On a cool night in June 1845, two convicted men from the recently opened Clinton State Prison in Dannemora lay in a swamp eight hundred feet from the penitentiary grounds, contemplating their next move. Earlier that day, the duo had scaled the wall—finished only weeks earlier using local timber cut and shaped by Clinton’s imprisoned men—and spent hours in hopeless pursuit of freedom a few miles north in Québec. To their dismay, the men discovered the unfamiliar rugged environment surrounding the prison in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Mountains was an insurmountable barrier that put the penitentiary’s wall to shame. Disoriented by thick underbrush, dense forests, biting insects, and mountains as far as the eye could see, the pair ascended and then unwittingly descended nearby Dannemora Mountain, completing a circular route that landed them back within sight of the roughhewn wooden stockade by nightfall.1
Determined to remain free, the men embarked the next morning on a hardscrabble road bearing east toward Plattsburgh. Having concealed their identities long enough to enjoy breakfast at the cabin of an unsuspecting local widow, they continued their journey, only to be interrupted by “groups of men with guns and sticks.” As they dashed into the woods, a search party officer disabled one with a skillfully aimed rock throw and then apprehended him. The remaining fugitive’s “hunger was so intolerable that he came out and surrendered himself to the men who were still watching along the road” the following morning. After two days on the run, Clinton’s first escapees were back behind bars. In light of their weakened physical condition, the warden imposed a suspended sentence to be meted out only in the event of future misbehavior. The gambit worked. Penal officials noted the men “conducted themselves with such perfect propriety as not to have deserved even a reproof” in the months following their unplanned adventure in the Adirondack wilderness.2
The drama of Clinton’s first escape underscores the tensions that conditioned life in New York’s third penal institution and the surrounding region during the penitentiary’s first two decades. The state’s inability to reconcile the prison’s profitmaking priorities with its carceral purpose created challenges that were both predictable and intractable. In particular, the penitentiary’s isolated and undeveloped environment stymied state leaders’ lofty expectations that Clinton simultaneously fulfill its penal obligations, modernize an unbroken wilderness, enrich corporate investors, and stimulate the local economy. Planners’ indifference to the perils of using correctional facilities for non-carceral purposes both fostered and continually aggravated fraught relations among incarcerated men, administrators, residents, entrepreneurs, and the natural world, sometimes with destructive consequences. Some valuable lessons regarding the dangers of deploying correctional facilities as agents of environmental change and economic development gathered dust well into the twentieth century, when New York once again pursued the construction of prisons in the Adirondacks whose objectives would extend far beyond mere incarceration.
The Adirondacks before Clinton
The Adirondack Mountains stretch from the Québec border to the outskirts of Albany, and west from Lake Champlain to the hinterlands of Lake Ontario. For centuries before geologist Ebenezer Emmons affixed the name “Adirondack” to the region in the 1830s, Indigenous peoples traversed and occasionally inhabited the region. The French navigator Jacques Cartier, standing atop Montreal’s Mount Royal on a clear day in 1535, recorded viewing the northern reaches of what would one day become New York, describing “the country toward the south” and its “rivers, ‘seas,’ lakes,” and other scenic wonders. Subsequent travelers encountered the area’s soaring mountains, rushing waterways, abundant wildlife, bountiful vegetation, dense forests, and vast stores of minerals. By the late eighteenth century, increasing anecdotal knowledge of the North Country’s plethora of unharvested resources prompted a slow trickle of white migrants to establish a tenuous foothold in the as-yet unnamed region.3
The obscurity and remoteness of the area’s scattered farmsteads left the northern mountains unknown to most Revolutionary-era Americans. The majority of state residents living outside New York City were concentrated in the Mohawk and Hudson River Valleys and along the Great Lakes. While post-revolutionary migrations and high birthrates helped swell those regions’ populations, the Adirondacks’ geographic isolation, rocky soil, inhospitable climate, short growing seasons, and primitive roads deterred many potential settlers. However, in the early nineteenth century popular beliefs regarding the fertility of tree-covered soil helped draw a slew of mainly low-income newcomers from British Canada, New England, and other parts of New York to the woodsy north, where the challenge of transforming old growth forest into productive farmland shattered many a settler’s Jeffersonian dream. Mere survival in the North Country required most residents to find alternative, seasonal employment in the region’s other emergent trades: mining, logging, and tourism.4
Expanding settlements and improved understanding of this heretofore blank spot on New York’s map attracted the attention of state leaders. In 1827, Governor DeWitt Clinton warned that future generations would regret squandering the Adirondacks’ rich resources. Accordingly, the legislature funded a comprehensive scientific investigation, the Natural History Survey, to inventory and catalogue the raw materials New York had to offer. A group of scientists began the five-year project in 1836, their work informed by an ambivalent view of non-human nature as simultaneously a source of wealth and prosperity, an obstruction to the progress of civilization, an “antidote to the evils of modernity,” and a “source of spiritual power.” Thus did they extol the supposedly healthful qualities they believed inherent in northern New York’s environment, describe how its landscape might be transformed for human use and commercial gain, and map the area to promote continued settlement and economic growth. The surveyors established county and township boundaries; named prominent features such as mountains, lakes, and streams; and, in keeping with white Americans’ increasingly sentimental attitudes toward Indigenous peoples, imprinted a supposedly Iroquoian word, “Adirondack,” over the entire region.5
Publication of the survey’s laudatory reports attracted a new and wealthier wave of visitors and migrants. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding in the nation’s congested cities drove growing numbers of affluent urbanites—including artists, business leaders, and people diagnosed with respiratory illnesses—to make the difficult journey to breathe the region’s unpolluted air, stalk its fish and wildlife, and seek spiritual rejuvenation through exposure to its natural beauty. Joining them were logging, mining, and recreational tourism entrepreneurs eager to transform the Adirondacks into a center of commercial activity. The region’s mineral deposits proved particularly tempting. Local legend tells of an 1826 meeting in Essex County between a Jersey City lawyer interested in entering the mining trade and an Indigenous man who guided him toward an area containing “various and immense amounts of ore, equal almost to the demands of the world for ages,” as well as “boundless forests of hard wood and an abundant water power.”6 Though unknown at the time of this fabled encounter, fewer than two decades later the Adirondacks’ minerals, waters, and woods would prove instrumental in establishing correctional services as a distinct sector of the North Country economy.
Crime, Punishment, and Prisons in Early National New York
New York witnessed a revolution in criminal justice policy in the decades following U.S. independence. Historically, law enforcement had preferred public corporal punishments and executions as efficient and inexpensive forms of deterrence. Depending on circumstances, convicted offenders might also be forced to sit in the stocks, participate in public works projects, or perform other tasks to pay for their offenses. European workhouses, where poor people labored under close supervision for room and board, provided inspiration for New York City’s first such institution, which opened in 1735. Chronic labor shortages, however, made such facilities impractical in a growing economy. With an eye toward maintaining an adequately sized free workforce, judges in many cases either imposed fines or dismissed charges altogether. Such instances of relative leniency generated popular fears of both recidivism and the creation of a permanent and potentially unmanageable class of lawbreakers. Accordingly, many Revolutionary-era New Yorkers favored the construction of prisons dedicated to achieving both punitive and preventative objectives.7 Punishment and rehabilitation via incarceration and hard labor thus provided the foundation for New York’s post-colonial correctional system.
The state’s first penal institution, Newgate, opened in Manhattan in 1796. Warden Thomas Eddy fed incarcerated men a steady diet of Christian teachings and formal education, and he forbade physical punishments. Poorly paid imprisoned men spent most of their time producing shoes, barrels, linen, woolen cloth, and woodenwares inside prison factories. If successful, revenue generated from the sale of prison-made goods in domestic markets would ensure Newgate’s financial solvency and incarcerated men who recommitted to thrift and hard work might never return. Within two decades, however, Newgate was in trouble. Sadly, the ingredients for failure had been present from day one. First, a staffing system based on political patronage all but guaranteed the misuse of monies allocated for educational and spiritual programming, effectively thwarting the facility’s mission. Second, the notion that hard labor would transform imprisoned men into productive citizens ignored the external factors that fueled much lawbreaking. Many incarcerated men held jobs prior to their arrests, and the actions leading to their convictions were often rooted in financial strain. Population increase, social inequality, racism, and xenophobia—each of which figured prominently in the competition for jobs and housing among a growing, poor, urban populace—were problems a penitentiary could not fix. The likelihood of recidivism thus remained high, and by the early nineteenth century Newgate had become an overcrowded unsanitary warehouse plagued by disease, corruption, and violence.8
Unfortunately, few who occupied positions of authority in early America understood or bothered to analyze the root causes of either poverty or lawbreaking. In New York, lawmakers responded to overcrowding at Newgate not by overhauling patronage rules or investigating the reasons for unlawful activity. Lacking empathy for constituents susceptible to lawbreaking, officials looked instead to move Newgate’s problems out of sight and mind. Legislators entertained ideas ranging from the establishment of penal colonies upstate to the deployment of imprisoned workers on rural road construction before deciding to erect a new prison in the Finger Lakes village of Auburn in 1817. Auburn, though, would be no Newgate. People incarcerated there lived and worked in silence; occupied tiny, poorly ventilated and unlit cells; consumed substandard food; labored under constant surveillance; and faced savage beatings for minor infractions. Once released, formerly incarcerated men contending with prison-induced psychiatric and physical trauma often reoffended and found themselves back behind bars. Overcrowding thus exacerbated Auburn’s already brutal conditions, thereby disproving the supposed deterrent value of violent punishments but prompting no evaluation of existing penal policy. Instead, insufficient cell space spurred correctional leaders simply to transfer what had become known as the Auburn system to another new penitentiary. Opened in 1825 near marble mines along the Hudson River north of New York City, Sing Sing quickly became a cruel replica of Auburn. Abhorrent work and living conditions drove many despondent incarcerated men to end their lives in a river treasured by artists and urban elites for its natural splendor. The phrase “going up the river” soon came to represent a culture of fear and anxiety that pervaded the homes and communities of New York’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.9
The question remains as to why New York’s penal system, originally dedicated to the notion that steady work habits, religious instruction, and formal education could reduce unlawful activity, became characterized by violence so extreme that it attracted international condemnation. The answer lay in the state’s decision to turn its prisons into profit-making enterprises. Seeking to minimize penitentiaries’ budgetary impacts, in 1817 lawmakers authorized the leasing of incarcerated men to private firms producing a variety of consumer goods—shoes, barrels, carpets, combs, furniture, clothing, and marble, among others—for the domestic market. Gone was even the false pretense that hard labor might curtail recidivism. Instead, officers guarding prison factories enforced production quotas and wielded threats of violence against imprisoned workers in a bid to maximize profits. While low paid, poorly fed, and violently abused incarcerated men toiled in factories, on farms, and deep inside quarries, corporate executives, private investors, correctional administrators, and politicians reaped handsome dividends.10 Thus did New York’s penitentiaries become businesses dependent on a steady flow of raw materials, convicted men, and cash. As the line between public institution and private enterprise disappeared, any impulse to help incarcerated men—vital cogs in New York’s prison-industrial machine—earn a second chance at life evaporated.
At the same time, some wealthy urbanites began to investigate the lawbreaking that had become a prominent feature of city life in the early nineteenth century. In particular, a small number of middle- and upper-class Manhattanites linked New York City’s increasingly unsafe living and working conditions to those faced by imprisoned men. They feared that if left unreformed, the penitentiaries would continue churning out damaged individuals who would reoffend—potentially ensnaring others in their unlawful endeavors—and return to prison, trapping them in a vicious cycle. Though creating a society free of lawbreaking remained a dubious prospect—especially in densely populated, poor neighborhoods—many elites did believe establishing peace in the cities required ending terror and exploitation in the state’s rural penal institutions.11 Thus did the Prison Association of New York, founded by a cohort of concerned elite men and women in 1844, seek the creation of a properly funded, politically independent, and morally oriented correctional system. Coincidentally, the association’s inaugural meeting in Manhattan occurred just as the proposed solution to overcrowding in Sing Sing—another penitentiary—was taking shape in the Adirondacks.
An Adirondack Prison
By the early 1840s, the Auburn system—characterized by silence, violence, surveillance, and corruption—had long been the governing framework of New York’s penitentiaries. The system’s seemingly intentional exacerbation of overcrowding, and the horrendous consequences resulting therefrom, greatly worried reformers. The state’s skilled craftsmen, wary of the rise of unskilled, factory-based production, staunchly opposed further use of prison labor in private-sector industrial work. Nevertheless, the existing penal system did have supporters. Politicians in the Adirondacks who were attuned to the investments that would be needed to plan, build, and operate a penitentiary in a remote, unbroken wilderness welcomed the prospect of a new prison as a potential vehicle for development.12 Many envisioned a large, bustling correctional facility employing hundreds of area residents, the mere presence of which might generate significant ripple effects, including the creation of new small businesses, expanded logging and mining, construction of new towns and villages, and the development of a modern transportation network linking the North Country to the rest of the state and nation. For residents of the Adirondacks, then, any new prison—whether violent and corrupt or humanely inspired—would be more than just a prison.
Every proposal to build a penal institution in the Adirondacks therefore fixated on how the facility might help unlock the riches of the North Country environment. Most focused on applying the existing penal labor system to the extraction and processing of iron ore. While private mining firms had staked many North Country claims by the early nineteenth century, politicians and businessmen alike salivated at the fortunes to be made—via the poorly paid labor of imprisoned men—from the region’s numerous untapped veins. The Natural History Survey’s 1840 report suggested using incarcerated men to build roads, operate sawmills, and mine ore, an idea that resurfaced a year later in a supportive letter sent from a local resident to Governor William Seward. In 1842, the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Prisons endorsed a North Country penitentiary—ostensibly to relieve overcrowding in Sing Sing—only after reviewing data indicating vast ore deposits and enlisting Saratoga County inventor Ransom Cook to find a site suitable for both mining and incarceration.13 Just as planners had chosen Auburn for its proximity to the Erie Canal and Sing Sing for its marble and closeness to the Hudson, the natural bounty of the Adirondacks—and the potential revenues to be derived therefrom—figured prominently in the decision to build New York’s next penitentiary in the state’s most remote and undeveloped region.14
Cook’s investigation brought him to the mining districts of Clinton County, and his 1843 report revealed an area primed for extractive industry. He described the region’s magnetic ore as “very valuable,” its mines as “the best located . . . in regard to an abundant supply of fuel,” meaning both timber and water, and noted that “the soil of the adjacent country . . . [is] good, furnishing an abundant supply of provisions at a cheap rate.” Thus, Cook could confidently inform lawmakers “that for the manufacture of wrought iron, this is the best locality for such an establishment [prison].” Cook’s findings, focused squarely on the area’s moneymaking potential, reinforced the prevailing view that incarceration was, at its core, an economic development program. Seeking to minimize the anxieties of both private mine operators—for whom poorly compensated imprisoned men represented unwanted competition—and skilled craft workers, Cook pledged that iron cheaply produced at Dannemora would only “be put in competition with the manufacturers of iron in Europe,” and not with domestic producers.15 Strangely, he left unexplained how this promise would be kept in a nation whose private mining sector expected to meet the demand for its products exclusive of wage- and price-depressing competition from incarcerated workers.
In spite of Cook’s pledge, fear that the inexpensive prison laborers at Dannemora might further harm the already imperiled livelihoods of free workers prompted 4,500 New York City craftsmen to urge suspension of the penal-industrial work program at the proposed North Country penitentiary. Their March 1844 petition to the legislature read, in part:
The . . . Mechanics of the City of New-York . . . respectfully pray your Honorable Body to consider favorably the Bill providing for the building of a new Prison, in the Northern section of this State . . . We are earnest and anxious for the passage of this bill, under the full belief and assurance that it will eventually divert the labor of our State convicts from all interference with the labor of any and all of our citizens, it being our sincere conviction that the labor of the convicts . . . will interfere only with . . . imported goods consisting mostly of the best iron from Russia and Sweden, made by the convicts chiefly of those countries.
Like politicians, skilled professionals questioned neither the transformation of New York’s correctional institutions into industrial workplaces nor the penal system’s rapid and unsustainable growth. However, mounting income losses from the prisons’ inexorable expansion frightened mechanics statewide. Though the governor’s May 1844 request for $75,000 to build an Adirondack penitentiary—stipulating that its incarcerated men would work in iron production—seemed designed to assuage skilled laborers, the bill left unaddressed the future of the prison labor lease program. Believing that legislators had heeded their demands, craftsmen cheered the bill’s quick legislative approval with an unprecedented spasm of parades, speeches, toasts, fireworks, and artillery salutes in Albany, New York City, and “most of the villages in the State.”16 The only people not celebrating, it seems, were the convicted men whose futures lay in an unbuilt prison located in a nonexistent community in a region that remained, for most New Yorkers, a mystery.
Building Clinton State Prison
Once the festivities ended, the building of New York’s next prison began. Handsomely rewarded for his hard work, Ransom Cook, an inventor with no experience in corrections, received the plum appointment as Clinton’s first warden. Returning to northern New York, Cook laid claim to land containing mines “of magnetic oxide of iron . . . about fourteen miles west of Plattsburgh, and about fourteen hundred feet above Lake Champlain.” The chosen forested tract had, since 1836, hosted a total of two inhabitants squatting in a log cabin. Faced with an overcrowding emergency at Auburn and Sing Sing, lawmakers oblivious to the harsh realities of the North Country climate called for construction to begin in the winter of 1844–1845. Cook’s description of the work underscored the challenges of transforming an undeveloped remote alpine environment:
About the first of February , the stockading of the yard for this prison was commenced and prosecuted through the winter, notwithstanding the snow here was more than five feet deep on an average . . . On the 21st of April, the erection of temporary buildings for . . . officers, guards, workmen, and convicts, was commenced amid a heavy growth of timber, and with nearly three feet of snow still remaining on the ground . . . The cold late spring, the want of roads, and other inconveniences incident to the location, combined to retard the completion of these buildings until June.
As the penitentiary rose from the forest floor, Cook traveled south to collect Clinton’s first cohort of incarcerated men from Auburn and Sing Sing. He told the men where they were being taken and described the work, treatment, and discipline they could expect. Cook reported the men at Sing Sing—having resided up to that point in a brutal penal environment and likely fearful of what awaited them up north—spent “a restless night” aboard a boat on the Hudson River before embarking for the new institution at Dannemora, the fledgling North Country settlement recently named for the renowned iron mining district in Sweden.17
As the prison took shape in the spring of 1845, state lawmakers set in motion a series of environmental transformations designed to ensure Clinton would fulfill both its carceral and non-carceral objectives. Building a penitentiary in an area lacking even basic infrastructure, officials quickly learned, entailed costs unrelated to the work of incarceration. In April, legislators withdrew from sale all uncultivated state lands, “or which may hereafter become the property of said state,” within a twenty mile radius of Clinton, creating a twenty-thousand-acre domain replete with timber for heating, cooking, construction, and industrial production at the prison. They also established state control over water resources located on public lands as exclusively for penal use; solicited bids from area contractors to begin building roads connecting Clinton to surrounding communities; and mandated that the penitentiary—planned as a cash-generating enterprise—and local taxpayers share equal responsibility for funding future road repairs.18 Area politicians and businessmen likely looked on with glee as groups of incarcerated men, three to four dozen at a time, began arriving through the spring and summer of 1845 to help build the growing facility.19 Their vision of state-financed, prison-based economic development in the Adirondacks—encouraged by the actions of elected leaders in Albany—seemed to be coming to fruition.
