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




     AT the present time there are fifty-six females who find homes in this living tomb. Two-thirds of them are colored. The greater portion are kept busy making underclothing for the prisoners. They are detained, during working hours, in a room, seated at tables, with a lady guard watching them. They are not allowed to converse with each other, only as they get permission from this officer. They are not permitted to see the male prisoners. In fact there is no way of entering the female prison from the male department. The dormitory is on the third floor. The female convicts wear striped calico dresses, the stripes running lengthwise. The female prison is kept scrupulously clean, which reflects great credit upon those having the management of this department.

     In company with Doctor Lewellyn, the prison physician, I passed through the dormitory. Here I found a great curiosity. It was a baby prisoner, six months old. The little

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convict was born in the penitentiary. It is a colored child --- its mother being a mulatto, who was sent to prison for fifteen years for murdering two of her children. When on the outside, she lived with her paramour, a white man, and, as fast as children were born to them, she would murder them in cold blood. The white man was tried also as accessory to the murder, but, owning to her refusal to testify against him, there was not sufficient evidence to convict him, and he was set at liberty. He often visits her at the prison, bringing her eatables, which are very much relished in the penitentiary. I saw also the notorious Sadie Hayes, who was sent up from St. Louis for killing a policeman. She was under the influence of strong drink, and, thus crazed with whisky, the officer tried to arrest her. She drew a razor, and began to slash away at the officer, and, in spite of his club and large, muscular frame, she soon cut him to pieces. He expired on the sidewalk, where the engagement took place. She was sent up for ninety-nine years, and has now been in prison about three years. She is one of the most desperate looking women I ever saw, and when crazed with drink, becomes an infuriated demon. She is an adept in the use of the razor.

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     The oldest female prisoner is an aged German woman by the name of Oldstein, from Gasconade County. She has been in the penitentiary thirteen years, and, doubtless, would get a pardon if she had any place where she could make her home after securing her liberty. The old woman is entirely broken down and is a physical wreck. She spends the most of her time knitting. Aside from keeping her own bedding clean she is not required to perform any labor. She was charged with a cold-blooded murder. She, her husband and daughter murdered her daughter's husband. The old man was hung, the daughter was sent up for life, and died in a few months after entering prison. The old woman was sentenced to be hung also with her husband, but the governor commuted her sentence to that of life imprisonment. For thirteen long, dreary years she has lived behind these prison walls. She longs for death, but death refuses, as yet, to claim her as his own. Broken in health, friendless, penniless, this poor old woman is but another proof that "the way of the transgressor is hard." I also saw Anna Brown, another female prisoner, who, with her step-brother, planned and carried into execution a

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terrible cold-blooded murder. It was none other than the killing of her aged father. The boy was sent to prison for life and the woman received a sentence of forty-nine years. Her sentence might just as well have read "life imprisonment" as forty-nine years, for she cannot live but a few years longer in confinement. Nannie Stair is another interesting prisoner. She came from Vernon County. An old and crippled man was driving through the country. Night coming on found him hear the house of the Stair family. He stopped and asked for a night's lodging. His request was granted. That was the old man's last night on earth. During the hours of the night Stair and his wife made their way into the bed-chamber where the helpless traveler lay asleep unconscious of his doom. It was not long until the husband sent an axe crushing through his brain, his wife standing by, a witness to the fearful deed. During the same night they dug his grave in the garden back of the house, and buried him. Next day the husband drove the murdered man's team to a town not far distant, and sold it. In a couple of weeks friends began to institute search for the missing man. He was

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traced to the home of the Stair family. The husband and wife being separated, and the officers telling the wife that she would be let out of the scrape without much punishment in case she would tell all she knew, she informed them of all the details of the bloody deed, where the victim lay buried, and what disposition was made of the murdered man's team and money. The two were arrested, tried and convicted. The husband was hung, and the wife sent to the penitentiary for six years. Her time will now soon be served out, and she will once more be a free woman. The desire of this family to obtain filthy lucre was too great. Of the fifty-six female inmates of the Missouri penitentiary, fifteen of them were sent for murder. Kansas City has several female representatives. It is stated, on good authority, that the sentences imposed by the judges of the Kansas City district are far more excessive than in any other portion of the State. I was told that a number of these female convicts were very desperate characters, while others of them, driven to deeds of desperation on account of poverty, committed acts that for a time placed them behind prison bolts and bars. Something should be done to

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aid these poor women, when their terms expire, to get a start in life. If something is not done for them, it will be but a short time when they will drift back again into crime and prison.

     The author of this book believes that is is all right to send money to India and other remote countries to aid the heathen, but instead of sending it all away to lands beyond the seas, he thinks a portion of it, at least, could be well expended this side the briny deep in helping some of these poor unfortunate convicts to get another start in life, and thus lift them out of a life of crime.


