KanColl Books
   The Twin Hells, by John R. ReynoldsTable of Contents



A KANSAS HELL.


CHAPTER VI.

SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.

     WHEN a prisoner gets sick he reports to the prison physician in the morning, before working hours. As the men march out of their cells to go to their breakfast, those who are sick and desire to see the doctor fall out of the ranks and occupy seats in the cell house. Soon the prison physician, Dr. Nealley, calls and examines them. Many try to deceive the physician and thus get into the hospital, simply to avoid work. But the shirkers are pretty well known, and have to be very sick and give unmistakable symptoms of their illness before they can get excused. It is very difficult to deceive Dr. Nealley. He has been with the prisoners so long, nearly six years, that he knows them and can tell without much effort when one of them is sick or is not in condition to work. At these morning examinations, sometimes there are nearly one hundred who report as being sick. Most of them, instead of being excused, get a dose of medicine and are sent to work. When a prisoner takes sick dur-

Scene in the Dining Hall


SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.
page 107

ing the day while at work, he is excused by his officer, and permitted to go to the hospital to see the physician. Fully nine-tenths of the sickness of the prison is contracted in the coal mines. The principal physical disabilities are prison fever, colds, pneumonia, lung diseases and rheumatism. Very few contagious diseases ever find their way into the prison, and those that do are quickly discovered and checked by the prison physician. When a convict is unable to work he is sent to the hospital. This department contains two wards, in the first of which those remain who are not sick enough to be confined to their beds, while the very sick are kept in the second ward. Convicts, detailed for that purpose, are the hospital nurses. It is gratifying to know that these convict nurses have a sympathy for their sick comrades truly admirable. Many of these sick men die. It is sad to die in the State's Prison! I recollect one case that came under my own observation which was indeed pathetic. A man had been sentenced for five years, and had served out his time save one week, when, taken suddenly ill, he was sent to the hospital and died the day before his term would have expired. This poor

THE TWIN HELLS.
page 108

fellow piteously begged of the doctor to try and extend his life so that he could die a free man; but all in vain! On the day which would have brought liberty he was borne through the large gate and buried in the prison graveyard. It is heartrending to hear those men dying in the hospital, call for their mothers, wives or sisters! The convict nurses are as kind and sympathetic as possible, but in sickness and death there is no one that can take the place of mother, wife or sister.

     There was one man who died a few days before my term expired, for whom I felt the greatest sympathy. His name was Frank Rhodes. He was sent from Holton. While in jail and awaiting trial at that place he was converted. Several Christian ladies had visited the jail and left with the inmates a few Bibles and other religious literature. At his trial Frank was convicted of crime and sentenced to the penitentiary for five years. When he came to the State's prison he brought his religion with him. For two years this man performed his duties faithfully. He soon gained the good will of the officers. He was a true Christian man; he showed it in his life while in prison. After awhile his religion got the better of him; he

SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.
page 109

could not control his emotions. Often during the chapel services, when the convicts were singing their Christian songs, overcome by his feelings, Frank would weep like a child. Time passed. It was a bright Sabbath morning. The prisoners were marching out of the cell houses to the chapel, to attend divine service. All nature seemed to be rejoicing. Frank could not longer restrain himself. The glowing sunshine has much to do with causing a man's religion to boil over. All of a sudden, clapping his hands, Frank shouted at the top of his voice, "Glory to God in the highest ! peace on earth, good will to men! " This was too much for the discipline of the prison. Convicts are expected to keep quiet. A couple of officers seized him and led him back into the cell house, where he was placed in a cell of the insane ward and was called a religious crank. He remained in this cell for the following eighteen months. He told me afterward these were the happiest months of his life. He would read his Bible, sing, pray, and exhort the officers to be religious. The deputy warden would often tell him that when he could control his religion enough to keep quiet he should be taken out of the insane ward and sent to work again. When

THE TWIN HELLS.
page 110

eighteen months had passed he concluded he could keep quiet, and so informed the deputy warden. He was immediately released from his place of confinement and went to work.While at work he was honest and quiet. His only trouble was, too much religion! Months went by. His wife came to see him frequently. These visits were enjoyable affairs to them. On a certain Friday his wife was to visit him. I met him the day before, and he was overjoyed at the prospect of seeing his wife the next day. She came.They had a joyful time. Little did either think they should see each other in this life no more. When the hour of her departure came they separated not to meet again until in the world of perpetual sunshine. The next day this poor convict was taken with the prison fever, and in one short week he was a corpse. He died trusting in his Saviour. The chaplain, speaking of this man s death, said if officers or convicts at death go from the Kansas penitentiary to heaven, then Frank Rhodeswas among the saved; he was a true Christian man. After death his body was sent to his former home, Holton, where it was buried. The following is my experience with a poor friendless colored boy who had a six years'

SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.
page 111

sentence for burglary. I took the prison fever and was sent to the hospital. This colored convict was detailed as my nurse. He had been sick, but was then convalescent. He was very kind to me; because of this kindness and good care I began to like him. He seemed anxious to make me comfortable. "Be kind to the sick and you will win their friendship." I was quite sick for two weeks, but began to recover slowly. About this time my nurse suffered a relapse. He grew worse and worse. The doctor gave him up. "Bob must die," he said to the head nurse one day in my hearing. A day or two after this, Bob, for that was the sick prisoner's name, sent for me to come to his couch. I sat down on the edge of his bed and asked him what he wanted. He said: "I am going to die, and want a friend. In all this wide world," continued he, "there is not a single human being that I can look upon as my friend." He then told me how he had lost his father and mother when a mere child, had drifted out into the world an orphan boy, got into bad company, into crime and into prison. As I sat there looking into the face of that little darkey, I thought how sad his lot must be, and my sympathies were aroused. I said, "Bob, is

THE TWIN HELLS.
page 112

there anything I can do for you? I am your friend, and will do all I can to aid you." I spoke words of encouragement, and tried to cheer him up by saying that I thought he would not die. In this I used a little deceit, but it was to assuage his grief. I really thought he would die very soon. Then he told me what he wanted. He said,"I am going to die; my angel mother came to my bedside last night; I saw her as plainly as I see you now. She said she was coming soon to take me out of prison and out of this world of sorrow. Yes, I am going to die, but I am afraid to cross the dark river. When I am dying I want you to sit by my bedside, take hold of my hand and go with me down the vale of death as far as possible. It will do me so much good. Will you do this for me? It is the only favor I ask. "I told him I would only be too glad to do so if it would aid him in the moment when life shrinks from the shadow of death, but told him I thought he would not die -- another little fib on my part. However, that did no harm, for I failed to convince him he would live. About 1 o'clock A. M. a couple of nights after this, one of the watchers came to my cot and said Bob wanted to see me immediately. I

SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.
page 113

felt his time had come. Hastily dressing, I went to his bedside. I found him dying. I sat down by his side and took his hand in mine. I was going with him to the dark river. He pressed my hand and a smile of satisfaction passed over his countenance. He said, "You are so kind." I spoke words of hope and encouragement suitable to the time and occasion. I sat thus for some little time; his limbs grew cold; his eyes became glassy; the death dew was dampening his brow. It was evident he would soon breathe his last. Poor, helpless, friendless negro! What was your life's mission? Many similar pious thoughts flitted through my mind. Without a friend! Among all the millions of earth he could not call one by the endearing name of friend! Sad, sad thought! After I had remained there some time, expecting every breath to be his last, what was my astonishment to discover his hands and limbs growing warmer. The crisis of his disease was passed. No dark river this time! Soon his "glassy" eyes were closed, and in a few moments he began to snore! Disappointed, I dropped that black "paw," and went back to my cot. That little darkey is still alive. He often asked me

THE TWIN HELLS.
page 114

after that if I wanted to take another trip down to "de da'k ribbah!"

     The prisoners who die in the penitentiary are buried in the graveyard of the institution, unless they have friends who will pay for the removal of the body. Just outside the prison walls is the cemetery. Its location is a walnut grove in a deep ravine. The first graves were dug near the eastern side of the cemetery and as near to each other as possible. As fast as this space is filled with graves it is covered over many feet deep with the slate and dirt taken from the coal mines, a few yards distant. Beneath this rubbish will the prisoners sleep until the trump shall sound and the dead arise. Prisoners dying are dressed in a neat suit of black clothes, if the body is to be forwarded to the friends; otherwise, the burial suit consists of a cotton shirt and a pair of drawers of the same material. The coffin is very plain, and is made in one of the prison shops.

Dispensing medicine




Sunday in  Prison     Escapes from Prison     Table of Contents