That August, journalists from the Plattsburgh Republican offered readers an eyewitness account of what had transpired at Dannemora in the previous half-year. They described the creation of a new community that from its inception began perpetuating the inequalities and cruelties of the existing social, economic, and penal order. Reporters noted that Dannemora, only nine weeks old, already boasted “several comfortable dwellings standing among the recently blackened stumps,” presumably homes for officers and administrators; featured “block-houses, log-houses, and shanties,” primitive structures reserved for private contractors and imprisoned men; and, from behind “the tall palisades enclosing the prison yards,” came forth the din of “stone-chisels, stone-hammers, trowels, picks, saws, planes, and blacksmiths hammering, with the occasional booming of the blasts.” Amid the cacophony of industrial tools, the journalists heard not a single human voice, a reminder of the durability of the Auburn system in a state where the pursuit of financial gain directed correctional policy.20
The building of Clinton State Prison—begun by two hundred incarcerated men and a cadre of skilled contractors supervised by twelve armed officers—remained a work in progress for years.21 In 1846 alone, imprisoned workers added more spruce pickets to the ever-expanding wall; used stone cut from prison quarries to construct cell blocks and a building containing a kitchen, mess hall, toilets, showers, chapel, hospital, and store rooms; installed a sawmill; began building foundries, kilns, crushing mills, separating machines, and other iron production facilities; and crafted a pipe one-third of a mile in length to connect Clinton’s stone-and-cement reservoir to a nearby natural spring. Once the clean water reached the prison, a network of pipes carried it to each of the complex’s buildings, affording incarcerated men and staff members a rare luxury. Imprisoned men also enjoyed the benefit of attending literacy and math classes in the penitentiary’s school and could read one of the nearly seven hundred books found in its library. Though Cook claimed in his 1847 report that the prison was half finished, costs remained high as its revenue-generating enterprises—the apparent ticket to achieving financial solvency—took years to complete.22
To make matters worse, the years-long construction meant that structures finished early in the process—especially those crafted from wood—risked succumbing to the elements long before building was complete. During Clinton’s first two decades, state prison inspectors reported on the troubles associated with maintaining roads, stairways, doors, roofs, and other wooden structures in a climatically harsh and isolated environment. The penitentiary wall was a perennial source of concern. Though the Dannemora area contained an ample supply of trees, inspectors lamented the infrastructural barriers—especially the poor roads—preventing their quick and easy removal. As early as 1849, state inspectors noted the wall was “becoming decayed, and will soon require to be replaced, either by new picketing, or the erection of a permanent stone wall.” Clinton’s warden concurred, pointing out that imprisoned workers had installed wooden braces to hold up portions of the wall at risk of collapse. Security was the top priority, as the warden reported the wall was “open in many places, leaving cracks sufficiently large to insert the hand or drive in sticks and make a temporary ladder sufficient for making a successful effort to scale them.” More than fifteen years after the prison opened, in 1861, Clinton’s warden feared the stockade was “liable to fall with the first heavy wind.” Thus, while Clinton remained an active construction site throughout its first two decades, restrictions related to climate, environment, and infrastructure made using the area’s abundant natural resources difficult at best. State prison inspectors noted this phenomenon in their 1859 report to lawmakers, writing that for all the changes that had occurred in the previous decade and a half, Clinton remained “a prison in the woods.”23
For all its troubles, each new incarcerated man, paid employee, and built structure at Clinton represented potentially lucrative public investments in a correctional system where the creation of private profit determined the rhythms of everyday life.24 Thus, the delayed launch of Clinton’s mining operation frustrated politicians, businessmen, and residents eager to reap its promised financial rewards. Holdups also helped fuel opposition among once-supportive area residents. For their part, state leaders and prison officials blamed the endless wait on both inadequate funding and the exhausting work of transforming untouched wilderness into an industrial workplace. The time, money, and energy required to move heavy mining equipment to Clinton’s remote locale was a constant source of frustration. These explanations, however, proved unsatisfactory to locals—some possibly intoxicated by Cook’s glowing appraisals—who may have unrealistically anticipated an effortless construction process. Some argued the ceaseless building proved the site lacked ore, musing that officials hoping to skirt public scrutiny had deliberately slowed construction. Other residents, meanwhile, griped that North Country communities with proven and accessible mineral deposits had somehow escaped lawmakers’ attention. A few even held out hope that officials might eventually abandon the incomplete penitentiary at Dannemora in favor of a presumably more profitable location elsewhere in the region.25 Regardless, critics’ narrow focus on Clinton’s business operations—and not its disciplinary regime or working conditions—must have pleased officials anxious to erase the already-blurred line between the prison’s carceral purpose and its profitmaking objectives.
For their part, opponents likely felt vindicated when Clinton administrators reported in early 1854 that the result of nearly ten years of construction was an inoperable iron mine and production facility. Finishing quickly was of the utmost importance as Jacob Kingsland, a businessman from the nearby hamlet of Keeseville, had contracted to employ 150 incarcerated men for five years in the production of nails—crafted from Clinton iron—for the domestic consumer market.26 Officials were finally able to announce the beginning of iron work at Clinton in September 1854, thus proving the skeptics wrong, but a nighttime fire in 1856 caused over $15,000 in damage to newly completed buildings and recently installed machinery vital to the nascent trade. The facility had no firefighting equipment, and its sophisticated waterworks were no match for an uncontrolled blaze that in just a few minutes’ time consumed a decade’s worth of work.27 As delays once again plagued production, necessitating even more state spending on repairs, Kingsland still had neither his workers nor his nails. The exasperated entrepreneur swiftly sued the state for breach of contract, and in 1859 won $59,000 in damages.28
The Kingsland affair highlighted one of the many risks involved in operating public prisons like private businesses. Though accidents, bad weather, and budgetary constraints were hard to predict, the state’s ambitious, non-carceral plans for Clinton guaranteed a time-consuming and expensive ordeal made worse by the facility’s remote, unbuilt environment. Each year that passed without a marketable commodity or consumer good both burdened taxpayers, including those who had welcomed Clinton’s construction, and alienated potential partners uneager to become the next Jacob Kingsland. Without private investment, Clinton’s existence as a mere prison would be impossible to justify. The wanton seizure and destruction of previously untouched and unregulated natural resources had reconfigured residents’ relationships with the natural world. The creation of a prison-centered, restricted public domain—construed as an evil necessary to fulfill Clinton’s economic promise—threatened to harm the livelihoods of locals accustomed to exercising free use of nature’s bounty. It is likely that at least some Adirondackers viewed with suspicion the transfer of valuable natural wealth away from the poor, toward the prison, and, eventually, into the hands of private businessmen. Accordingly, achieving Clinton’s financial objective, while still an end in itself, also became crucial to ensuring long-term public support for the struggling penitentiary.
Clinton and the North Country Economy
The arrival of the facility’s predicted economic ripple effects relieved politicians and penal administrators worried over the slow pace and high cost of construction. Clinton’s undeveloped and isolated setting, the source of so much difficulty, proved a boon to entrepreneurs eager to fill the gap of previously unneeded small businesses and modern infrastructure. Within weeks of the prison’s opening, advertisements in the Plattsburgh Republican told of new hotels, each highlighting their proximity to Dannemora, welcoming guests to the region. With more travelers and goods circulating in the area, a new stage line opened between Plattsburgh and Dannemora, and the state announced plans to build new roads—crafted from wooden planks cut and shaped in Clinton’s sawmill by prison labor—connecting Clinton to neighboring communities, mining districts, and rail hubs. An array of shops that peddled locally made shoes, matches, lime, and nails—each boasting links to the penitentiary—joined the North Country’s growing commercial index. Finally, private real estate transactions became a regular feature of life in the Dannemora area, illustrating the hamlet’s steady growth and the new values placed on land that until recently had been covered with trees and populated by wild animals.29
In addition to stirring the North Country’s capitalist spirit, Clinton became one of the region’s largest purchasers of locally made goods. Seeking both fiscal solvency and dividends, prison officials had to ensure their incarcerated workers were properly clothed, fed, and housed. To those ends, facility administrators contracted with area farmers for the delivery of meat, vegetables, dairy products, and woolen cloth, and they purchased wood cut and split by local loggers and stone carved from nearby quarries. In a bid to minimize costs, they sold used meat barrels and prison-made soap to consumers across the region, along with enlisting imprisoned men to grow potatoes and vegetables—for both prison use and the consumer market—on a farm adjacent to the penitentiary.30 Clinton’s steady growth guaranteed local purveyors of agricultural produce and building materials a reliable market seemingly shielded from the vagaries of the capitalist world.
As a stimulant to private investment in the North Country, Clinton seemed to be fulfilling its boosters’ ambitions. However, the deepening ties that bound local entrepreneurs to the penitentiary carried considerable risk. Harsh weather conditions, a certainty in the Adirondacks, could deprive the prison of necessary supplies and local businessmen of much-needed income. Uncontrollable market forces might compel farmers, loggers, and stone-cutters to demand higher prices, once again exposing each side to significant loss. The building of modern roads—viewed by most as a sign of progress—could backfire, opening a conduit to outside traders and creating harmful competition for locals expecting priority in prison contracting. As both Clinton administrators and entrepreneurs navigated an increasingly fraught relationship, the expanding population of incarcerated men—the factor upon which the entire project rested—remained a steady and reliable constant. State prison inspectors underscored this reality in their 1859 report to Albany, noting that all of New York’s prisons—including Clinton—were dangerously overcrowded. Lawmakers responded not by choosing to erect a new prison, but, rather, by expanding their unfinished penitentiary in Dannemora.31
The lives and labor of incarcerated men were central to Clinton’s construction, operation, and prominent position in the local economy. Im- prisoned men worked a variety of jobs both inside and outside the prison. In addition to construction, road building, farming, and iron production, incarcerated men labored as attendants in the prison hospital, mess hall, washrooms, and tailor shop, among other sites. Imprisoned workers also devoted considerable attention to enhancing the penitentiary’s aesthetic qualities, removing stumps, building walkways, and re-seeding lands cleared of vegetative cover. State prison inspectors reported in 1859 that these efforts had rendered “the grounds about the prison beautiful and attractive.”32 Incarcerated men also toiled as leased employees under contract to private entrepreneurs. Skilled craftsmen who in 1844 had celebrated the apparent demise of the Auburn system must have watched in horror as Clinton administrators in 1851 solicited their first bids for the use of prison labor. Seven years in, Clinton’s buildings and iron production facilities were incomplete and bleeding red ink. Selling old barrels and soap made from the ash of charred trees would never ensure the penitentiary’s financial solvency, to say nothing of recouping the hundreds of thousands already spent. Lawmakers’ 1844 pledge to employ Dannemora’s incarcerated men in iron production did not, as mechanics sadly discovered, preclude their working in other industrial fields. Thus, while groups of imprisoned men put the finishing touches on Clinton’s mining infrastructure, others found themselves producing goods that would one day fill the shelves of local retailers and the homes of North Country consumers, further intensifying the already fraught dependency between the region and its prison.
