GUILTY! This word, so replete with sadness and sorrow, fell on my ear on that blackest of all black Fridays, October 14, 1887.
Penitentiary lightning struck me in the city of Leavenworth, Kansas. I was tried in the United States District Court; hence, a United States prisoner. The offense for which I was tried and convicted was that of using the mails for fraudulent purposes, My sentence was eighteen months in the penitentiary, and a fine of two hundred dollars. I served sixteen months, at the end of which time I was given my liberty. During the period I was in prison I dug coal six months in the penitentiary coal mines, and was one of the clerks of the institution the remainder of the term. Getting permission to have writing material in my cell, I firstTHE TWIN HELLS.
mastered short-hand writing, or phonography, and then wrote my book: "A Kansas Hell; or, Life in the Kansas Penitentiary." My manuscript being in short-hand, none of the prison officials were able to read it, and did no know what I was doing until I obtained my liberty and had my book published.
This, no doubt will be the proper place to give some of my antecedents, as well as a few of the details of the crime for which I was sent to the penitentiary. I spent my youth and early manhood at Indianola, Iowa, from which place I removed to Nebraska. After residing for some time in Columbus, of that State, I was appointed by the governor to assist in organizing the Pawnee Indian Reservation into a county. When organized it was called Nance County, being named for Hon. Albinus Nance, then governor of the State. I held the position of county clerk of that county for four consecutive years, During this time I organized the Citizens' Bank. I was its cashier at first, and, later on, its president I had a lucrative business and was doing well. My wife's health failed her; she became consumptive. My family physician advised a removal to the South. I closed out my busi-MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
ness at a great sacrifice, and came to Atchison, Kansas. Here I located, and made it my future home. Soon after my arrival I commenced the publication of a daily newspaper, known as the Times. In the county in which I located I found one of the worst and most corrupt political rings on the face of the earth. This combination had controlled the politics of the county for almost a quarter of a century. Soon I became involved in a terrific newspaper war with the members of this political organization. An election of county and State officials was soon to take place. In order to test the strength of the contending elements, In my newspaper, I presented the name of Hon. W. D. Gilbert as a candidate for district judge in opposition to the ring candidate. A sharp fight ensued. Mr. Gilbert was elected by an overwhelming majority. This was the first time for twenty-five years that this ring had been defeated. The members of it were very sore. Looking upon me as the principal spirit, I was the object toward which they directed all their shafts of spite.
Some time before this an insurance company had been organized is the city of Atchison. I was invited to become its president ITHE TWIN HELLS.
examined the books of the corporation, and found it to be organized according to the laws of Kansas; that the company had a charter from the State, and also certified authority to issue policies of insurance, granted by the State insurance commissioner. I accepted the presidency on condition that the company was simply to have the use of my name, and that I was not expected to give any of my time to the company, as I was otherwise engaged. I was editor of a daily newspaper, and could not attend to anything else. While this company was doing business a printed circular was used, stating that the corporation had one hundred thousand dollars PAID UP capital. This circular was sent out through the mails over the State advertising the business. It was charged this circular was fraudulent; that the company did not have that amount of capital paid in. My name was attached to this printed circular. For this, I was indicted in the United States District Court, on the charge of using the mails for fraudulent purposes. The advertised capital of this corporation was subscribed, but not all paid in, as it was not needed in the business of the company. After indictment I was arrested, and gave bonds for my appear-MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
ance at the next term of court, which was held soon after.
Not being able to secure the attendance of all my witnesses, my attorney wrote the prosecuting attorney asking his consent that my case be continued. The request was granted. When the case was called, my attorney appeared and introduced a motion to continue the case, filing affidavits necessary in such cases. The prosecuting attorney having given his consent, there was no doubt in the minds of those interested as to the continuance of the case. For some cause best known to himself, the judge would not grant the continuance, and forced me to trail without having a single witness. It was my intention to have some witnesses subpoenaed, to prove that the company of which I was president not a fraud. Not being allowed to have witnesses, I was, under the instructions of court, which were, indeed, exceedingly found guilty, and sentenced to months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of two hundred dollars. The political ring now triumphed for a brief period. In order to prove conclusively to the reader that this was a piece of spite work, I have only toTHE TWIN HELLS.
state that I was the only one of all the officers of that company that was ever tried for running a bogus insurance company. Why was it that I was the only one sent to the penitentiary when there was the secretary, treasurer, and six directors equally as guilty as myself?
