Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hinckley Photograph

Enjoy this aerial view of Hinckley!  This photograph was probably taken some time in the 1920s or early 1930s.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 5

          Sandstone's Chamber of Commerce immediately got to work to find a new use for the prison buildings and land. It urged the State of Minnesota to take over the property for some appropriate use. Negotiations ensued, and by August 16, 1949, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives had passed a bill leasing the prison to the State of Minnesota for a state mental hospital with the conditions of maintaining the property and turning it back over to the federal government on notice of eighteen months. (39) President Truman signed the bill on August 19, but the State of Minnesota did not take action until May of the following year. Governor Youngdahl signed the lease on May 22, 1950, and the Minnesota State Mental Hospital at Sandstone opened July 18, 1950, with a staff of 110. (40)
          Soon approximately 440 male mental patients resided at Sandstone. Most of these men had been institutionalized for at least five years and some up to fifty, and they were transferred to Sandstone in an effort to relieve overcrowding in other state mental hospitals. (41) Staff members worked hard to transform the former prison into a more homey, welcoming place where patients would feel comfortable. Most patients slept in dormitories, but eighty were rewarded with private rooms for their superlative behavior. Patients performed work details, engaged in leisure activities like arts and crafts, reading, music, and sports, and ate nutritious and tasty meals in the dining hall. (42) Some of them even operated a small canteen to entertain their fellow patients. One observing journalist noted,

"In all, Sandstone presents a bright picture amidst the gloom which marks much of the national situation in the care of the mentally ill. Sandstone shines especially in its individualized program of providing the most modern forms of treatment and therapy. No patient ever is considered hopeless, regardless of how many decades he's been in mental institutions." (43)

          Despite this “bright picture,” the hospital was nearly always short on funds and had to limit its per patient expenditure to sixty-five cents per day with only $40 allowed for clothing per year. Only $200 was available every three months for recreational purposes, so sometimes patients simply had to go without new clothes or recreational projects. (44) Sandstone residents, however, offered help in the form of donations of clothing, books, radios, magazines, records, sports equipment, and even volunteer hours to supervise recreational activities. The hospital's doctors were pleased by this effort, noting that interaction with local people would “be of great assistance from a medical standpoint, renewing the patients' ties with the outside world, creating new interests and helping in the process of rehabilitation.” (45)
          In July of 1958, John F. Hawley received word from Dr. G.H. Adkins, the State Mental Hospital's superintendent, that the federal government was planning to reclaim the buildings and grounds the following year. In February of 1959, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons made the following request: “To relieve the critical situation of overcrowding to some extent, and to provide another institution in the Middle West, we propose to reactivate the Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone, Minnesota” (46) On July 1, 1959, Sandstone's Federal Correctional Institution was officially reestablished under the leadership of Warden R.W. Meier. (47) The prison was now a “medium security” facility, and most inmates' sentences were less than five years. Eventually the prison's farmland was turned over to the DNR as a wildlife refuge, and inmates were otherwise employed in the FCI's glove factory, print shop, or cafeteria. (48)
          Twenty years later, in March of 1979, a newspaper article appeared in one of the Twin Cities' newspapers. It asked the question, “What does the prison mean to Sandstone?” The answer? “Trade. Money. A housing shortage aggravated by relatives who move to Sandstone to be near the inmates. The sound of a whistle when a prisoner escapes. A special section in Spring Park Cemetery for inmates who had no home base.” (49) “This is our bread and butter,” one Sandstone resident remarked. “If we didn't have [the FCI], [Sandstone] would be a rather bleak place.” (50)

39. Hubin.
40. Ibid.
41. Walter Eldot, “No Hopeless Patients Here” (newspaper article, 1950s).
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Hubin.
47. Ibid.
48. Hammond.
49. Ibid.
50. Ibid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 4

