Fear, Force, and Leather: The Texas Prison System&rsquot;s First Hundred Years 1848-1948
Rough Beginnings, 1849-1861
War and Collapse, 1861-1871
The Lease Era, 1871-1883
Convict Leasing, 1883-1909
Scandal and Reform, 1909-1911
Perpetual Inquiry, 1911-1927
Reform and Reaction, 1927-1948
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Convict Leasing and State Account Farming (1883-1909)

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The State Account System

Imperial State Farm circa 1900

Report on overtime during sugar rolling at the Harlem Farm, December 1889

In addition to convict leasing, the state began to operate its own farms, a system known as state account. The first was Wynne, a 1900-acre spread just two miles from Huntsville, which the state bought as part of the final settlement with Cunningham & Ellis. At Wynne, elderly or infirm prisoners were kept busy growing cotton, corn, vegetables, and animal fodder for the prison’s own use. More profitable ventures were soon to follow. In 1886, the state purchased the Harlem sugar plantation and several adjacent tracts of land along the Brazos River near Richmond. Within a year the operation was turning a profit. In 1899 the state purchased the William Clemens sugar plantation and mill near Velasco, and in 1908, the state bought three additional operations: Riddick, a plantation adjoining the Harlem farm; Imperial, purchased from Imperial Sugar; and Ramsey, a huge property consisting of five former plantations.

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In the 1890s and 1900s, the prison system became an important cog in a political fundraising machine that helped elect four governors. Learn more about politics and the prison system.


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A Run of Bad Luck

Page last modified: January 11, 2016