To prove more conclusively that it was political spite work that sent me to prison, let me inform the readers that about the time the insurance company at Atchison was organized, a similar one was organized in Topeka. They were similar in EVERY RESPECT. I was president of the one at Atchison, while a distinguished gentleman by the name of Gen. J. C. Caldwell was president of the one at Topeka. Both of these companies failed. The president of the Atchison company was sent to the penitentiary, while the president of the Topeka company was appointed by the governor of the State to the responsible position of chairman of the State Board of Pardons. Many persons have asked why this difference in the treatment of the presidents of these two companies. The only answer that can be given is that General Caldwell stood in with the Kansas political ring, while I did not. Every sensible man must admit that if it was just for me to
MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
serve a term in prison for the offense charged against me, General Caldwell should have been prescribed for in the same manner. I have no fight to make upon Mr. Caldwell. He is an excellent gentlemen. He was in luck. The fates were against me. Had I been a State instead of a United States prisoner, no doubt Mr. Caldwell, as chairman of the Board of Pardons, would have used his influence to secure for me my liberty. That I was sent to prison is wholly due to politics. It is unnecessary, therefore, for me to inform the reader that I am now "out of politics." Having served out my term I returned to my home in Atchison. As to the ring that sent me to prison, some of them are dead, others have left Atchison to make their homes in other placers, others have failed financially, and still others have fallen so low that they have scarcely friends enough to bury them should they happen to die.
The big wheel of life keeps on revolving. Those who are up to-day may be down tomorrow, and vice versa. But to continue my narrative. Immediately after my conviction and sentence I was taken to the Leavenworth County Jail. Here I remained until the follow-THE TWIN HELLS.
ing Tuesday in the company of a dozen or more prisoners who were awaiting trial. On Sunday, while in this jail, my wife, who died during my imprisonment of a broken heart, and an account of which is given. In a subsequent chapter, came to see me. I can never forget this visit. She remained with me during the entire day. During the conversation of the day I said to her that, it seemed future appeared very gloomy. That it would be a miracle if I ever was able to survive the disgrace that had been so cruelly placed upon me. That all ambition and hope as to the future had fled, and that I could not blame her if she should now free herself by means of divorce, as my conviction of crime was a legal ground for divorce in Kansas. In reply to this, the noble little women, her face aglow with the radiance of womanly devotion, said, that for twenty years of married life our home had been one of sunshine; that I had been kind to her and made her life one of happiness, and that now, when misfortune came, it was not only a duty, but the highest pleasure, to prove her fidelity. She kept her word. She was true to the last. When dying, her last words were a petition for the blessings of God uponMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
her husband who was far away behind frowning prison walls. On Tuesday morning a deputy United States marshal came to the jail and gave me notice that in a few moments we would leave for the penitentiary. This officer was a gentleman, and did not seek to further humiliate me by placing irons on my person. I have often thought of this act of kindness on the part of this humane official. We took the train at Leavenworth, and in a very few moments were at my future place of residence. Lansing, the small village where the penitentiary is located, is about five miles from the city of Leavenworth. The entrance to the prison is from the west. Under the watchful care of the officer who had me in charge, I passed under a stone archway, to the left of which was a small office, where a guard was on duty during the daytime. We were halted by this officer, who inquired if we had any fire-arms. No one visiting the penitentiary is allowed to carry fire-arms within the enclosure. The marshal who had me in custody handed over a large navy revolver. Between this archway and the western wall of the prison is a beautiful lawn. The walks are lined with fragrant flowers; beautiful fountains send aloftTHE TWIN HELLS.
their silvery sprays, Passing up the roadway leading to the entrance door, and looking about me upon the rich carpet of green, the flowers and fountains, I came to the conclusion that the penitentiary was not so bad a place as I had imagined. I changed my mind, however, as soon as I had seen inside the walls.
