Fear, Force, and Leather: The Texas Prison System&rsquot;s First Hundred Years 1848-1948

Directors of the State Penitentiary to Governor Peter H. Bell, November 11, 1851

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Directors of the state penitentiary to Governor Bell, November 1851

To his Excellency P.H. Bell Governor of the State of Texas


The undersigned Directors of the State Penitentiary
Would in pursuance of the law organising [sic] the same, Respectfully
Report that when they entered upon their duties as such, the
Penitentiary was, (and still is) in its infancy. The outer wall of the
block of cells erected, not over five feet high, the ground open to all,
and no security of the convicts from escape[.] Since that period, the
outer wall of that block has been completed, and the cells enclosed,
and covered in. [A] kitchen and pantry has [sic] been erected, according
to the plan approved, mainly by convict labor. All the cells on
the south side of the block, together with a circular stair way [sic]
to the upper tier of cells, with a walk and bannisters [sic] on three
sides of the building, together with a wagon shop, cabinet shop
and black smith [sic] shop, have been finished and built by the
convicts, without cost to the state, except for materials[.] A number
of the convicts have been engaged in the brick making business
which has been successful in an immense degree, a finer article
in that line, cannot be found in the South. We would respectfully
refer your excellency, to the annexed reports of the condition of
the several branches of business carried on, for an evidence of their
very flourishing condition. The wagon shop has been in operation
but ten months, brick making but one year, the carpenter, cabinet
and blacksmith shops not over nineteen months, and the sales
have been near three thousand dollars, leaving on hand three
hundred and fifty thousand brick (burnt and unburnt) [fired and unfired] with
a heavy amount of wood on hand, together with a large amount
of wagon work ready for sale, and material on hand, with bal[ance]
in favor of the state from all the branches. It is true the expenses
have been heavy, but the causes are evident; and ordinary in
their character. The convicts have to be brought here, and when
here, have to be guarded, fed and clothed. In the present
exposed condition of the Penitentiary grounds, an excess of guard
is demanded, rations and clothing are no small items, and


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Directors of the State Penitentiary to Governor Peter H. Bell, November 11, 1851. Correspondence Concerning the Penitentiary, Records Relating to the Penitentiary, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: February 9, 2016