Area businessmen took advantage of Clinton’s cheap labor force by using the Auburn system’s standardized bidding process. As at Auburn and Sing Sing, administrators at Clinton accepted proposals for the use of incarcerated workers, and winning contractors paid fees for the use of prison factories and laborers to convert raw materials into sellable goods. Over the two to five years of an average contract, entrepreneurs would control anywhere from one hundred to two hundred incarcerated men paid wages of less than forty cents per day drawn from state coffers. Imprisoned men toiling under the supervision of correction officers in Clinton-based factories manufactured agricultural implements, home construction materials, accessories for horses, carriages, files, nails, barrels, and leather for domestic consumption. While many businesses appear to have concealed their use of penal labor from consumers, one Plattsburgh retailer, the Clinton Prison Boot and Shoe Company, took obvious pride in their Dannemora connection.33 By the mid-1850s, the various pieces of the Clinton Prison economic puzzle, both inside and outside the penitentiary, had started to coalesce.
The public outbursts heralding Clinton’s legislative approval back in 1844 had revealed a popular belief, however misguided, that the new penitentiary would roll back the Auburn system. Yet, a decade later, store shelves stocked with the cheaply made fruits of Dannemora prison labor competed for customers alongside the wares of free craftsmen. What had happened? First, state officials never intended for Clinton to differ from its sibling institutions. If anything, politicians’ expectation that the prison fulfill a wide range of non-carceral goals represented an intensification of New York’s system of penal governance. Second, the high costs incurred from building Clinton in a remote, unbroken wilderness, especially before its mining operation opened, all but guaranteed the impressment of incarcerated men into the ranks of Auburn-system labor. Achieving solvency and turning profits, as always, remained paramount. Third, the rise of machine-based factories in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century eroded the power of skilled mechanics, paving the way for a race to the bottom among industrialists exploiting cheap labor both in and outside of prison. With no politically or socially influential group standing in their way, state leaders could operate Clinton, like Auburn and Sing Sing before it, with impunity. To the public, the penitentiary would seem a beehive of industrial activity. To its employees and incarcerated men, the prison would come to resemble the horrific institutions some had hoped Clinton might help to reform.
The Struggle for Reform at Dannemora
Upon becoming warden in 1845, Ransom Cook established himself as an innovator in corrections. Having absorbed the lessons of the Auburn system, Cook believed penitentiaries should serve the needs of incarcerated men, not the balance sheets of businessmen or greedy pockets of politicians and prison administrators. Cook’s lenient treatment of Clinton’s first two escapees demonstrated his belief that since incarceration by itself was a severe form of punishment, only the worst offenses warranted additional sanctions. By Cook’s reckoning, breaking out of the penitentiary did not require further correction. In part, the warden did not fear future escapes or disturbances because, in his view, “the woods rather protect the prison.” He surmised that at minimum the prospect of getting lost would deter future runaways. Cook further argued that under a humane penal regime, Clinton’s wooden wall, which “stood alongside the mountains,” might someday be unnecessary.34 Inspired by Cook’s spirit of optimism and despite the fact that incarcerated men had run off almost as soon as Clinton opened, local journalists labeled the young prison “this great and important experiment.”35
Just a few months earlier on a chilly night in December 1844, a group of affluent merchants, lawyers, physicians, and educators had gathered in a Manhattan ballroom to form the Prison Association of New York. The association counted among its supporters luminaries such as Dorothea Dix, Alexis de Tocqueville, future Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, and King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway.36 The organization’s members, many of whom lived and worked in the overcrowded and chaotic neighborhoods of New York City, connected their community’s relatively unsafe living conditions to the failures of the penal system. The group thus strongly objected to the inhumane treatment of incarcerated men forced to toil under brutal conditions to satisfy the greed of correctional employees, politicians, and businessmen. Viewing imprisoned men as victims of circumstances beyond their control, the association believed each possessed “the germ from which, with proper cultivation, the green tree shall spring.” In the spirit of Ransom Cook, the reformers called for a penal system dedicated less to generating revenue and more to fostering the well-being of incarcerated men.37 For many association members, Clinton Prison, which was presumably to be less beholden to market imperatives and guided by a reform-minded warden, offered hope of establishing a more peaceful paradigm for New York’s correctional regime.
Empowered by a charter from the legislature, in 1845 the Prison Association began performing annual inspections of the state’s correctional facilities and submitting the resulting reports to lawmakers in Albany. Inspectors focused on incarcerated men’s physical health and educational opportunities, factors deemed crucial to reducing recidivism. Their 1845 report on New York City jails, for instance, lamented a prohibition on physical exercise and warned that lack of exposure to clean air was as dangerous to health “as the indigestion of bad food.” This led reformers to call for a ban on smoking—a behavior “as little conducive to health as it is to cleanliness”—in penal facilities, and to implore legislators to furnish education and vocational training to imprisoned men, many of whom lacked basic literacy and work skills.38 Unfortunately, reformers’ only hope of effecting change lay in convincing lawmakers to improve the lives of incarcerated men through legislative action. Without a groundswell of popular support, and in a state where empathy did not figure in penal policy, reform would remain an uphill battle.
In spite of these seemingly insurmountable challenges, Dr. John Griscom and John Edmonds conducted the association’s first inspection of Clinton in 1846. After leaving New York City by boat, the pair spent forty-six hours traveling overland from Albany to Dannemora along “a road distinguished for its roughness . . . an almost uninterrupted ascent, through deep sand, broken rocks, and water-worn gullies.” On arrival, they marveled at Clinton’s architectural design, radical by contemporary standards, featuring large cells, wide hallways, high ceilings, and a climate control apparatus furnishing “a regulated supply of air, from without, into the prison, warmed in winter.” Interviews with the facility’s 159 incarcerated men, most below the age of thirty, showed them to be in good health, such as “might be expected in persons at regular labor, with good and wholesome diet,” and exhibiting “cheerfulness” and “an elasticity and vigor of mind and body.” The environment surrounding the prison provided an added bonus. A “general atmosphere of the greatest purity” and the “pure air of its mountainous altitude”—features believed to possess special restorative qualities—might, the inspectors contended, render Clinton “unrivaled” in the quest to reduce unlawful activity. A combination of thoughtful design, humane treatment, and, despite its numerous challenges, intelligent site selection, made Clinton Prison a place where “cruelty is unknown, and disobedience infrequent.”39
The association’s glowing first review was matched only by its 1848 report. The inspectors, James Titus and Richard Reed, praised Clinton’s mess hall, where unlimited servings of nutritional food supplied incarcerated men energy for long days at work. Titus and Reed also commended the unspoiled nature of the Adirondacks, which they claimed produced “evidence of comfort and an aspect of cheerfulness well calculated to alleviate the sadness of spirit which must ever lay heavy upon the minds of the unfortunate inmates.” Conversations with Clinton’s 143 imprisoned men reinforced this positive view. Most displayed excellent health, and many claimed officers and administrators were kind and attentive, compelling some to state, “they could not reasonably complain.” Incarcerated men’s desire never to return to prison, even one as progressive as Clinton, impelled some to declare “their intention to call at the office of the Association [in New York] if they should have an opportunity.” The inspectors also reported that one incarcerated person, “a colored man, contributed a dollar to our funds,” while “another declared that a part of his earnings, after the expiration of his sentence, should be given to the prison.”40 One would have been hard-pressed to hear similar sentiments expressed by men imprisoned at either Auburn or Sing Sing.
However, the inspectors’ 1848 visit came at a moment of significant upheaval for New York’s newest penitentiary.41 With prison employment still tied to political patronage, the state’s newly installed Whig government had in January 1848 dismissed Democratic Party appointees working at Clinton, including Cook and a large number of his administrators and officers. In February, a group of soon-to-be-terminated staff gathered at the penitentiary to protest their firing. Resolutions adopted at the meeting affirmed their commitment to humane incarceration—corroborated by association inspectors—along with fear of what lay ahead:
The recent parting which we have all passed through with the convicts of Clinton Prison, together with the leave we are about to take of each other, awaken emotions of pity for the prisoners and regard for each other, which will endure while memory remains . . . We deeply regret the removal of Ransom Cook . . . from the superintendence of this prison as unjustifiable, unprovoked, and vindictive; a proceeding which sacrifices the appropriations from the Treasury, the interests of the Mechanics, and the claims of humanity, to base and groveling party malice.
The same day, Cook addressed the men incarcerated at Dannemora one final time. His remarks revealed the reform impulses that had guided his three-year tenure:
And now, prisoners, I have to part with you . . . Although my authority here is cheerfully surrendered, I cannot resign or relinquish the solicitude I feel for your welfare. It is at all times a sad spectacle to see our fellow beings, although strangers, in your helpless, and with some, almost hopeless situation. To part with and forget them if we can is often a relief to the mind. But I cannot forget you if I would. . . . You are of my acquaintance—Many of you have been under my care for nearly three years, during which, the anguish of some have commanded my sympathies; the noble efforts of others at reformation and improvement, my admiration. For your industry and good behavior as a body, you have my warmest thanks; and for the few who have occasionally departed from the path of rectitude, I entertain no ill feeling, but indulge the hope that they will hereafter do better. I beseech you all to persevere in a course of good behavior, till a virtuous life becomes habitual. You will find peace, prosperity, and happiness your reward.42
Cook and his fired counterparts likely understood that in a state whose leaders both lacked empathy for incarcerated men and fixated exclusively on prisons’ cash flow, efforts to achieve reform were now in severe jeopardy.