The prison enclosure contains about ten acres of ground. This is surrounded by a stone wall some fifteen feet high, and six feet thick at the base. It is not more than four feet at the top. At each of the four corners may be found a tower rising some ten feet above the wall. A guard is on duty in each of these towers during the day. He carries a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot. In case a prisoner tries to escape he is liable to get a dose of lead, provided the officer on duty is a good marksman. The western wall is almost entirely made of a large stone building with its two long wings. The main building is four stories. The wings stretching to the north and south, each two hundred and fifty feet contain the cells. On the first door of the main building are the offices of the warden, clerk, deputy wardenMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
and turnkey. The upper rooms are used by the warden's family.
I was first conducted into the clerk's office and introduced to Mr. Jones, the clerk. He is a very pleasant gentleman, and spoke kindly to me, which I can assure all was very acceptable, for just about that time I was feeling very badly. His remark was: "I am very glad to meet you, Mr. Reynolds, but sorry to meet you under these sad circumstances." On his invitation I took a chair and sat down to await the next part of the programme. As I sat there and thought of the kind words spoken to me by the clerk, I quickly reached the conclusion that if all the officers of that institution were as kind as Mr. Jones, it would not be as bad a place as I had anticipated. I had no experience then that would justify any other conclusion. Soon a side door of the office opened and in came the deputy warden, Mr. John Higgins. Mr. H. is the sourest appearing man I ever met in my life. At least, it seemed so to me on that day. He can get more vinegar on the outside of his face than any other person in the State of Kansas. He did not wait to be introduced to me. He never craves an introduction to a criminal.THE TWIN HELLS.
As soon as he came into the room he got a pole with which to measure me. Then, looking at me, in a harsh, gruff voice he called out: "Stand up here." At first I did not arise. At the second invitation, however, I stood up and was measured. My description was taken by the clerk. In this office there is to be found a description of all the criminals that ever entered the Kansas penitentiary. I was asked if I was a married man, how many children I had, and how much property I possessed. These questions were easily answered. After the deputy warden had discharged his duty he retired. I soon discovered that it was according to the rules of the prison for the officers to talk in a harsh and abrupt manner to the prisoners. This accounted for the way in which I was greeted by the deputy warden, who is the disciplinarian of the prison. I may say, in passing, that all the harsh manners of Mr. Higgins are simply borrowed for the occasion. Away from the presence of prisoners, over which he is to exert his influence, there is not to be found a more pleasant and agreeable gentleman. In came a second official, and, in the same gruff manner, said to me, "Come along." I followed him out toMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
the wash-house, where I took a bath. A prisoner took my measure for a suit of clothes. After he had passed the tape-line around me several times, he informed the officer that I was the same size of John Robinson, who had been released from the penitentiary the day before. "Shall I give him John Robinson's clothes?" asked the convict. In the same gruff manner the officer said, "Yes, bring on Robinson's old clothes." So I was furnished with a second-hand suit! The shoes were second-hand. I am positive about this last statement, judging by the aroma. After I had been in the penitentiary some four months, I learned that John Robinson, whose clothes I had secured, was a colored man. Being arrayed in this suit of stripes I was certainly "a thing of beauty." the coat was a short blouse and striped; the stripes, white and black, alternated with each other, and passed around the body in a horizontal way. The pantaloons were striped; the shirt was striped; the cap was striped. In fine, it seemed that everything about that penitentiary was striped -- even to the cats! Being dressed, I was next handed an article that proved, on examination, to be intended for a handkerchief. It was covered with large blueTHE TWIN HELLS.
letters of "Leavenworth Mills. XXX Flour," etc. It was a quarter section of a flour sack! Nine hundred prisoners very soon empty a great many flour sacks. After the flour has been consumed the sack is cut up into quarter sections, washed, hemmed and used for handkerchiefs. No better handkerchief can be invented. They are stout, stiff and durable! They will bear all manner of nasal assaults! There is no danger of blowing them into atoms, and the officials are not afraid to give them out to convicts sent there charged with the use of dynamite! One of them has been known to last a prisoner for five years.