          The FCI got off to a bit of a rough start in its first few days. When the first fifty inmates arrived in early April, the prison staff suddenly realized they were not ready for them. The kitchen and bakery were not yet complete, and supplies were limited, so preparing meals was quite difficult! The Sandstone bread man, Oscar Holbeck, stepped up to provide a large amount of bread, and more groceries soon arrived through the prison system. (27) Now well-fed, the first fifty prisoners set to work on building projects and preparing for the arrival of further inmates.
          Despite the initial glitches, the FCI prisoners and staff soon settled into a routine. When a new inmate arrived at the FCI, he entered into a thirty-day orientation period. First, he was taken into a “reception” room where he was provided with a shower and a prison uniform. Staff members checked his health, fingerprinted him, and took his picture. Over the next few days, the new prisoner met with a social service director, psychiatrist, and psychologist. He was checked out by doctors and dentists and introduced to the warden and associate warden. He talked with the director of education and was enrolled in classes appropriate for his educational level. (28) Why take so much effort to orient a new prisoner? Warden Humphrey explained:

"During this period we get to know the men. Not all are hardened criminals. Most of them have specific problems which need to be corrected. We let them know that they are here as punishment for crimes but at the same time we feel that by treating them well, giving them an opportunity to rest as well as work and devote their non-working hours to profitable leisure- time activity we can operate a more efficient institution." (29)

          When the orientation period was completed, the prisoner received his work assignment, which he fulfilled five days a week for seven and a half hours a day. (30) In the prison's early days, many of these work assignments involved tending to the “prison farm” portion of the FCI. In his off hours, the inmate could take classes, enjoy social activities in the recreation hall, participate in baseball games, read, write letters, receive visitors (on a limited, scheduled basis), watch movies (and in later years television), and participate in a variety of programs including religious services, Alcoholics Anonymous, and card clubs. (31) Most inmates at the FCI served prison terms of eighteen months or less during the institution's first years, and shortly before the end of each prisoner's sentence, he typically moved to a treatment center or halfway house (as those options became available) to help him manage his transition to freedom. (32)
          The FCI functioned relatively smoothly for eight years. It brought added jobs and income to Sandstone; a new base of prison employees and family members of inmates who purchased houses in the village and served as customers for local businesses; improved roads and bridges for transportation to and from the prison; and an overall feeling that, with the stability the institution brought to the village, Sandstone would survive the trouble times of the 1930s and 1940s. (33)
          That impression of security was relatively short-lived, however. On September 2, 1947, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced that it was considering reducing the FCI's inmate population and personnel. (34) A committee from Sandstone, including one of the original prison farm four, John F. Hawley, left almost immediately for Washington to ask the Bureau to reconsider. They were unsuccessful. The Bureau demoted the FCI to a “prison camp” with only thirty staff members and about 103 inmates. (35) The situation worsened over the next year. By April of 1949, the prison population had dropped below one hundred, and the few staff members left were awaiting transfer notices. At its peak, the prison had housed six hundred inmates and provided jobs for about 125 people, most of whom purchased homes in Sandstone. (36) Now the town was facing an “economic tragedy” when the Bureau of Prisons formally closed the FCI on June 30, 1949. (37) One newspaper article summed up the stressful situation:

"It is estimated that the prison closing will take one-fourth of the working population away from here. This means an average annual payroll of between $400,000 and $500,000 will disappear from the business life of Sandstone and other nearby communities. It does not take into account food products, clothing, fuel and other products sold here to the prison itself, which has been estimated in excess of $1,000,000 a year. The whole business economy of Sandstone has been geared for years to the needs of the prison and its personnel." (38)

27. “Officially Opened.”
28. Nathan Cohen, “Federal Institution Is Far Cry From Hard-Boiled Era” (newspaper article, 1939).
29. Ibid.
30. Ellen Walker, “The Federal Correctional Institution: Admission and Orientation” (newspaper article, n.d.).
31. Ibid.; Cohen
32. “'Open House'”; Walker
33. “New Prison”; Ruth Hammond, “Not Everyone Who Lives in Sandstone Does So by Choice” (newspaper article, March 17, 1979).
34. Hubin.
35. Ibid.
36. Larry Fitzmaurice, “Sandstone Reels Under Major Blow In Prison Closing” (newspaper article, 1949).
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 3

