07 November 1901
The Wichita Beacon, 8 November 1891, accessed at Newspapers.com/.
In the months leading up to the prison break, some of the prisoners hatched a plan and then waited for the right moment to act on that plan to escape. The three ringleaders buried three revolvers inside the enclosure at the site where the new prison was being built in anticipation of an opportunity to escape. In newspaper articles, the prison claimed the plan was a not a new plan but was successful because of the limited number of guards and the fact that the prison was utilizing the better behaved inmates to build the new prison that was offsite. Prison officials claimed the conspiracy was not hatched by their inmate laborers but rather by the “inside gangs” that were left behind at the prison. The inmates chose a time of day when the guards were unarmed and acting as the foremen of the new prison construction site which was quite a distance from the then-current prison site. The new prison site was described as being west and a little north of Leavenworth near the south line of the government’s reservation about 2 miles from the old prison site. The new site had about 450 convicts working there putting up walls, building cell houses, and other labor. Each night the laborer convicts were marched back to the old prison near the fort. In the morning they would be marched back out to the new prison site. The new site was enclosed on two sides with stone walls and on the other two sides with high board fence that was to be replaced with masonry. On top of the board fence were lines of barbed wire and at intervals around the enclosure were guard towers where guards were stationed while prisoners worked. This is the background upon which the “mutiny” (as it was called by prison officials and media) began.
At 3:40 on 7 November 1901, the three convicts set their plan into motion by creating an uprising. They immediately captured three foremen/guards. The prisoners in charge of the uprising confiscated 20 rifles and revolvers from the guards and held the guards for nearly 30 minutes. In addition to the 3 guards, they also captured Frank E. HINES (sometimes spelled HINDS), the construction engineer and superintendent of construction, whom they used as a shield during the riot. HINES later escaped and gave a statement about the riot.
“At the time of the outbreak I was working in my office inside the enclosure, shortly
befor[e] 4 o’clock, one of the prisoners stepped to the door of the office and said:
‘Well, boys, we want you.’ I thought little of this because the convicts had the
privilege of coming to the office and asking me for any article they might need in
“I turned about and found myself facing a 45-caliber Colts revolver, in another instant
a second prisoner appeared with another revolver, with the demand for us to hold up
our hands. They marched us outside the building where we were confronted by a
third convict with a pistol. The three convicts began to march us toward the west
gate, taking care to keep our bodies between them and the guard tower walls. Just
inside the west gate is a steel cage enclosure in which the convicts are locked before
the outside is finally opened. The three convicts marched us in this enclosure and
guarded us there while a number of rioters ran into the cage and ascended the ladder
to the guard tower which is located just above the entrance. They took this guard
entirely by surprise and captured all his arms. They then marched the guard down into
the enclosure and converted him into another human fortress to protect themselves from
the fire of the guards in the towers.” (The Topeka Daily Capital, 9 November 1901)
At this point, the northwest tower guard began to fire into the crowd but saw that he was endangering the captured guards and quit firing. By this time about 30 convicts had joined in the riot. The crowd moved southward toward the southwest tower where Guard BURROWS was stationed, keeping the captured guards in front of them. Burrows chose to shoot at the crowd in spite of the danger to his colleagues who were being used as shields. The convicts who were armed returned fire. BURROWS was shot in the neck and the prisoners entered his tower and took his arms. They entered another tower in the same way and captured Guard WALDRUP (sometimes spelled WALDRUPE). WALDRUP was shot in the forehead and in the left hip. Captain of the Guard TELFORD, realizing that the prisoners fully intended to kill him at the first opportunity, broke away and managed to escape. The prisoners fired several shots at him before he could reach cover. There was mass chaos with both sides- guards and prisoners- firing shots at each other. One of the three prisoners who began the riot, Quinn FORD (one of the ringleaders), was killed. As the prisoners were about to attack the fourth guard tower, HINES (according to the post-riot statement he gave) shouted at the prisoners to stop or they would get everyone killed. He much preferred that the shooting stop and some prisoners escape as opposed to all of them getting killed. He led the prisoners to an entrance that was boarded up and had not been used for quite a while. The prisoners who began the riot fashioned battering rams, broke down the doors, and escaped. The thirty prisoners who had joined in the riot finished battering down the wooden stockade fence/walls and escaping. Despite HINES’ attempt to save himself and the three other civilians who had been captured, there was a guard outside the fence who persisted in shooting and one of the shots nearly hit HINES’ arm. Unfortunately for HINES, the convicts grabbed the four men and forced them to continue their jobs as human shields outside the fence. As the group neared 14th Street near the northwest city limits, they allowed the four captured men to go free. (The Topeka Daily Capital, 9 November 1901)
In addition to HINES, the captured men included W. F. CARROLL (foreman and stone mason), Harmon BONE (foreman and brickworker), and Arthur TRELFORD (Prison Captain of the Guard). The guards who were injured or killed were HOFFMAN, C. E. BURROWS, and J. B. WALDRUP.
Because of the lateness of the day, the convicts’ head start, and the rough wooded terrain surrounding Leavenworth, none of the convicts were captured on this day. Stay tuned tomorrow for what happens after the escapees get away. Be prepared for gunfights, a statement from the warden, and a blow-by-blow account of Red’s escapade.
P.S.- Just for fun I came back and added a portion of Wikipedia’s historical timeline for Leavenworth Penitentiary.
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives