Convict Leasing and State Account Farming (1883-1909)
Page 1 | 2 | 3 |
The State Account System
Convicts and guards of Imperial State Farm, circa 1900. Topical photographs, Photographs, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
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.
During "sugar rolling," the raw cane stalks were hauled to mills to be crushed between giant rollers. Once the cane was harvested, it rotted quickly, so the men typically worked round the clock.
Learn More - Politics and the Prison System
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.
Complete Table of Contents
Quick Links to Major Topics