          By early 1936, however, government officials realized that the repeal of Prohibition had not decreased the prison population as much as they had hoped. In fact, prisons were becoming more and more overcrowded. (20) In the spring, Congress appropriated $1.5 million to build three federal prisons, and the prison farm four received word that Sandstone had once again been chosen as the site of one of the new institutions. Current plans called for a larger prison than the one designed in 1932; instead of three hundred inmates, the new prison would hold six hundred prisoners. Surveyors arrived in Sandstone in August of 1936 to once again look over the prison site, but construction was delayed due to a shortage of funds and a good deal of political wrangling. Finally, late in 1937, construction began on Sandstone's Federal Correctional Institution. (21)
          By April of 1939, the institution, the twenty-second in the federal prison system, was nearly completed. (22) An enthusiastic newspaper article announced a three-day open house during which visitors could inspect the new institution. “This is one of a series of Federal regional institutions constructed at strategic points throughout the United States for the purpose of relieving congestion in local institutions...” the author explained. The prison, he continued, is built in the form of a quadrangle and

" simply but soundly constructed of reinforced concrete...There is no wall about the institution as the buildings are of a self-enclosing type. It consists of two cell blocks of the intermediate security type. In addition there are eight dormitories holding fifty men each. Adequate exercise yards have been provided as well as a receiving building, a small hospital, a congregate dining room, assembly hall, class rooms, shop space, and warehouse facilities." (23)

As another writer declared, “ would be impossible for any of the inmates to scale the inside walls” of the 600 by 400 foot structure secured by “steel vault doors”. (24) Construction was supervised by the N.P. Severin Company of Chicago and the Maurice Schumacher Constructor Co., of Minneapolis, but many of the workers were recruited from Pine and Carlton counties. (25) Construction costs had already topped $800,000, and the prison was not yet completed. After nearly 9,000 curious spectators had passed through the prison gates to take a close look at this new “modern” structure, the institution was ready for business, and the warden, George W. Humphrey; a staff of trained federal prison personnel; and a group of fifty prisoners from the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, arrived at their new home. (26)

20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. “'Open House' at Federal Institution for Three Days” (newspaper article, April 9, 1939).
23. Ibid.
24. “Federal Correctional Institution Officially Opened” (newspaper article, April 1939); “New Prison Rises At Sandstone,” Duluth News-Tribune, Nov. 28, 1937.
25. “'Open House'”; “New Prison”
26. “'Open House'”; “Officially Opened.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 2

          Prison farm plans seemed to go smoothly at first. In February and March of 1932, the Federal Prison Board looked at architectural plans for the new prison and selected an architect to complete the design process. The prison farm four and their colleagues ran into a slight glitch in acquiring the titles and deeds to some parcels of land on the prison farm site. The companies that owned the land had gone out of business years before. A title acquisition hearing was held on June 27, 1932, and since no one showed up to voice any objections, the last of the titles were secured without further ado. (12)
          Sandstone's residents proved ready to do their part to bring a federal prison farm to their town. The village council met July 1 to consider a petition signed by sixty-one Sandstone citizens that called for a special election to vote on the following question: “Shall the village of Sandstone issue its warrants in amount of $2,500, payable $500 per year interest at five per cent, to defray expenses incurred in locating a federal prison farm at Sandstone?” (13) The council approved the election, and the bond question passed with a resounding “yes” on July 15. Excitement mounted as federal surveyors and later Assistant Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons J.V. Bennett showed up in Sandstone to look over the prison site. In October, the Minneapolis Tribune announced:

          "America's first federal detention house for suspects and short term prisoners to be built next year at a cost of $300,000 at Sandstone, Minn., 85 miles north of Minneapolis, will stand as a monument to the progress of science in prison construction and to the community spirit of the Sandstone people who secured the great institution for their town....
          "This institution is unique in the United States....The building will house 328 prisoners and suspects. In reality, it will consist of merely the first wing of a greater institution. Other additions are to be built in future years.
          "[The] site is described as both healthful and picturesque. In addition, it consists entirely of fine farming land....Every prisoner, if he is physically able, will be required to do his share of the farm work...[which] will permit the detention home to produce a big share of food [for] its inmates." (14)

Sandstone residents were thrilled by this favorable publicity and hoped that their dream would soon become a reality.
          Time passed, a full year, with no word on when construction would begin. Mr. Barstow and Mr. Hawley decided to go directly to Washington to see what was holding things up. They left on July 22, 1933, but returned with no definite answers. That fall they met with U.S. Representative Einar Hoidale, who promised his support for the prison project. The rest of Minnesota's Representatives also offered their help. (15) Hopes were raised once again. Then something happened that changed in the whole landscape of the prison system. The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed.
          The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919. Its first section declared, “After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.” (16) In other words, the making, selling, transporting, and drinking of alcohol was, for all practical purposes, illegal. Prohibition had begun. The supporters of prohibition were, as one author remarked, “naive in the extreme....They ignored the fact that one cannot make a crime overnight out of something that millions of people have never regarded as a crime. Lawmakers could not legislate away a thirst.” (17) Many people simply did not abide by the law. They concocted their own “moonshine” or “hooch” in homemade stills and sold it to their neighbors and friends. Others decided Prohibition was a good business opportunity and began trafficking alcohol on a larger scale. Organized crime flourished as “bootleggers” ran liquor across state and international lines. Sometimes these Prohibition-related criminals were not careful enough and were apprehended by authorities, increasing the prison population dramatically and leading to the overcrowding mentioned in the 1929 congressional report. By 1933, it was clear to most people that Prohibition had achieved the exact opposite of what it intended. Alcohol consumption had, if anything, risen over the past decade, and crime rates had soared along with it. Congress proposed the Twenty-First Amendment repealing Prohibition on February 20, 1933, and it was ratified on December 5. (18)
          Alcohol was legal once again, and many “criminals” were no longer classified as such. Federal prison officials, anticipating a decline in the prison population, halted all federal prison construction projects, including the one in Sandstone. (19) The hard work of the prison farm four and their colleagues appeared to have been in vain, and the financial contribution of Sandstone's residents seemed wasted.

12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Langseth, 149.
15. Hubin.
16. Baily and Kennedy, A18.
17. Ibid., 750.
18. “Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Wikipedia, (accessed June 16, 2011).
19. Hubin.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone: A History - Part 1