After I had donned my suit and taken possession of my handkerchief, I was ordered to fold my arms. Prisoners marching in ranks, or going to and fro about the prison enclosure, are required to have their arms in this position. The object is to prevent them from passing articles. I was marched to the building known as the south wing of the cell house. In this building, which is two hundred and fifty feet long, there are cells for the accommodation of five hundred convicts. The prisoners who occupy this wing work in the shops located above ground, and within the prison enclosure.
MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
The officer in charge conducted me to cell number one. Click went the lock. The door was pulled open, and in his usual style, he said, "Get in." I stepped in. Slam went the door. Click went the lock, and I was in a felon's cell! These rooms are about four feet wide, seven feet long, and seven feet high. In many of the cells two men are confined. These rooms are entirely too small for the accommodation of two prisoners. A new cell house is being built, which, when completed, will afford sufficient additional room so that each prisoner can have a cell. In these small rooms there are two bunks or beds when two convicts occupy the same cell. The bed-rack is made of iron or wood slates, and the bed-tick is filled with corn-husks; the pillow is also filled with the latter material, and when packed down becomes as hard as a board. When the beds are not in use they are fastened to the side of the wall with a small chain. When down and in use they take up nearly the entire space of the cell, so that it is impossible for the two occupants to pass each other in walking to and fro. The other furniture consists of a small tin bucket, holding about two quarts of water, and a wash-basin. A short-handled broom is alsoTHE TWIN HELLS.
found in one corner of the cell, with which the convict brushes it out every morning. The walls are of stone, decorated with a small looking-glass and a towel. Each cell contains one chair and a Holy Bible. There is no rich Brussels carpet on the floor, although prisoners are allowed one if they furnish it themselves. No costly upholstered furniture adorns these safe retreats! Nothing in that line is to be discovered except one cane-bottomed chair for the accommodation of two prisoners, so that when one sits on the chair the other stands, or occupies a seat on the stone floor. There is not room for two chairs, or the State would furnish another chair. These rooms are built of stone. The door is of one-half inch iron bars, crossing each other at right angles, leaving small spaces about two by six inches; through these spaces come the air, light and heat for the health and comfort of the inmates. When I entered he arose and gave me his chair, taking a seat on the floor in the opposite corner. After I had been locked in, before going away the officer said, "Now I don't want you fellowsMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
to get to talking, for that is not permitted in this institution." We sat in silence, surveying each other; in a few moments my companion, seeing something in my personal appearance that caused him to lose his self control, laughed. That he might give full vent to his laughing propensities, and not make too much noise, he drew from his pocket his quarter section of a flour bag and put it into his mouth. He soon became as red in the face as a lobster. I was curious, of course, to know what it was that pleased him so much. Rising from my chair, going to the door and looking through the openings I could see no officer near, so I asked my companion, in a whisper, what it was that pleased him so. It was with difficulty and after several trials before he could succeed in telling me what it was that caused him to be so convulsed. I told him to take his time, cool off gradually, as I had eighteen months, and could wait patiently. At last, being able to control his feelings sufficiently to tell me, in the midst of his outbursts of laughter, he said, "You look just like one of them zebras in Barnum's Circus!" When my attention was called to the matter, sure enough, I did look rather striped, and I, amused at his suggestion, laughed also.THE TWIN HELLS.
Soon an officer came gliding around in front of the cell, when our laughing ceased. My companion was a young fellow from Doniphan County. He got drunk and tried to rob an associate, still drunker, of a twenty dollar gold piece. He was arrested, tried and convicted of robbery, receiving a sentence of one year. Directly and officer came, took him out of my cell and conducted him to another department. All alone, I sat in my little parlor for nearly an hour, thinking over the past. My reverie was at length broken by the turning of my door lock. A fresh arrival was told to "git in." This prisoner had the appearance of just having been lassoed on the wild western prairies. He resembled a cow-boy. His whiskers were long and sandy. His hair, of the same color, fell upon his shoulders. As soon as the officer had gone away and everything had become quiet, I asked this fellow his name. "Horse-rider," was his reply, from which I inferred that he was a horse-thief. "How long a term have you?" was my next question. "Seven years," was his reply. I comforted him by saying it would be some time before he rode another horse.
