[logo: Kansas Heritage Group] [image]

Kansas Family History

Kansas Penitentiary, 1913

Jeremiah D. Botkin was warden of the Kansas Penitentiary from 1913-1915. The following letter is from his daughter Mildred Ninde Botkin to Alma Monroe Hobson, Caldwell, KS.

This letter is in the possession of Evelyn (Lyn) Swan, and was transcribed by her. Lyn is a granddaughter of Alma Monroe Hobson.

Lansing, Kans.

July 23, 1913

Dear Mrs. Hobson,

After so long a time I am sitting down to write to you. I have really neglected my friends shamefully in that respect. I have been busy ever since I have been here, and always tired, it seems.

It is a very pretty place. This part of the country is prettier than that farther west. It is more broken and has more trees. We have a beautiful view to the west and north. The prison looks like an old castle, with the ivy growing over its walls of brown stone, and with its towers and fountain and beautiful large lawn. One man gives all his time to the flowers in the greenhouse and on the lawn, with some assistance from another man or two. There are gold-fish in the fountain, and we are going to plant some water-lily seeds soon, for next summer. We should all like to see you and the children, and want you to visit us whenever you feel that you can.

We enjoy driving about the country here. The ride to the Old Soldiers' Home is a pretty and interesting one. But I like best to drive about the Penitentiary farm. The state owns about 2000 acres here, and it is, most of it, very pretty. - lots of trees and grass, in pastures and orchards, you know. One road winds about among orchards and pastures, past the fields devoted to cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beets, etc, the hog lots, and up to the tubercular hospital, a tiny frame cottage on a bluff overlooking the MIssouri River. The view from there is magnificent. The sides of the hill are covered with brush and trees, and the Missouri Pacific railway runs past below. It looks very small from the top of the bluff. Then we usually go back part way to where two roads meet and take the other. It finally encircles this same bluff below. The other day we saw men plowing fields on the other side of this road, with oxen. This road leads to the river. The wells which supply the prison with water are there, and the pump-house. On the river is a gasoline launch belonging to the state. A full-blood Indian composes most of its crew. He is a trusty, of course. Part of the farm, about 1200 acres, I believe, is on an island out from there. The cattle are on it. Most of the island is covered with trees and brush as is the mainland along there, and the bluff, except where it has been cleared off. Some time ago the state purchased about 182 goats, to clear off this brush. They are doing it, require no other food, and are getting very fat. They seem to be a profitable investment. Fifteen of them were butchered for Sunday dinner for the prisoners, a week or two ago. They are certainly funny creatures. I like to watch them. I have never been acquainted with any before. I wish Eunice and Eleanore could see them. They act so funny. The whole herd stands and stares at us as long as they can see us. They seem as interested in us as we are in them. When they want to scratch theemselves they just use their long horns. They are very inquisitive, and one of them tried to taste Frances's dress through the fence. We saw one of them come up behind the old Negro who takes care of them and try to pull his red bandanna handkerchief out of this hip pocket. He put his hand back just in time, and it backed off very suddenly. Dorothy just loves to watch them.

The mine is another interesting place. It is 720 feet down. The walls and ceiling are whitewashed, and the floors paved with brick. It is the only mine in the world whose floors are thus paved. There are about seventeen mules down there. They pull long trains of little cars filled with coal, along little tracks. They never come above ground. Their stables are the cleanest I ever saw. Every mule knows its own stall and will go past the others until it finds its own. I don't know whether they count them or not. There is a cat there, which has never been above ground. There is a place, too, for the mules to roll and they almost fight to get to it in the evening. All the men are put to work in the mine when they first come, if the prison physician pronounces them physically able. But some have worked there many years, and do not want to work above ground.

They have a baseball league in the prison, and play for awhile every afternoon after dinner. They are very enthusiastic over the game.

I haven't been over to the female ward but twice. They are mostly colored women, and there are less than a hundred. They give more trouble than the men, though. Mama has charge of a short service over there every Sunday before the chaplain's service.

I hope you are feeling all right again. Frances said you were poisoned. I am taking osteopathic treatments now. I have not been taking them long enough to feel benefited yet. I have a fine doctor, I think. He lives in Leavenworth.

I talked with one of the girls about the Y.W.C.A. House at Winfield. She said that the girls had wanted a change for next year, but were afraid that they would not be able to find anyone else, so left things as they are. It is not improbable, though that you would stand a good chance for year after next, if you were still interested by that time. I told her about you, and she was interested. I also referred her to Mrs. George and Mrs. Gray. I told her I thought you would be fine for the place, and I do.

Well, I must close, for I am needed elsewhere. Will be glad to hear from you whenever you feel like writing, but cannot ask you to write soon, knowing my own failing. We are always interested in you and the children, and think of you often. I wish we could live in the same town. Give my love to Eunice and Eleanore. I am sure Dorothy would send hers if she were here. She is probably down with Barney, her guinea-pig.

With love,


[Note: Mildred (b. 12 AUG 1890) would be age 22 when this letter was written, her sister Frances about 20 and sister Dorothy about 7. Eunice (age 7) and Eleanore (age 3) are the daughters of Alma Monroe Hobson. Mama is Mildred's mother Mary E. (Unknown) Monroe Botkin.]

Return to the Family History Home Page
or to the Kansas History Web Sites
or to the Kansas Heritage Group Home Page.