4; eighteen months, 16; twenty months, 2; two years, 51; twenty-seven months, 1; thirty months. 15; three years, 30; three years and eight months, 1; four years, 10; four and one-half years, 1; five years, 17; six years, 2; seven years, 3; eight years, 1; ten years, 8; twelve and one-half years, 1; fifteen years, 1; sixteen years, 1; twenty years, 1; life, 3; safe keeping, 5; total, 300.
Statement of Age—Sixteen years, 6; seventeen, 7; eighteen, 16; nineteen, 24; twenty, 18; twenty-one, 16; twenty-two, 20; twenty-three, 26; twenty-four, 22; twenty-five, 12; twenty-six, 10; twenty-seven, 6; twenty-eight, 10; twenty-nine, 15; thirty, 11; thirty-one, 10; thirty-two, 7; thirty-three, 5; thirty-four, 7; thirty-five, 3; thirty-six, 1; thirty-seven, 7; thirty-eight, 4; thirty-nine, 6; forty, 2; forty-two, 4; forty-three, 3; forty-four, 1; forty-six, 2; forty-seven, 1; forty-eight, 2; fifty, 2; fifty-one, 4; fifty-two, 2; fifty-three, 1; fifty-four, 1; fifty-five, 1; fifty-seven, 1; fifty-eight, 1; sixty, 2; sixty-nine, 1; total, 300.
Statement of Nativity—Alabama, 1; Florida, 1; Illinois, 29; Indiana, 10; Iowa, 29; Kansas, 1; Kentucky, 4; Massachusetts, 7; Maine, 2; Maryland, 1; Michigan, 6; Minnesota, 2; Mississippi, 2; Missouri, 7; New Hampshire, 1; New Jersey, 4; New York, 44; Ohio, 29; Pennsylvania, 18; Rhode Island, 1; Tennessee, 1; Vermont, 2; Virginia, 4; Wisconsin, 24; West Virginia, 1; Canada, 10; Denmark, 3; England, 10; France, 1; Germany, 15; Ireland, 12; Norway, 5; Ocean, 1; Poland, 1; Prussia, 5; Scotland, 4; Sweden, 2; total, 300.
Occupation-Baker, 1; barber, 7; blacksmith, 8; bookbinder, 1; bookkeeper, 2; bricklayer, 2; brushmaker, 1; butcher, 9; cabinet-maker, 1; carpenter, 9; carriage-trimmer, 1; chainmaker, 1; cigar-maker, 4; civil engineer, 1; clerk, 4; cook, 6; cooper, 1; druggist, 1; engineer, 1; farmer, 61; farrier, 1; file-cutter, 1; fireman, 9; galvanizer, 1; hack-driver, 1; harness-maker, 3; housework, 1; laborer, 89; machinist, 4; mason, 2; merchant, 3; miller, 1; miner, 1; molder, 1; night-watch, 1; none, 2; peddler, 2; photographer, 1; physician, 2; plasterer, 8; porter, 1; printer, 3; professor of languages, 1; railroad, 7; restaurant-keeper, 1; sailor, 3; saloon-keeper, 2; shoemaker, 7; steamboat, 2; stocking-maker, 1; stone-cutter, 2; tailor, 2; tanner, 1; teamster, 5; trader, 2; watchmaker, 1; weaver, 1; wood-carver, 1.
Place of Crime—Allamakee, 2; Benton, 9; Black Hawk, 12; Boone, 2; Bremer, 1; Buchanan, 5; Buena Vista, 1; Butler, 9; Cedar, 6; Cerro Gordo, 7; Cherokee 1; Chickasaw, 4; Clayton, 20; Clinton, 29; Delaware, 3; Dubuque, 15; Fayette, 9; Floyd, 9; Franklin, 4; Greene, 3; Grundy, 3; Hamilton, 1; Hardin, 5; Harrison, 3; Howard, 2; Iowa, 2; Ida, 1; Jackson, 8; Johnson, 3; Jones, 13; Kossuth, 2; Linn, 19; Marshall, 12; Mitchell, 10; Monona, 1; Osceola, 5; Palo Alto, 3; Plymouth, 1; Scott, 24; Story, 10; Tama, 9; Winneshiek, 2; Woodbury, 5; North Division U. S. District of Iowa, 5.
Crime of Convict—Adultery, 4; arson, 7; assault with intent to murder, 9; assault with intent to rape, 7; assault with intent to rob, 3; assisting prisoners to escape, 1; attempt to extort money, 2; bigamy, 3; breaking and entering, 24; breaking and entering bank building, 2; breaking and entering dwelling-house, 7; burglary, 37; conspiracy, 3; disposing of mortgaged property, 1; embezzlement, 1; felony, 3; forgery, 24; grand larceny, 14; larceny, 104; incest, 2; manslaughter, 7; murder first degree, 5; murder second degree, 2; obtaining money under false pretence. 1; perjury, 2; rape, 1; receiving stolen property, 2; robbery, 13; seduction, 1; stealing from the person, 2; uttering forged notes, 1; for safe keeping, 5; total, 300.

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