     Felix Bagan's history shows the career of many a boy, when thrown into bad company. At an early age Felix was left an orphan. When his parents both died he had not a relative living that cared anything for him. Taken from the grave of his mother, who died shortly after the death and burial of her husband, the unfortunate lad was placed in the orphan's home in St. Louis. Here he remained for several years, and acquired all the education that he possessed. After becoming old enough to do some work, he was given to a farmer, who took him to his home in the country.

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Possessed of a genial disposition, he soon made many friends. He was highly esteemed by the lady and gentleman who adopted him. He was honest and industrious. It was on election day that his down-fall took place. In company with several young men, who resided on neighboring farms, he went to a small town near by to pass the day. Being invited to participate in a game of cards, he and several of his companions found their way into the back part of a saloon, where the day was spent in drinking and gambling. Toward evening a dispute arose about the cards, a drunken fight was the result. Bagan, half crazed with drink, drew his knife and stabbed to the death one of his companions. The young man whom he murdered, prior to this had been one of his best friends. When he saw the life-blood of his companion ebb away, he came to his senses, and was soon sober. He wept like a child when he saw his friend sinking away into the arms of death. The awful deed was done, and nothing was left to the unfortunate youth but to be led away to prison, with the blood of a human being upon his garment. In due time he had his trial, and was sent to the penitentiary for thirty years. He was twenty-two

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years of age when he received the sentence. He has now been in the prison thirteen years. For seven years he worked in the saddle-tree shop for Sullivan, Hayes & Co., prison contractors. At the end of that time his health failing, he refused to work. The prison authorities thought he was trying to shirk his work. After being severely flogged, he was placed in the dungeon and kept there in solitary confinement for three months. Half dead, he was taken to the hospital and left in the hands of the prison physician. For a time it was thought he would die. After a while he began to recover; large patches of hair fell from his scalp, leaving his head thickly covered with bald spots. When he entered the prison he was a fine-appearing young man, but thirteen years of imprisonment have converted him into a broken-down old man and physical wreck. That was a sad day for that unfortunate youth when he entered the saloon to take part in the game of cards. He will not live to the end of his sentence, but will die in the penitentiary, and find his last, long home in the prison grave-yard. Young man, as you read the history of this convict, can you not

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persuade yourself to let whisky and cards alone for the future?


     Passing through the cell houses, I was shown the room occupied by the notorious Bill Ryan for seven years. He was a member of the James boys' gang. Being convicted of highway robbery he was sent to the prison for twenty years. After Jesse James had been killed by young Ford, and Frank's crimes had been pardoned, Ryan's sentence was commuted to ten years, and after serving seven he regained his liberty.

     Ryan was accredited with being one of the best prisoners in the penitentiary. On the outside, if reports be true, he was one of the most desperate men in Missouri. His time was spent in drinking, gambling, quarreling, fighting and killing. He is charged with killing a number of men. He was twice tried for murder, but proving an alibi, the jury brought in a verdict of "not guilty." The prison officials speak in the highest terms of his conduct while an inmate of the penitentiary. He was an obedient and hard-working convict. Now that he is once more a free man it is to

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be hoped that he will show himself as good a citizen on the outside, as he was on the inside, of prison walls.


     This youthful convict is but sixteen years of age. He is the youngest prisoner in the penitentiary. He was formerly a boot-black on the streets of St. Louis. Getting into a fight one day with one of his boot-black companions over a nickel that they had jointly earned "shining up" a patron's boots, young Hildrum drew an old knife from his pocket, which he had found a few days before, and sent the rusty blade into the heart of the street Arab. The youthful murderer was tried and convicted of manslaughter, and on account of his youth was given but two years in the penitentiary.


     This convict was at one time county judge of Stoddard County, and highly respected. He is one of the finest appearing men I ever saw. His finely shaped head bespeaks intelligence. It is sad to see such grand looking specimens dressed in the garb of disgrace. Judge Henson became involved in a quarrel with one of his neighbors over some trivial

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matter, and killed him. His sentence is for twenty years, which for him at this advanced age means death in the prison. Great efforts are being put forth for his pardon, but it is a question left entirely with the governor, and no one can tell how he may act.

     Judge Henson is not at heart a criminal. On that open countenance there is no mark of Cain. Thinking of his sad case, more than ever am I convinced that we are creatures of circumstances. How many of my readers, had they in the past, been surrounded by the same circumstances, subject to the same temptations, would not have acted in the same manner, and like Judge Henson found a home in a convict's cell.