While the reformers’ ouster did not necessarily foretell the establishment of a harsher regime, the association’s 1848 report did show Clinton moving in a less humane direction. Interviews with incarcerated men revealed an increase in harsh discipline, and inspectors were alarmed to discover a shower bath, a device designed to simulate the effects of drowning, had recently been installed. Used to punish disobedience, officers would blindfold and restrain imprisoned men in a wooden chair and then pour water over their heads to the point of near death. There was probably little shock, then, when the inspectors subsequently discovered an incarcerated man laid up in the prison hospital recovering from a gunshot wound sustained during an escape attempt. Horrified at what seemed a concerted effort to cleanse the facility of Cook’s spirit of generosity, Titus and Reed pleaded with Clinton’s leadership to abolish torture and instead adopt solitary confinement—by their reckoning, a more humane punishment—in a below-ground dungeon.43
From 1848 to 1852, Clinton operated without Prison Association oversight, allowing administrators a free hand to institutionalize policies that governed Auburn and Sing Sing. Absent the inspectors’ prying eyes, it seems likely that the excessive force uncovered in 1848 intensified once Clinton’s industrial machinery—the facility’s raison d’être—roared to life. Contrary to Cook’s predictions, the Adirondacks were no barrier to incarcerated men escaping the penitentiary’s new and aggressive system of authority. The rotting and chronically unstable prison wall provided an easy conduit to freedom. While officials recorded only three runaways in 1847, twelve imprisoned men absconded in April 1848 alone. The following month, the Plattsburgh Republican reported the escape of “Two convicts, named Lincoln and Nixon,” and in August, an incarcerated man who had been shot and wounded while attempting to break out exclaimed, “I may as well die this way as to suffer and starve as we do in prison.” Correctional leaders’ faith in the value of violent discipline cracked as more incarcerated men risked their lives for a chance at freedom. Unable to maintain control, prison officials asked Albany for help. Instead of remedying the conditions driving men to escape, however, lawmakers sought merely to minimize the risks. Accordingly, Clinton administrators received funds to reward any local residents who assisted in apprehending fugitives; to acquire more powerful firearms for officers; and to preempt future escapes by removing troublesome men from the facility.44 By the early 1850s, Dannemora was rapidly becoming an ungovernable armed camp.
Though the uptick in escapes coincided with a shift in leadership, breakouts from Clinton did not become an everyday occurrence, and most incarcerated men never attempted to run off. Nevertheless, it is likely that the Auburn system’s harsh discipline played a key role in driving men to flee. The new administrators’ practice of keeping “the management of this institution as secret as possible from the public” left most outsiders oblivious to the conditions fueling the unrest, but because the August 1848 arrest and trial of Clinton Sergeant George Sanborn for the assault of an incarcerated man named John Thurston could not be concealed, the unknowing public received a brief glimpse of the Auburn system in action. For speaking to another incarcerated man—a charge Thurston denied—Sanborn physically assaulted Thurston while officers held him to the floor. To maximize Thurston’s embarrassment, Sanborn then confined Thurston, unclothed, in the shower bath in the presence of other incarcerated men and staff members before applying the water torture. Convicted in Clinton County Court, the judge ordered Sanborn to pay only a $25 fine. Journalists covering the trial could barely contain their rage at Clinton’s rapid deterioration:
We leave others to say, which deserve the prison uniform, the convict or his tormentors? The disgusting practice which these officers have adopted of exhibiting convicts in the stocks in a state of nudity, would excite the indignation of a barbarian, and forcibly exhibits the gross depravity which now controls this institution. Let us pause a while before we make another boast of our superior civilization and refinement.
While the following year brought news of a forced march of putatively subversive incarcerated men from Clinton to Sing Sing—along a circuitous route chosen to expose the men to residents’ scorn and ridicule—the story of the assault on Thurston would be the last report of abuse inflicted on incarcerated men to appear in the local press for the next two decades.45 A lack of coverage, of course, did not mean the problem of violence against incarcerated men—and their attempts to resist—had disappeared.
Unsurprisingly, the association’s 1853 report on Clinton revealed an institution that had repudiated its reformist roots. While inspectors John Stanton Gould and James Titus remarked on the high-quality food offered to incarcerated men who worked unsupervised outside the prison wall, they noted this leniency grew less from humane impulses than from the need for strong and healthy workers. The heightened frequency of escapes appears not to have dissuaded administrators of nature’s value as a deterrent to would-be runaways. Gould and Titus also lamented the persistence of patronage-based employment, where officers beholden to politicians—and, by extension, to businessmen—did not “enter heart and soul into the duties required of them,” thus exacerbating the likelihood of recidivism. Clinton’s adoption of an Auburn-style regime eroded the association’s confidence in its abilities to effect change. Gould and Titus threw in the towel, arguing “the seed of evil should be destroyed whilst it is young and vigorous; nay, the poisonous blossoms should not be suffered to drop its seed,” adding that only unspecified preemptive action would prevent unlawful activity from taking “root on the highways as well as the by-ways, on the most sterile soil and the richest virgin lands.” Prisons’ inability to subvert lawbreaking, along with their imperviousness to reform, made further inspections an exercise in futility.46
Dwindling Prison Association funds combined with a pervasive defeatism led to fewer visits to Clinton by the mid-1850s. Amid a nationwide financial crisis, association members focused attention on penal facilities nearer their New York City homes. Though the organization continued offering proposals to improve conditions, the disappointments of the past decade had drained its spirit. In 1857, for instance, the association made only modest suggestions—allowing incarcerated men to perform salaried work upon completion of their mandatory tasks and granting reduced sentences for good conduct—that would have left intact the profit-making and violence-inducing structures of existing penal policy. The onset of the Civil War four years later led to a suspension of the group’s activities, “at a time when the safety of the nation, the perpetuity of democratic government, the preservation of our Federal Union and the defence of our liberties, occupy . . . the minds of all patriots.”47 Strangely, not a single association member seemed to view New York’s nearly seven-decade-old penal crisis in similar terms.
The association’s extended absence from Clinton coincided with the long-awaited stabilization of the prison’s business enterprises. By the mid-1850s, iron production was underway, and the discovery of new mines in 1859 necessitated creation of a larger workforce. Lawmakers promptly funded construction of an additional two hundred cells, and by 1861 a population of incarcerated men that stood at 125 a decade earlier had soared past five hundred. Men imprisoned at Clinton toiled in workshops producing iron, nails, and profits for Jacob Kingsland, along with boots and shoes for a consortium from Troy, among other industrial activities.48 The fulfillment of its boosters’ dream of building a profitable penitentiary in the Adirondacks sadly obscured the repression without which the endeavor might have failed. One reporter gleefully predicted in 1858 that Clinton seemed “destined at any early day to take rank with those [prisons] at Auburn and Sing Sing, not only in regard to numbers but in productive returns.”49 Just ten years earlier, few would have openly hoped that Clinton would resemble penitentiaries internationally synonymous with terror, but, having adopted the horrific system that governed those facilities within the larger context of a society in which abuse of incarcerated men was either tolerated or totally invisible, the final jewel in Clinton’s crown would be surpassing Auburn and Sing Sing in the race for profits. The violence that helped smooth Clinton’s path to financial glory—and provoked incarcerated men’s attempts to resist—continued unabated.
The ten separate escape episodes involving two dozen incarcerated men that occurred between the association’s 1853 inspection and the end of the Civil War in 1865 disproved any notion that Clinton had become an orderly penal environment. While some ran off without planning, including two who jumped from a Clinton-bound train into the waters of Lake Champlain, time and experience taught others the value of advance preparations. Officials investigating an 1854 escape in which an officer shot and killed a would-be fugitive discovered extra clothing and bread in the men’s possession; this pair had some understanding of the challenge of running away into a mountainous wilderness. In addition, Clinton’s porous perimeter proved tempting for would-be fugitives like Abraham Kingsbury, who, sporting a false nose and civilian clothing thanks to the aid of a corrupt officer, walked out the front gate on a clear day in 1860 without arousing suspicion. Improvements to the region’s famously unreliable transportation infrastructure facilitated by the construction of Clinton also made absconding a less arduous ordeal. In October 1864, Michael Casey escaped from Dannemora to New York City, where he hid until police officers involved in the manhunt captured him after a gunfight in Manhattan’s Fulton Market the following spring.50 Contrary to Ransom Cook’s assertion twenty years earlier, the woods could not protect Clinton, and its walls, both artificial and natural, proved to be little more than flimsy barriers that seemingly anyone could move past.
Yet without independent oversight, administrators were able to draw the veil of secrecy ever tighter over Clinton’s internal workings. Glimpses afforded by local press reports had already revealed an institution where violence was fast becoming the norm. Officers assaulting, torturing, shooting, and killing incarcerated men for disobeying rules, running away, or resisting transfer starkly illustrated the mutual animosity that had taken root since 1848. Sadly, this adversarial relationship opened the door to other forms of abuse. An 1856 news story revealed administrators had been forcing Clinton’s Black incarcerated men—numbering a total of three out of hundreds—to serve as involuntary, unpaid laborers, running unsupervised errands for officials outside the prison, and “on one or more occasions” accompanying white officers “on fishing and pleasure excursions in the wilderness, acting in the capacity of servant and waiter.”51 The flagrant enslavement of African American incarcerated men demonstrated the power Clinton officials wielded in the area. Abuses previously confined behind prison walls moved outdoors as officers and administrators, unafraid of legal or social sanctions in an isolated region increasingly dominated by correctional staff, treated imprisoned men as their personal property.