The next part of the programme consistedMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
in a little darkey coming in front of our cell with a rudely constructed barber's chair.
The cell door opened, and an officer said to me, as if he would hit me with a club the next moment, "Git out of there." I went out. "Squat yourself in that chair." I sat down. "Throw back your head." I laid it back. It was not long before my raven mustache was off, and my hair cut rather uncomfortably short for fly time. After this tonsorial artist had finished his work then came the command once more, "Git in." I got in. It now came Mr. Horserider's turn to bid a long farewell to his auburn locks. He took his place in the chair, and the little darkey, possibly for his own amusement, cut off the hair on one side of the head and left the other untouched. He then shaved one side of his face without disturbing the other. At this moment the bell for dinner rang, and the little colored fellow broke away and ran to his division, to fall in ranks, so that he would not miss his noon meal. Once more Mr. Horserider entered his cell and we were locked in. A more comical object I never beheld; he did not even possess the beauty of a baboon; he might certainly have passed for the eighth wonder of theTHE TWIN HELLS.
world. When he came in I handed him the small looking-glass and asked him how he liked his hair-cut. Remember, one side of his head and face was shaved close, and the other covered with long sandy hair and beard. Looking into the glass, he exclaimed: "Holy Moses! and who am I, anyway?" I answered his question by stating that he favored Mr. What-Is-It. He was very uneasy for a time, thinking that he was going to be left in that condition. He wanted to know of me if all horse-thieves of the penitentiary wore their hair and whiskers in this style. I comforted him all I could by imparting the information that they did. He was much relieved when the darkey returned after dinner and finished the shaving.
I was next taken out of my cell to pass a medical examination. Dr. Mooney, the gentlemanly officer in charge of the hospital, put in an appearance with a large book under his arm and sat down by a table. I was ushered into his presence. He began asking me questions, and wrote down my answers in his book, which proved to be the physician's register.
"Have you any decayed teeth?" was his first question.
"No, sir," was my reply.MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
"Have you ever lost any teeth?"
"No , sir."
"Have you ever had the measles?"
"Have you ever had the mumps?"
"Have you ever had the chicken-pox?"
"Have you ever had the thresh?"
Well, I didn't know what was meant by the thresh. I knew that I had been "thrashed" a great many times, and inferred from that fact that I must have had the disease at some time or other in my youth, so I answered, "Yes, sir."
"Have you ever had the itch?"
"What kind?" said I. "The old fashioned seven year kind? Y-e-s, sir, I have had it."
He then continued asking me questions, and wanted to know if I ever had a great many diseases, the names of which I had never heard before. Since I catch almost everything that comes along, I supposed, of course, that at some period during my childhood, youth, or early manhood I had suffered from all those physical ills, so I always answered,THE TWIN HELLS.
"Yes, sir." He wound up by inquiring if I ever had a stroke of the horse glanders. I knew what was meant by that disease, and replied in the negative.
He then looked at me over the top of his spectacles, and in a rather doubting manner, said, "and you really have had all these diseases? By the way," he continued, "are you alive at the present moment after all that you have suffered?" Mr. Mooney is an Irishman. He was having a little cold-blooded sport at my expense. Whenever you meet an Irishman you will always strike a budget of fun.
His next question was, "Are you a sound man?"
My reply was to the effect that I was, physically, mentally and morally. So he wrote down in his book opposite my name "physically and mentally a sound man." He said he would take my word for being sound morally, but that he would not put that down on the books for the present, for fear there might be a mistake somewhere. Before discharging me, he calmly stated that I would make a good coal miner. All the prisoners undergo this medical cross-examination.MY INITIATION AND CRIME.
After I had run the doctor's gauntlet, I was conducted from the south wing of the cell-house to the north wing.