     John Hicks is the veteran penitentiary convict of the United States. Under an alias he served one term in the Missouri penitentiary. Most of his time has been spent in prisons further east. He is now eighty-four years of age, and quite recently was released from the Michigan City penitentiary. Prison authorities have compared notes and find that he has actually served forty-eight years of prison life. He

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is the oldest living criminal in this country. He has served ten terms, the greater portion of them being in Indiana. His first crime was committed in 1839. In some way he learned that a man named Bearder had $360 in his house. While the family were at church Hicks rifled the house and stole their money. A marked coin led to his conviction, and he got a three years' sentence. He was never, afterward, out six months at a time, and was sent up successively for burglary, criminal assault, robbery, larceny, cattle-stealing and horse-stealing. At the expiration of his fifth term, at Michigan City, he made his way to the office, where the directors were in session. He begged them to allow him to build a shanty in a part of the prison in which he could sleep and call his home. All that he asked was that the scraps from the table be given him for food. The board refused to allow him this, and Hicks bade them good-by. He walked to a small town near by, where he soon was arrested for thieving, and was taken to prison to serve what he declared to be his last term. His head is as white as snow, and is keeping with his long, flowing beard, and he looks like a patriarch, yet is not stooped a particle. His

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desire now is to secure honest work, that will guarantee him a home. He wishes to spend the rest of his days a free man. Had this man been assisted just a little at the expiration of his first term, he might have become a useful citizen, but as it was, his life was spent behind the bars. When once the feet find themselves walking in the pathway of crime, it is very difficult for them ever to walk in paths of honesty and uprightness thereafter.


     As I was walking through the penitentiary, in company with Deputy Warden Bradbury, he pointed out an old convict, and said, "There is a fellow that has seen prison life. He is here this time under the name of Gus Loman. He is now serving his ninth term in this prison. At the expiration of one of his sentences he went away and was gone over a year, and when he came back I asked him where he had been so long. His reply was, 'Simply rusticating at Joliet, Ill., with some friends.' Every time he is sent to prison he gives in a new and different name and, of course, no one but himself knows what his real name is." When asked why he comes to the prison so often, he

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remarked that, when once in prison it is impossible to get work to do on the outside, and he had made up his mind to spend the rest of his days in prison. He claimed that the fates were against him and he could not make a living on the outside, as no one would employ him; that he had tried it several times and failed, and now he had given up all hope. He is a bold, bad and natural thief. As soon as his term is out he goes a little distance from the prison, gets on a spree, gets into trouble, steals something, and soon finds himself back again in the penitentiary. He is now over seventy years of age, and is both a physical and moral wreck. What an awful warning for the young is the history of such a wasted life.


     This convict is the most daring and desperate criminal in the Missouri penitentiary. The prison authorities have had more trouble with him than with any other man who ever found a home behind the walls of this great institution. He was sent up from Jackson County, and was charged with murdering two men before he was finally convicted of crime. On trial for these two murders he was success-

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ful in providing an alibi. The last time he was not so successful, and received a sentence of twelve years. Soon after his arrival at the prison he was set to work in one of the shops. When he became a little acquainted, his innate cussedness induced him to raise a riot in the prison. It was a desperate undertaking, but he was equal to the emergency. For days and weeks he was on the alert, and when a guard was not on the watch he would communicate with a convict, and enlist his services, and give him his instructions as to what part he should perform when the signal should be given.

     At last the day came when all was ready for the plans so well laid to be carried into execution. Each of the convicts who were to act in concert with him pile up a lot of kindling in their respective shops and saturated it with kerosene. When the prisoners were being marched out to supper, they threw matches into the piles of kindling-wood, and soon several buildings were on fire. Intense excitement now prevailed among the two thousand convicts. The ranks were quickly broken, and all was confusion. Some of the better disposed convicts tried to assist the officers in

Shot from the Tower

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putting out the fires, and were in turn knocked down and trampled upon by those who were in favor of the riot. In the midst of this great excitement Johnson, the leader, with four of his associates, knocked down one of the guards and stripped him of his clothing. Johnson put on this suit of blue and started to one of the towers. Reaching the same, he asked permission of the officer on duty to let down the ladder and allow him to ascend and assist him in "holding the fort," as this was Captain Bradbury's orders. Johnson's intentions were to get on top of the wall and into the tower, where the guard opened the large gate below by the use of a lever. The convict, once inside the tower, would knock the officer down, seize his gun, raise the lever, throw open the large gate in the wall, and permit the prisoners all to rush out. This was a bold scheme, and it is a wonder, during the great excitement that prevailed, that it was not successful. The officer on duty, when requested by the convict to allow him to ascend the ladder, coolly drew his gun, and told him if he dared to ascend he would send buckshot into his body.

     Foiled in this, the desperado returns to

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where the officials are fighting the flames, and began cutting the hose so as to stop the supply of water. The fire raged furiously. A strong wind sprung up adding intensity to the flames. Over $200,000 worth of property was soon swept away in this direful storm of fire. After a fearful conflict the prisoners were overpowered and driven into their cells.