Under such conditions, running away was often the only way to resist the tyranny of life at Clinton. However, even well-planned escapes often did not achieve their objectives. Incarcerated men’s deep well of contempt thus led some to organize larger and more violent acts of rebellion. Shortly after midnight on July 12, 1861, James Sewell, an incarcerated man working in Clinton’s mining facilities, struck an iron bar over the head of Officer Augustus Wright, killing him instantly. While a trusty incarcerated man was able to stop Sewell’s counterparts from murdering a second officer, seven imprisoned men—one armed with Wright’s revolver—escaped into the night. Within a week all had been recaptured, and in October found themselves indicted in Clinton County Court for murder. After a one-day trial and thirty minutes of deliberations, a Plattsburgh jury convicted and sentenced Sewell to death for striking the fatal blow.52 In February 1862, the remaining six defendants faced justice. Among them, Marion Hall was found guilty and condemned to hang. Addressing the court, Hall explained his participation in the conspiracy:
My only design was to gain my lost liberty, and the society of those loved ones whom I shall never see again. It was to free myself from that living tomb in Dannemora, and the galling yoke of those stern oppressors and the cruel torture of their inquisition; that place where a man is not allowed to speak, where he is not allowed to smile, and where he is deprived of nearly all the senses that God has given him for his comfort and happiness on this earth.53
Just three months earlier, an obituary had noted the death of Captain Hosea Chamberlin, a former officer at Clinton who, in failing health, had retired after three years on the job.54 One can only wonder what role, if any, the stresses of prison employment played in Chamberlin’s short career and untimely passing. By the mid-1860s, a penitentiary once lauded as a “great and important experiment” was now described as a “living tomb” where violence and death stalked residents, incarcerated men, officers, and retirees alike. Something had gone terribly wrong at Dannemora. Or had it?
Reform never had a chance at Clinton. While Prison Association oversight during Cook’s tenure had offered glimmers of hope, reformers’ reports and news accounts revealed an institution that from day one operated according to the same principles that governed Auburn and Sing Sing. That Clinton became a similarly brutal charnel house should have surprised no one. For all the hullabaloo surrounding the selection of the northeastern Adirondacks for New York’s newest prison back in 1844, lawmakers had aimed only toward garnering the political support of skilled workers and never intended either to renovate or replace the Auburn system. Thus, it was possible to appoint a reformer as warden and still require incarcerated men to perform poorly paid, backbreaking work in complete silence; to permit inspections from affluent urbanites while allowing officers to waterboard incarcerated men; and to invite reporters to observe and write about the facility’s disturbing inner workings without fear of public scrutiny. Absent widespread outrage over penal conditions, the association’s mild recommendations and journalists’ harrowing tales would meet an indifferent response from legislators in Albany. For many people, stories of atrocities and unrest at Clinton would come to be seen, like at Auburn and Sing Sing, as simply the cost of doing business. Nearly three-quarters of a century after the opening of Newgate, financial imperatives still trumped empathy in New York’s prisons, guaranteeing those unlucky enough to be ensnared in the system a difficult time finding their way out.
Preserve, Park, and Prison(s)
On a cool morning in October 1865, Nicholas Stokes and Henry McCotter began their sixth day on the run after escaping from Clinton. Law enforcement discovered the pair later that same day, hidden on a farm one-and-a-half miles from the Québec border. Hungry, exhausted, and lost, the duo told investigators they would not have “turned into the barn for rest had they known they were so near the free dominions of Her Majesty,” Queen Victoria.55 Though luck had landed them within striking distance of freedom, incomplete knowledge of local terrain had again stymied a successful escape. The men’s impressive thirty-mile trek toward Québec shows how two decades of prison-induced environmental change, viewed by many as progress, could backfire. Though forced to contend with the same dense vegetation, dangerous wildlife, bad weather, and dizzying mountains as past runaways, Stokes and McCotter had successfully traversed a landscape where relentless digging, cutting, burning, excavating, and building had created both new opportunities and risks. In their zeal to wring dollars from Clinton, lawmakers and correctional planners had not foreseen the possibility that incarcerated men might exploit for their own nefarious schemes the very infrastructure without which prison-based profits would not have been made. By the same token, roads, businesses, communities, and sight lines not present in 1845 could also now upend the plans of even the best-prepared escapee. As officers hauled Stokes and McCotter back to Dannemora along roads built using prison labor, newcomers seeking leisure and recreation began arriving in the Adirondacks. To the dismay of state leaders, Clinton became a stop on many a visitor’s summertime itinerary. In their 1866 report to lawmakers, state prison inspectors took note of this troubling development:
Particularly during the summer season, there are large numbers who visit the prisons . . . An admission fee of twenty-five cents each is demanded, which creates a fund which is divided among the convicts as their terms of sentence expire . . . We are still of the opinion that general visiting of the prisons is productive of much evil. While the convicts are in the main from the lower strata of society, they nevertheless keenly feel the degradation of their position, a position still more difficult to bear from their being made the subjects of idle curiosity, stared at and commented upon by those who have no interest whatsoever in their welfare.56
These concerns notwithstanding, there was little risk of Clinton becoming a must-see destination for the increasing numbers of tourists visiting the Adirondacks. The same could not be said for the area’s more unspoiled and aesthetically pleasing locales.
Following in the footsteps of early nineteenth-century urbanites seeking relief from overcrowded and unsanitary cities, Adirondack visitors after the Civil War—titans of big business, artists, and people diagnosed with tuberculosis among them—flocked primarily to areas where extractive industry and the prison system had yet to arrive. The superrich sought in the central Adirondacks the sort of primeval landscape depicted in paintings of the Hudson River School, largely bypassing any modernized locales like the mining village of Lyon Mountain, the logging camps in Tupper Lake, and the state prison at Dannemora. Ironically, enjoying the visual splendors of Adirondack nature required transforming the very areas elites hoped to preserve. Thus did poorly compensated locals build lakeside hotels, rail lines, game preserves, and seasonal homes for the richest of the nouveau riche. As the wealthy laid claim to estates laden with precious natural resources, the region’s low-income residents, many now scraping by in a slew of tourism-related jobs, found themselves cut off from woods, waters, and wildlife they once consumed without restriction. In short order, class tensions revolving around the control and use of nature—likely first experienced by North Country dwellers living near Dannemora decades earlier—became central to everyday life across the Adirondacks.57
The Adirondack environment discovered by new generations of visitors was far from pristine. Since the late eighteenth century, farmers, loggers, miners, and incarcerated men had reshaped the sprawling region. A century later, waves of tourists were followed by business executives eager to exploit its timber and minerals. Buoyed by high demand from soaring urban populations and a growing industrial sector, area men found work in the expanding logging and mining trades. These exploits denuded vast swaths of forest through reckless clear-cutting that heightened the risk of destructive fires and floods. Carried along by floodwaters, the detritus from years of out-of-control logging—dirt, ash, branches, and twigs—destroyed aquatic habitats and threatened to disrupt river commerce across New York State. On land, piles of wood unwanted by loggers furnished kindling for fires that destroyed valuable resources, polluted the air, exacerbated flooding, and marred an already compromised landscape. Visitors oblivious to their own hand in modernizing the Adirondack environment looked on in horror as the chaos that had driven them to the North Country in the first place arrived at the doorsteps of their country homes.58
By the 1870s and 1880s, calls appeared statewide for the enactment of environmental regulations in the rapidly industrializing Adirondacks. Wealthy elites and politicians, many of whom vacationed in the area, joined a growing chorus of individuals concerned that without limitations on timbering, New York would face crippling wood shortages, unnavigable waterways, and a diminished tourist trade. Unwilling to prohibit logging outright, legislators in 1885 approved the creation of a Forest Preserve comprised of numerous noncontiguous, wooded tracts closed to development. In response, loggers simply moved and continued cutting outside the public domain, exacerbating the risks the preserve was designed to contain. To help resolve this dilemma, the legislature in 1892 drew a boundary around the disconnected Forest Preserve tracts, simultaneously encompassing both private and public lands, and created the Adirondack Park. Officials’ long-term plan was to forge—through state purchase of cutover tracts—a single, contiguous preserve bordered by the privately owned lands of residents, visitors, and businessmen. In the meantime, both to protect the Forest Preserve from loggers and to satisfy visitors’ demands for outdoor recreation, voters in 1894 enshrined its “forever wild” status in the state constitution, safeguarding those areas from the whims of future politicians. For decades to come, New York expanded its Forest Preserve one parcel at a time, slowly restoring the region’s scenic beauty, solidifying its status as a tourist destination, and, by limiting the use of previously unregulated resources, guaranteeing continued conflict between residents and tourists.59
Men imprisoned in Dannemora, meanwhile, were likely unaware that their prison, along with the new infrastructure surrounding it, were now situated within the nation’s largest state park. When visitors and elected leaders began advocating for conservation in the Adirondacks, however, protecting a place like Dannemora was not a high priority. Though the aesthetic qualities of central Clinton County must have been breathtaking before 1845, decades of penal developments had yielded a thoroughly modernized and unsafe environment unattractive to most tourists. Nevertheless, Clinton Prison’s proximity to several forested tracts as well as its own vast public domain guaranteed Dannemora’s inclusion, penitentiary and all, inside the new state park.