Here I met for the first time Mr. Elliott, who has charge of this building during the daytime. It is a part of this highly efficient officer's duty to cross-examine the prisoners as to where they have lived and what they have been doing. His examinations are very rigid. He is a bright man, a good judge of human nature, and can tell a criminal at sight. He would make an able criminal lawyer. He is the prison detective. By means of these examinations he often obtains clues that lead to the detection of the perpetrators of crime. I have been told by good authority that on account of information obtained by this official, two murderers were discovered in the Kansas penitentiary, and, after their terms had expired, they were immediately arrested, and, on requisition, taken back to the Eastern States, where the crimes had been committed, and there tried, convicted and punished according to the laws of those States.
After I had been asked all manner of questions by this official, he very kindly informed me that I came to the penitentiary with a bad record. He further stated that I was looked upon asTHE TWIN HELLS.
one of the worst criminals in the State of Kansas. This information was rather a set-back to me, as I had no idea that I was in possession of any such record as that. I begged of him to wait a little while before he made up his mind conclusively as to my character, for there might be such a thing as his being mistaken. There is no man that is rendering more effective service to the State of Kansas in the way of bringing criminals to justice than Mr. Elliott. He has been an officer of the prison for nearly nine years. As an honest officer he is above reproach. As a disciplinarian he has no superior in the West.
After this examination I was shown to my cell. It was now about two o'clock in the afternoon of my first day in prison. I remained in the cell alone during the entire afternoon. Of all the dark hours of my eventful history, none have been filled with more gloom and sadness than those of my first day in prison. Note my antecedents -- a college graduate, a county clerk, the president of a bank, and an editor of a daily newspaper. All my life I had moved in the highest circles of society, surrounded by the best and purest of both sexes, and now, here I was, in theTHE TWIN HELLS.
deplorable condition of having been hurled from that high social position, down to the low degraded plane of a convict. As I sat there in that desolate abode of the disgraced, I tried to look out down the future. All was dark. For a time it seemed as if that sweet angel we call hope had spread her wings and taken her departure from me forever. The black cloud of despair seemed settling down upon me. But very few persons possess the ability to make any thing of themselves after having served a term in the penitentiary. Having once fallen to so low a plane it is almost impossible to rise again. Young man, as you peruse this book, think of these things. Once down as a felon it is a miracle if one ever regains what he has lost. I sat brooding over these things for an hour or more, when my manhood asserted itself. Hope returned. I reasoned thus: I am a young man. I enjoy good health. There will be only a few months of imprisonment and then I will be free. I thought of my loving wife, my little children, my aged mother, my kind friends, and for their sake I would not yield to despair. Soliciting the aid of a kind Heavenly Father, I resolved to do the best ITHE TWIN HELLS.
could toward regaining what I had lost. My father was a minister of the gospel for fifty years prior to his death. He was not blessed with much of this world's goods. For this reason I began in very early life to aid myself. I spent seven years in college preparing for the struggles that awaited me. I earned every dollar of the money which paid only my expenses while securing my education. I carried the hod to assist in building the college in which I afterward graduated. Few men can truthfully make this statement of themselves. While working my way through the institution where I received my education, I learned one useful lesson -- self reliance. I learned to depend upon my own efforts for success.
Every one must learn this useful lesson before he can become anything in life. After I had met with misfortune and found myself in a prison cell, I was glad that I had learned to rely upon my own efforts. The question: " What shall I do in the future?" now came to me. That afternoon I laid my plans which I would carry out in the years to come. I was financially ruined in the great battle I carried on with the Atchison ring. I was aware of the fact that, when I got outMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
of the penitentiary, all the money that I would have with which to make another start in life would be five dollars. The United States presents her prisoners, when discharged, with a suit of citizen's clothes and five dollars. This was my capital. What could I do with five dollars, in the way of assisting me in getting another financial foot-hold in life. After my release it was necessary for me to do something at once to get money. It never entered my mind to borrow. It will be interesting to the reader to know what I did, after my prison days were past, to make a "quick raise."