          In 1931, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. After the stock market crash on “Black Tuesday,” October 29, 1929, the country faced an economic catastrophe. By the end of the year, horrified stockholders had lost approximately $40 billion. Businesses and industries floundered and failed. As 1930 drew to a close, over four million workers were without jobs. Banks collapsed, and in these days before FDIC insurance, people lost their entire life savings. Farmers struggled as their markets collapsed and bad weather destroyed their crops. A mood of gloom and despair settled over the nation. (1)
          Sandstone was not immune from the hardships of the Great Depression. Sandstone's economy centered on its famous sandstone quarry. Founded by William Grant in 1885, the quarry produced high-quality building stone that was shipped across the United States and Canada for use in the construction of public and commercial buildings, private homes, bridges, monuments, and other structures. In the mid-1920s, the Sandstone Quarries Company began producing Kericon Koncrete products at its new concrete manufacturing plant. (2) Sandstone was also well-known as a division point on the Great Northern Railway. With its twenty-stall round house, multiple tracks, and “modern” depot (built in 1922), Sandstone depended on the railroad industry as fundamental to its economic success. (3) By 1931, both the quarry and railroad industries were in decline. (4) The market for quarry stone tapered off as the building trade deteriorated, and fewer people could afford to ride the rails or ship their products to ever-weakening markets. Sandstone's businessmen and village leaders began to get nervous about the fate of their town in such a troubled economy. Would Sandstone survive the Great Depression?
          Ray Barstow, president of Sandstone's First National Bank, was determined to answer that question with a resounding “yes”. Mr. Barstow had recently studied the 1929 congressional report on the conditions of the nation's prisons. The report, which focused on overcrowding in the federal prison system, had spurred several federal judges in Minnesota to call for the establishment of more federal prison farms in the northern part of the state. These farms, they thought, would offer better living conditions and the possibility of valuable work and rehabilitation opportunities. (5) Mr. Barstow firmly agreed and decided that he knew just the right place for one of these federal prison farms. There was a piece of uncleared land across the Kettle River to the east of Sandstone that would be a perfect site. (6) A prison farm, Mr. Barstow reasoned, would bring revenue and jobs into Sandstone to make up for the economic downturn in the quarrying and railroad industries. He quickly enlisted the help of Minnesota Senator Adolph Larson, Dr. Homer P. Dredge, and businessman John F. Hawley. (7) “The prison farm four,” as these Sandstone men came to be known, called a meeting of Sandstone's leading citizens and formed the “Prison Farm Committee” with the goal of winning a federal prison farm for Sandstone. (8)
          The prison farm four and their colleagues were well aware that bringing a federal prison farm to Sandstone was going to involve hard work, but they could not have realized that when they started their venture in 1931 that eight years would pass before the prison would actually open. The U.S. Department of Justice had already announced its intention to build a new prison farm in Minnesota, but Sandstone was not alone in its bid for the new institution. Fourteen other communities were competing “strenuously” to be chosen. (9) Sandstone, however, had the unique advantage of being positioned half way between the Twin Cities and Duluth, the cities that provided most of the Minnesota prison population. In June of 1931, Superintendent of Federal Prisons Sandford Bates, visited Sandstone to inspect the proposed site. He must have been impressed, for in October, he officially recommended Sandstone as the location for the new prison farm. In the meantime, the Sandstone committee had been busy securing options to purchase the necessary land, 2,885 acres, which it could soon offer to the government at the rate of $5 per acre. (10) On November 10, 1931, Sandstone's residents received the exciting news that their bid for the federal prison farm had been approved by U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell. The village fire siren blew, and the citizens celebrated long into the night. (11) Perhaps things were finally looking up for their town.

1. Thomas A. Baily and David M. Kennedy, The American Pageant, vol. 2, 10th ed. (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1994), 783-784.
2. Muriel Langseth, ed., Sandstone, the Quarry City (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1989), 19, 40, 44.
3. Ibid., 56, 57, 59.
4. Ibid., 149.
5. Edgar A. Hubin, Founding of a Prison (Sandstone: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Correctional Institution, 1963).
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.; Lanseth, 149.
8. Hubin.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sandstone Soccer Team

Pine County was home to numerous soccer fans before the sport was widely popular in the United States. The English stonecutters who worked in Sandstone's quarry brought their love of soccer with them when the immigrated to America. Other Pine County towns formed soccer teams to give the Sandstone players some competition. This photograph was taken in 1910.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Desperado Captured

From the Pine County News, November 7, 1874:

About two weeks ago a man came into this place and stated that he came from St. Cloud and wanted employ­ment. Mr. Nester at once hired him to work on the road between this city and Brunswick with a crew of men. This man gave his name as John Barney. On Thursday of last week two men (we withhold their names for various reasons) arrived from Brecken­ridge and, being around the hotel in the evening, noticed this man Barney and recognized him as the notorious John Seymour, alias "Black Jack," alias John Barney, the leader of the band of horse thieves and robbers, who have long infested the northwestern part of the State. The men gave the authorities the information, and on the following day, Constable Byers with the assistance of John McElroy succeeded in capturing him while he was at work on the road. When he found he was fast and could not get away from the officers, he exclaimed that he was "up again for a sale!" He was immediate­ly put in irons, word sent to Brecken­ridge, to the sheriff, who answered to hold him and take him as far as St. Paul where he would meet the officer having him in charge. This was done on Wednesday, Constable Byers conduct­ing him as far as St. Paul. Seymour was arrested this time on the charge of stealing a horse from one Edwards about the 23rd of September last, the horse having been found in his possession after it was taken. It is also reported that he has shot and killed several men and that his last lawless act of this character was shooting and severely wounding a man at Grand Forks on the Minnesota River about the first of September last. It is con­sidered by those who know him that if he gets what he deserves at the hands of the law he will "swing," and at present it is very probable that he will have a hearing before a tribunal of Justice.