Its new status as a park community did little to alter the village’s character as a prison town. This was true both in the decades immediately before and after the park’s creation. Shortly after the Civil War, the state correctional system ended its half-century-old prison-industrial contract labor system. Not long thereafter, Clinton’s iron mining business—its raison d’être—collapsed in the depression of the 1870s. As New York redirected its imprisoned laborers away from profits and toward public service, incarcerated men spent their days tending animals and crops on the prison farm, operating machines in its textile factories, and serving as cooks, custodians, and in a variety of other low-paid occupations inside the penitentiary. This shift in governance did not herald the establishment of a more humane regime. Instead, harsh discipline and surveillance increased as the prison population grew. In 1887, more durable stone walls and guard towers—six stories high—replaced the facility’s old, unreliable wooden stockade. Five years later, Dannemora became home to New York’s death row, and intermittent blackouts induced by high-voltage electrocutions soon became a regular feature of village life. By the turn of the twentieth century, massive new stone-and-brick facilities to confine incarcerated men diagnosed with psychiatric ailments and tuberculosis grew alongside the original penitentiary, further cementing Dannemora’s status as a prison town.60
Outside Dannemora, tourism and recreation became the lifeblood of the North Country economy by the beginning of the twentieth century. Before World War II, the prohibitive expense of an Adirondack vacation helped the region remain an exclusive, elite enclave. By midcentury, however, higher incomes, increased leisure time, and improved transportation aided in democratizing tourism in the North Country. Middle-class families driving north found new motels, restaurants, shopping centers, amusement parks, and second homes to meet their every need. While many permanent residents found jobs in the expanded tourism sector, the area’s wealthy old guard—disdainful of their new middle-class counterparts and the commercial developments their visits helped generate—organized to protect the region from the very people on whose spending the local economy had grown to depend.61
In short order, lawmakers in the late 1960s and early 1970s found themselves attempting to balance the interests of low-income year-round residents, middle-class tourists, rich second homeowners, and businessmen against the imperative to safeguard the aesthetic qualities that originally drew visitors. Though protected from commercial development, recreational access to the Forest Preserve had generated mountains of trash and destroyed vegetation, soil, and other precious resources. Unregulated building on private property led to the erection of structures that many deemed inconsistent with the Adirondacks’ wilderness character. To resolve these dilemmas, the legislature created a new body—the Adirondack Park Agency (APA)—that was empowered to regulate building on private and public properties inside the park. The APA sharpened divisions between well-off visitors who generally approved of its measures, and poorer year-round homeowners for whom the agency seemed to represent yet another intervention at their expense on behalf of the rich. In Dannemora, where inclusion in the park had always been little more than a legal technicality, the creation of the Park Agency heralded a new era for property owners previously unburdened by the whims of tourists.62
As the prison population at Clinton—renamed Clinton Correctional Facility in 1970—grew in the early 1970s, an overcrowding crisis in New York not dissimilar to those of the nineteenth century required alternative sites to house a growing population of convicted men. With even the massive complex at Dannemora unable to satisfy demand, correctional planners seeking cheap and accessible cell space looked to Adirondack towns and villages that, unlike in 1845, were established communities where residents and “outsiders” had long clashed over uses and meanings of nature. With the newly constituted APA added to the mix, the stage was set for a conflict among prison leaders selling economic growth, year-round homeowners seeking stable employment, and tourists and seasonal residents defending an environment threatened with a new and potentially pernicious form of development. In addition to furnishing fresh fuel for long-simmering local disputes, the opening of new prisons across the Adirondacks in the last quarter of the twentieth century also disrupted the very social and political divisions that had come to define life in the region since the Civil War. As the prison system reappeared at the North Country’s doorstep in the mid-1970s, all eyes turned—with either hope or despair—to the Adirondack community defined exclusively by its penitentiary: Dannemora.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Lake Placid News
New York Public Library
New York Times
North Country Catholic
Tupper Lake Free Press
Watertown Daily Times
Note on Sources
I have made extensive use of articles originally published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Chateaugay Record, Lake Placid News, North Country Catholic, North Countryman, Plattsburgh Republican, Press Republican, and Tupper Lake Free Press to craft the narrative that follows. The New York State Historic Newspapers (NYSHN) project houses these newspapers in its digital archive located at https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org. The Northern New York Library Network https://nnyln.org and the Empire State Library Network https://www.esln.org are co-sponsors of the NYSHN.
Chapter One: “This Great and Important Experiment”
1. “The Clinton State Prison,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17 (Nov. 1845), 351–52.
3. Colin Calloway, The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600–1800: War, Migration, and the Survival of an Indian People (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990); Guy Omeron Coolidge, The French Occupation of the Champlain Valley from 1609 to 1759 (Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 1938/1999), 8–9; Philip Terrie, “The New York Natural History Survey in the Adirondack Wilderness, 1836–1840,” Journal of the Early Republic 3, no. 2 (Summer 1983): 185–206; The Opening of the Adirondacks (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1865), 16–17, 23, 54–57, 59, 61–64, 69.
4. James Darlington, “Peopling the Post-Revolutionary New York Frontier,” New York History 74, no. 4 (Oct. 1993): 340–81; Glenn Harris, “The Hidden History of Agriculture in the Adirondack Park, 1825–1875,” New York History 83, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 165–202; John Stilgoe, “Fair Fields and Blasted Rock: American Land Classification Systems and Landscape Aesthetics,” American Studies 32, no. 1 (Spring 1981): 21–33; Philip Terrie, Forever Wild: A Cultural History of Wilderness in the Adirondacks (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994), 4; Philip Terrie, Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997), 20–23, 28, 32–33.
5. Lloyd Irland, The Northeast’s Changing Forest (Petersham, MA: Harvard University Press for Harvard Forest, 1999), 186–87; Jane Eblen Keller, Adirondack Wilderness: A Story of Man and Nature (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1980), 114; Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics (Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press, 1969), 66; Terrie, “New York Natural History Survey,” 185–86, 195–98; Terrie, Forever Wild, 7; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 13–14, 16.
6. Charles Brumley, Guides of the Adirondacks: A Short Season, Hard Work, Low Pay (Glens Falls, NY: North Country Books, 1994); Ellen Damsky, “A Way of Life: Saranac Lake and the ‘Fresh Air’ Cure for Tuberculosis” (PhD diss., SUNY Binghamton, 2003); Karen Ann Dietz, “A Home in the Woods: Summer Life in the Adirondacks” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1992); Craig Gilborn, Adirondack Camps: Homes away from Home, 1850–1950 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000); Harold Hochschild, Life and Leisure in the Adirondack Backwoods (Blue Mountain Lake, NY: Adirondack Museum, 1962); Stilgoe, “Fair Fields and Blasted Rock,” 27; Opening of the Adirondacks, 66.
7. W. David Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora: The Rise of the Prison in New York, 1796–1848 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1965), 7, 10, 12, 13, 15–17, 19; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977); Rebecca McLennan, The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776–1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
8. Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora, 29, 32–33, 37–39, 41, 44, 54–55, 61.
9. M. J. Heale, “The Formative Years of the New York Prison Association, 1844–1862: A Case Study in Antebellum Reform,” New-York Historical Society Quarterly 59, no. 4 (1975): 320–47; Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora, 63, 70, 117–18, 126–27, 133, 136, 153, 182–83; Roger Panetta, “Up the River: A History of Sing Sing Prison in the Nineteenth Century” (PhD diss., CUNY Graduate Center, 1999); Pieter Spierenburg, “From Amsterdam to Auburn: An Explanation for the Rise of the Prison in Seventeenth-Century Holland and Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of Social History 20, no. 3 (1987): 439–61.
10. John Conley, “Prisons, Production, and Profit: Reconsidering the Importance of Prison Industries,” Journal of Social History 14, no. 2 (Winter 1980): 257–75; W. David Lewis, “Fiasco in the Adirondacks: The Early History of Clinton Prison at Dannemora, 1844–1861,” New York History 49, no. 3 (1968): 284–305; Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora, 179, 181–83; Anne Mackinnon, “Welcome to Siberia,” Adirondack Life 28 (Nov./Dec. 1997): 40–51.
11. Tyler Anbinder, Five Points: The Nineteenth Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum (2001; repr., New York: Plume, 2002); Herbert Asbury, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld (New York: Hippocrene, 1989); M. J. Heale, “Humanitarianism in the Early Republic: The Moral Reformers of New York, 1776–1825,” Journal of American Studies 2, no. 2 (Oct. 1968): 161–75; Randolph Roth, American Homicide (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009).
12. Conley, “Prisons, Production, and Profit,” 259; Lewis, “Fiasco in the Adirondacks,” 288–89; Mackinnon, “Welcome to Siberia,” 46.
13. Lewis, From Newgate to Dannemora, 198; Mackinnon, “Welcome to Siberia,” 46; Terrie, “New York Natural History Survey,” 198; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 16.
14. Sven Anderson and Augustus Jones, “Iron in the Adirondacks,” Economic Geography 21, no. 4 (Oct. 1945): 276–85; Robert Gordon, American Iron, 1607–1900 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 1, 28; Douglass North, The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790–1860 (New York: Norton, 1966), 164–65.
15. Report of Ransom Cook to the Legislature, Jan. 28, 1843, New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York, New York.
16. “The New York State Prison Bill—Movements of the Mechanics,” New York Daily Tribune, Mar. 29, 1844; “The State Prison Bill,” New York Daily Tribune, May 1, 1844; “The Clinton State Prison,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17 (Nov. 1845), 345–52, 347; “These Are Your N.Y. State Correctional Institutions . . . Clinton Prison, Part I,” Correction 14, no. 2 (Feb. 1949), 3–13. Duane H. Hurd, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York (1880; repr., Plattsburgh: Clinton County Bicentennial Commission, 1978), 48.
17. Ransom Cook, Agent of Clinton State Prison, First Report to the Legislature, 1845, NYPL. Opening of the Adirondacks, 20–21; Hurd, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, 304. “The Clinton State Prison,” 348; Lewis, “Fiasco in the Adirondacks,” 290; Mackinnon, “Welcome to Siberia,” 46–47.
18. Amendment to May 1844 bill establishing Clinton State Prison, passed Apr. 16, 1845, Sections 5–8, reprinted in Plattsburgh Republican, Apr. 26, 1845 (hereafter Republican). New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons (Albany: New York State Senate, 1849), 288, in Lloyd Sealy Library, John Jay College of Criminal Justice / CUNY, New York, New York.
19. “New State Prison,” Republican, Jun. 7, 1845.
20. Untitled article, Republican, Aug. 16, 1845.
21. Untitled article, Republican, Nov. 22, 1845.
22. Annual Report of the Agent of the Clinton State Prison to the Legislature, Republican, Jan. 30, 1847; “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Mar. 6, 1847.
23. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 282, 288–89, 294; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Second Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons (Albany: New York State Senate, 1850), 35–36, 266; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Eleventh Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons (Albany: New York State Senate, 1859), 10; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Thirteenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons of the State of New York (Albany: New York State Senate, 1861), 200; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Fifteenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons, of the State of New York (Albany: Comstock and Cassidy, Printers, 1863), 293; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Seventeenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons of the State of New York (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen, Printer, 1865), 138; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Eighteenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons of the State of New York (Albany: C. Wendell, Printer, 1866), 136.