     A number of them were severely wounded. Several died of the injuries received. The prison directors had a called meeting and investigated the riot. The blame fell upon convict Johnson. A criminal charge was preferred against him in the courts, for arson. He was convicted and served an additional sentence of twelve years. This, added to his former sentence, makes twenty-four years of imprisonment for this desperado. When he was taken out of the penitentiary to stand trial for setting fire to the prison, he was heavily loaded with chains, and in the custody of six prison officials. It was feared he would make a desperate effort to escape during this trial. On his return to the prison he was placed in a dark dungeon, and has been kept caged up ever since, like a wild beast. When he is given exercise he wears a ball and chain

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and an officer walks immediately behind him, with a loaded Winchester, ready to shoot him down if he makes any bad breaks. The officials are very careful when they enter his cell for any purpose, as he is liable to kill them. Captain Bradbury, the deputy warden, in speaking of him, says, he is the most desperate criminal he has met during his thirty-three years of prison experience.


a colored representative of Pettis County, has served the longest consecutive term of any of the male prisoners. Henry killed his man, and for this mistake has been doing service for the State of Missouri "without money and without price" for the past fifteen years. The story of his downfall is very romantic. He was a married man, and the father of an interesting family. There lived near him a young lady of color, very handsome and attractive, so the story goes, and for whom Henry had a great liking. There was nothing wrong about all this, perhaps, if Henry had not permitted his affections to go too far. Instead of admiring this dusky maiden at a distance, as he should have done, he

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brought her to his home, and cared for her there in a manner too affectionate for the tastes of his colored neighbors. Henry was remonstrated with, but to no purpose. At the close of church services one moonlight Sunday evening his neighbors held an indignation meeting, and it was resolved to put a stop to Henry's little love scheme, as it was now very evident that his wife was getting tired of having the maiden about her so much. The meeting adjourned that evening to have the next one the following night at Henry's front gate. During the ensuing day he was apprised of the intentions of his callers, and was urged to let the young lady depart from under his roof. Henry refused, since love is blind. He got his shotgun in readiness to protect his home and his rights. At the appointed hour some twenty-five or thirty neighbors gathered at the place selected, and demanded of Henry that he should give up the maiden loved, or pull hemp. At this juncture Henry called into requisition his double-barreled shotgun and turned both barrels loose on the excited throng. The results was a stampede, one negro killed and two wounded. For this brave deed he was arrested, tried and sent to prison

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for life. In solitude for fifteen years, Henry has had the privilege of thinking of his illicit love, none of his former neighbors daring to molest him or make him afraid.

     The case of a prisoner who was in the Missouri prison under the name of


is very remarkable. Over in Kansas a cold-blooded murder had been committed. It seemed impossible for the authorities to discover any trace of the murderer. Shortly after this murder had been committed, Ellis was arrested and tried in Missouri on a charge of horse-stealing, and got a two years' sentence. He heard of this murder having been committed in Kansas, and, for some reason best known to himself, he went to Deputy Warden Bradbury and confidentially told him that he had committed the offense, and asked him to notify the authorities of Kansas. This was done and a pardon was granted Ellis that he might be taken to Kansas and tried for murder. No doubt, Ellis' motive in stating that he was guilty of this offense was to get out of the penitentiary. He supposed that after getting pardoned out of the Missouri

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prison, he would have no trouble in proving an alibi in the Kansas murder case, and in this way go free. He was taken to Kansas, tried, and failed to establish his alibi, and was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the penitentiary for life. If Ellis was guilty of murder, he surely would not have told on himself and exchanged a two years' sentence in the Missouri prison for a life sentence in the Kansas penitentiary. He is, no doubt, innocent of this crime, but should serve a few years in the Kansas institution because of his smartness.


     A young man by the name of John Welch was sent from Stoddard County for an heinous offense, under a sentence of ten years. His family were among the best people of that county, and highly respected. John proved to be a black lamb of the flock. He had not been in prison but a few weeks when he got enough of that kind of living, and, being unable to have his resignation accepted, he concluded to end his career by committing suicide. It was on a beautiful Sunday morning, and the prisoners having been to religious services, were on their way back to their cells to spend

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the rest of the day in solitude. The chapel where the services were held is in the third story of a large brick structure. An iron stairway is attached to the wall on the outside of the building. It was down this stairway the convicts were marching, one behind the other, when John, stepping out of the door on the stairway, instead of following his comrades down and into his cell, as he had done on former occasions, leaped out into space and fell to the ground. When he was picked up, life was extinct. He received his pardon that day, but gave his life as the ransom. No one can imagine how much this youth suffered before he brought himself to that point when he decided to make that leap into eternity.

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