Monday, October 29, 2012

Deer Lodge Prison

The historic prison at Deer Lodge served Montana from 1870 during territorial days until 1979. Today it is a museum, but over the course of more than a century, thousands of prisoners lost their identities within its walls. Some horrific events occurred there. One took place on March 8, 1908, when George Rock and W. A. Hayes attacked Warden Frank Conley and his chief deputy, James Robinson, in an attempted escape. Conley shot both Rock and Hayes, hitting Rock in the head and Hayes twice, once through each lung. These shots should have been fatal, but the bullets stopped neither man. The two prisoners were still able to fatally slit Robinson’s throat with a pocketknife and slash Conley so severely it took 103 stitches to close the wounds. Conley carefully nursed Rock and Hayes so that they would be healthy when, convicted of murder, both were hanged in the prison yard as an example to the other men. These were the only hangings within the walls, but not the only violent deaths. And the prison is a place that captured men’s souls. Little wonder that both visitors and staff report the sounds of murmuring voices, the doors of empty cells clanging shut, the sounds of heavy boots patrolling the cell blocks, and unseen hands plucking at their clothing.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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