Sixteen months of imprisonment slipped away. I regained my liberty on Monday. I received my five dollars and immediately started for my home, in Atchison. On my arrival, Monday night, I had four dollars and ten cents. On Tuesday morning I went to the proprietor of the Opera House, in Atchison, and inquired how much money was necessary to secure the use of the building for the next evening.
"Fifty dollars," was his reply. I gave him all the money I had, and persuaded him to trust me for the rest. I informed him that I was going to deliver a lecture on my prison life.
He asked if I thought anybody would come toTWIN HELLS.
hear a convict talk. In answer, I told him that was the most important question that was agitating my mind at the present moment, and if he would let me have the use of the Opera House we would soon settle that question. I further told him that if the receipts of the evening were not enough to pay him for the use of the house, that I would pay him as soon as possible. He let me have the use of the house. I advertised in the daily papers of the city that I would lecture in the Opera House the following evening on my prison life, -- admission fifty cents. I thought if the good people wanted to come at all they would come even if they had to pay well for it. I was very restless from the morning that I engaged the Opera House until the next evening, at which time I was to speak. I did not know whether I would have any audience. If not, I was fifty dollars deeper in debt. The evening for the lecture came, I went to the Opera House prepared to interest anyone that might put in an appearance; I entered the building in the rear, and took my position on the platform. The signal was given and up went the curtain. I was highly pleased when I saw my audience. The building wasMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
packed. The lecture was a financial success. In this manner I secured a nice "stake" for future use. I delivered that lecture for several weeks in Kansas, and made a thousand dollars above expenses. To return to my first afternoon in the cell. I thought of another scheme. I conceived the idea that a book about a penitentiary, giving its history, and also the history of many of the leading criminals, modes of punishment, escapes, etc., would be very interesting, and would sell. I decided to write such a book while in prison. In order to write a book it became necessary to have writing material. How was I to secure this? It was against the prison regulations for a prisoner to have a lead-pencil or scrap of paper. The officials were very strict on this point. It was essential they should be. If the prisoners could pass notes, it would not be long before a prison insurrection would be the result. The plan that I adopted to secure writing material was rather unique, and perhaps the reader will like to know how I managed this difficult matter. It is wonderful what a man can accomplish, with adverse surroundings, if he wills it. As I have stated before, I had much to do in securing the election ofTWIN HELLS.
Hon. W. D. Gilbert to the district judgeship. This made him feel very kind toward me. He came often to visit me at the prison. One day while visiting me, I asked him to use his influence with the warden to secure for me the privilege of having writing material in my cell. "What do you want with writing material," said he. The answer I gave was, that I might pass away my leisure hours in learning to write short-hand. He called on Warden Smith, and got his consent. He told the warden that if I would master this useful art while in prison, on my release, he would appoint me his district court reporter, at a salary of $2,500 a year. The scheme was a success. I sent and got my short-hand books and writing material. I mastered short-hand, and can now write as fast as one would care to dictate. It was not long before I began writing my book in short-hand. The officials, as was their custom, would examine my cell daily to see if anything had crept in that did not belong there. They could not read short-hand. They did not know what so many little straight marks and curves indicated. I persevered, and one month before my time expired I had my book completed, and sent it out by a friendMY INITIATION AND CRIME.
who visited the prison, who kept it for me until I secured my liberty. As before stated, lectured until I got money sufficient, and then I published my first book on prisons, giving it the impressive title of "A Kansas Hell." This book sold rapidly, and soon the first edition was disposed of. I made enough money out of this book to place me on my feet, financially. But, to return to my cell the first afternoon. I remained alone until time for the prisoners to come in from their work, when I found that I was to have a "life man" for my cellmate, whose name was Woodward R. Lopeman. I have given his history in a subsequent chapter. I remained in my cell during the evening, until the prison bell rang for retiring.
Strange to say, after going to bed, I soon fell asleep, and did not awake until the prison bell rang on the following morning. When I did awake, it was to find myself, not in my own pleasant little home in the city of Atchison, Kansas, but in a felon's cell. I arose and dressed, and then waited and wondered what would be the next thing on the programme.