Wheeling Intelligencer, March 14, 1892.
FOR the past year the penitentiary at Moundsville has been undergoing many needed improvements, and with the exception of laying a few walks in the prison yard, every department in the prison is now in the most complete and perfect condition, since the institution has been established. For the past few days a number of convicts have been busy grading all the yards and removing the unsightly piles of debris that had accumulated during the creation of the new chapel and dining hall, preparatory to laying out the lawn in the grounds.
The other day an INTELLIGENCER reporter was sent to the pen to write up the increased facilities for caring for bad people who are found out. He spent most a day most pleasantly inside the gloomy walls.
The new dining hall with a seating capacity of five hundred men, is a big improvement over the narrow wing formerly used, which necessarily created a very crowded condition on account of lack of room. The hall which is built of bricks made by the convicts, is two stories high and stands in the centre of the prison yard. Although presenting a pleasing exterior, it is anything but inviting in the interior, and is not stimulating to one's appetite, with its bastile-like appearance, with brick floors and rough unfinished walls, although the tables and surroundings have a neat and clean appearance, which offset barrenness of the interior. The white convicts are all seated at two long tables, running the entire length of the building on the western side, and the colored convicts at two shorter tables on the eastern side.
The kitchen, at the entrance, is fitted up with all the modern improvements for rapid cooking and handling of food. The second floor is a large hall or chapel, devoted to religious purposes only.
The northern wing, formerly used for dining purposes, is now almost filled with three rows of new steel cells, built on the most improved pattern, a section of which was designed by the present superintendent. It shows a big sanitary improvement over the old stone cells in the southern wing. A good number of these cells are already occupied. The space left in this wing is now used as a resort for the sick and disabled and convicts too old to work. At present there are fifteen sick men in the entire prison.
All the manufacturing departments are running full. The whip department has one hundred and six men, seventy-five in the strap department, and there are seventy-five men in the broom department, turning out on an average one hundred and forty dozen a day. At present this department is considerably overstocked on account of high prices, but they are now shipping some, as prices have dropped in the past ten days.
The Standard Fiber Company have been experimenting for some time in this department on a new split broom, and have been meeting with great success. The entire work is done by new machinery, from shaving down logs to a thin veneer in long sheets, which are pushed forward to a chopping machine, which rapidly reduces the sheets to long thin strips, and bundles them together all ready for the handle. It is the intention of this company, now that success is established, to organize a large stock company and move to Nashville, Tennessee, where hickory is more plentiful.
A present there are three hundred and twenty-six convicts, one of whom was released yesterday. He was James Seeley, who was sentenced for three years from Parkersburg, his term having expired yesterday morning. Among the convicts are several colored boys of very tender age serving out long sentences.
The prison now has the largest number of inmates ever known in its history, and it is a fact that the population of the pen increases at a greater ratio than that of the state at large, which is perhaps not difficult to explain.
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.