24. On the arrivals of new incarcerated men, see untitled articles, Republican, Jun. 7, 1845, Jun. 19, 1852, Dec. 18, 1852, Aug. 11, 1855, Jun. 5, 1858, Feb. 23, 1861, Apr. 6, 1861, Apr. 29, 1865. On appropriations for salaries and construction, see untitled articles, Republican, Dec. 18, 1847, May 5, 1849, Mar. 23, 1850, Aug. 9, 1851, Jul. 1, 1854, Jul. 28, 1855, Jun. 18, 1859, Jul. 9, 1859, Jul. 30, 1859. “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Oct. 8, 1859.
25. Annual Report of the Agent of the Clinton State Prison to the Legislature, Republican, Jan. 30, 1847; “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Feb. 6, 1847; “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Mar. 6, 1847. New York State, Annual Report, (1849), 280–81, 285; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Third Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons (Albany: New York State Senate, 1851), 34.
26. New York State Prisons, Annual Report of State Prison Inspectors, Republican, Mar. 11, 1854.
27. Untitled article, Republican, Sept. 2, 1854; “Fire at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Jun. 28, 1856.
28. “An Award against the State of $59,239.61—A Matter which Demands Investigation,” Republican, Oct. 15, 1859.
29. On hotels, see “Cadyville Hotel,” Republican, Aug. 30, 1845; “West Plattsburgh Hotel,” Republican, Jan. 10, 1846; untitled advertisement, Republican, Oct. 1, 1859; untitled advertisement, Republican, Jul. 20, 1861. On stage lines, see “Accommodation Stage,” Republican, Apr. 24, 1846. On roads, see “Clinton Prison Plank Road,” Republican, Aug. 17, 1850; untitled article, Republican, Mar. 10, 1855; “Special Notice,” Republican, Jul. 2, 1864. On small businesses, see “New Boot And Shoe Store,” Republican, Dec. 8, 1855; untitled article, Republican, May 22, 1858; “Clinton County Lime!” Republican, Nov. 26, 1859; untitled article, Republican, Apr. 11, 1863. On land, see “Mortgage Sale,” Republican, Mar. 17, 1849; “Sheriff’s Sale,” Republican, Feb. 23, 1850. One example of each is cited here. Foreclosures and land sales featured prominently in the pages of the newspaper throughout the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s. New York State, Third Annual Report, 35–36, 264, 266; New York State, Thirteenth Annual Report, 200; New York State, Eighteenth Annual Report, 136.
30. Untitled article, Republican, Sept. 20, 1845; untitled article, Republican, Oct. 11, 1845; “Notice!,” Republican, Jan. 24, 1846; untitled article, Republican, Mar. 7, 1846; untitled article, Republican, Oct. 24, 1846; untitled article, Republican, Dec. 29, 1846; untitled article, Republican, Jul. 17, 1847; untitled article, Republican, Sept. 11, 1847; untitled article, Republican, Dec. 18, 1847; “Beef! Beef!” Republican, Mar. 30, 1850; “Clinton Prison Plank Road,” Republican, Aug. 17, 1850. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 286; New York State, Third Annual Report, 33.
31. New York State, Eleventh Annual Report, 15; New York State, Inspectors of State Prisons, Twelfth Annual Report of the Inspectors of State Prisons (Albany: New York State Senate, 1860), 4.
32. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 284–85; New York State, Third Annual Report, 36, 265; New York State, Eleventh Annual Report, 10, 152–53; New York State, Twelfth Annual Report, 171.
33. “Clinton Prison Plank Road,” Republican, Aug. 17, 1850; untitled advertisement, Republican, Oct. 4, 1851; “New Boot And Shoe Store,” Republican, Dec. 8, 1855; untitled advertisement, Republican, May 15, 1858; “Clinton Prison Convict Labor,” Republican, Dec. 24, 1859; “Proposal for Convict Labor,” Republican, Nov. 29, 1862; untitled article, Republican, Apr. 11, 1863; “Proposals for Convict Labor,” Republican, Oct. 1, 1864; “Proposals for Convict Labor,” Republican, Mar. 4, 1865. New York State, Thirteenth Annual Report, 9; New York State, Fifteenth Annual Report, 292.
34. Untitled article, Republican, Aug. 16, 1845. “The Clinton State Prison,” 351; Opening of the Adirondacks, 31; Hurd, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, 49; Mackinnon, “Welcome to Siberia,” 42.
35. Untitled article, Republican, Aug. 16, 1845.
36. Prison Association of New York, Fourth Report of the Prison Association of New York (New York: The Association, 1847–1848), 3–5, in NYPL.
37. Prison Association of New York, First Report of the Prison Association of New York (New York: Jared W. Bell, 1845), 3, 6–7, 13, 15, 20, 23, 27, 40.
38. Prison Association of New York, Second Report of the Prison Association of New York (New York: The Association, 1846), vol. II, iii–vi, 68, 76, 84, 97, 102; Prison Association of New York, Third Report of the Prison Association of New York (New York: The Association, 1847), 9.
39. Prison Association, Second Report, 149–50; Prison Association, Third Report, 43, 59, 112, 114, 117–26. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 344.
40. Prison Association, Fourth Report, 207–209, 214. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 344.
41. Untitled article, Republican, Jan. 29, 1848.
42. “Meeting at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Feb. 12, 1848.
43. Prison Association, Fourth Report, 207–14. New York State, Annual Report (1849), 344.
44. “$50 Reward!” Republican, Jun. 12, 1847; “$100 Reward!” Republican, Sept. 25, 1847; untitled article, Republican, Apr. 8, 1848; “Clinton Prison Bill,” Republican, Apr. 22, 1848; untitled article, Republican, Jun. 3, 1848; “Cruelties at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Aug. 5, 1848; untitled article, Republican, May 5, 1849; “Transfer of Prisoners,” Republican, May 12, 1849; “Fifty Dollars Reward!!” Republican, Sept. 13, 1851.
45. “Cruelties at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Aug. 5, 1848; unsigned letter to the editor, Republican, Aug. 12, 1848; untitled article, Republican, May 5, 1849; untitled article, Republican, May 12, 1849.
46. Prison Association of New York, Ninth Report of the Prison Association of New York (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen Printers, 1854), 25, 156–60.
47. Prison Association of New York, Tenth Report of the Prison Association of New York (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen Printers, 1855); Prison Association of New York, Eleventh and Twelfth Reports of the Prison Association of New York (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen Printers, 1857), 21–22; Prison Association of New York, Sixteenth Report of the Prison Association of New York (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen Printers, 1862), 16–17.
48. “Ore Bed on the State Lands at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Apr. 16, 1859; untitled article, Republican, Jul. 9, 1859; untitled article, Republican, Jul. 30, 1859; “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Oct. 8, 1859; “New York State Prisons,” Republican, Mar. 11, 1854; “Clinton Prison,” Republican, Dec. 21, 1860; untitled article, Republican, Sept. 28, 1861. New York State, Eleventh Annual Report, 10, 153; New York State, Twelfth Annual Report, 4; New York State, Thirteenth Annual Report, 9.
49. “Christmas at the Prison,” Republican, Jan. 1, 1859.
50. “Convict Shot at Clinton Prison,” Republican, May 20, 1854; untitled article, Republican, Aug. 5, 1854; “Escapes from Clinton Prison,” Republican, Aug. 23, 1856; untitled article, Republican, Nov. 5, 1859; untitled article, Republican, May 12, 1860; untitled article, Republican, Jun. 16, 1860; untitled article, Republican, Apr. 6, 1861; “Desperate Attempt of Prisoners to Escape,” Republican, Apr. 20, 1861; “Attempted Escape at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Aug. 2, 1862; “An Escaped State Prison Bird Caught in Troy—The Vagabond Resists and Makes an Effort to Shoot,” Republican, Apr. 1, 1865.
51. Untitled article, Republican, Oct. 11, 1856; untitled article, Republican, Jan. 17, 1863.
52. “Three Hundred Dollars Reward,” Republican, Jul. 13, 1861; “Terrible Murder at Clinton Prison,” Republican, Jul. 13, 1861; untitled article, Republican, Jul. 20, 1861; untitled article, Republican, Oct. 19, 1861.
53. “The Criminal Trials at the Late Circuit,” Republican, Feb. 15, 1862.
54. Untitled article, Republican, Nov. 16, 1861.
55. Untitled article, Republican, Nov. 4, 1865.
56. New York State, Eighteenth Annual Report, 17.
57. Anthony D’Elia, The Adirondack Rebellion: A Political, Economic, and Social Expose of the Adirondack State Park, 1880–1980 (Onchiota, N.Y.: Onchiota Books, 1979), 8–25; Frank Graham Jr., The Adirondack Park: A Political History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1978), 23–52, 79–87; Karl Jacoby, Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 26–28; Keller, Adirondack Wilderness, 130–61; David Stradling, The Nature of New York: An Environmental History of the Empire State (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010), 96–100; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 61–82.
58. D’Elia, The Adirondack Rebellion, 14–15, 17–21; Graham, The Adirondack Park, 88–95; Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, 24–26; Keller, Adirondack Nature, 77–110, 175–78; Stradling, The Nature of New York, 100–102; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 83–87, 106–16.
59. D’Elia, The Adirondack Rebellion, 22–25; Graham, The Adirondack Park, 65–78, 96–132; Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, 11–25, 29–78; Keller, Adirondack Nature, 161–70, 173–85; Stradling, The Nature of New York, 102–105; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 87–105.
60. Andrea Guynup, “The Largest Maximum Security Prison in New York,” All Points North Magazine, Aug. 2006; Ron Roizen, “The ‘Courts’ of Clinton Prison,” New York Correction History Society, http://www.correctionhistory.org/northcountry/dannemora/html/courts00.htm#list.
61. D’Elia, The Adirondack Rebellion, 26–32; Graham, The Adirondack Park, 143–49, 184–96, 208–18; Keller, Adirondack Nature, 186–209; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 118–65.
62. D’Elia, The Adirondack Rebellion, 26–41, 48–60; Graham, The Adirondack Park, 219–63; Keller, Adirondack Nature, 213–24; Terrie, Contested Terrain, 166–75.