Appalachia, author, authors, Footprints from City to Farm, From the Rio Grande to the Rhine, genealogy, George Martin Nathaniel Parker, history, jails, John B. Wilkinson, Kentucky, Kingsport, Lights in the Old Home Window, Logan, Logan County, Mt. Nebo, North Carolina, Princeton, prison reform, Reservoir Hill, teacher, Tennessee, Tennis Hatfield, West Virginia, writers
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history about author George Martin Nathaniel Parker, dated 1926:
WELL KNOWN AUTHOR FINDS LOGAN JAIL BEST MANAGED IN WEST VA.
EATS UNUSUAL DINNER OF PRISONERS
Having inspected more than 100 jails in West Virginia as a humanitarian effort to better conditions for his fellow man, G.M.N. Parker, author, editor, and former Logan school teacher, this week visited the Logan county jail and highly commended the administration of the institution under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Hatfield and the management of Jailer Kummler.
He wrote a description for The Banner giving his impressions of the Logan county institution. The writer was born in Mt. Nebo, N.C., and became a school teacher in his youth. Forty years ago he was persuaded by Judge John B. Wilkinson to come to Logan from Kentucky, where he then was teaching, to take charge of the school here in the old wooden building on Reservoir Hill. He taught here a year.
From the school work, Parker devoted himself to writing books in connection with editorial newspaper work. Of late years, he has made his home at Princeton, W.Va.
Published books of this writer include “From the Rio Grande to The Rhine,” “Lights In The Old Home Window,” and “Footprints From City to Farm.” His latest volume is “The Key to Continent,” now on the press.
“In this connection,” said Parker, “at Kingsport, Tenn., in the back woods one of the largest book publishing plants in the United States. Here my books are published. The plant turns out one and one-half million volumes monthly. The paper, cloth, and other materials used in the books are manufactured in one big plant. It ought to be a matter of pride to the South to realize that the biggest bookmaking plant in the nation is in Tennessee.
“I came back to Logan for a brief visit with old friends being hungry for the hills. I was born in the hills and like to come back to them from time to time.
“In addition to noting the remarkable change in the Logan county jail, I note other remarkable progressive changes in Logan.
“Of the 100 or more jails in West Virginia I have inspected, I find that the Logan county institution is the most progressive and best type and best operated institution of its kind.”
The article dealing with his visit at the Logan county jail follows:
Even at its best, human life ever has been and ever will be a continual battle; education battling against ignorance, society against selfishness, democracy against aristocracy, right against wrong.
Right is synonymous with law, and law is synonymous with legal master. As the rod is to the parent in the home, so is the prison to the legal master in the country. As the rod is to the home, so the prison is to correct disobedient men and women in the county.
Some prisons correct them only with punishment. These are usually political plums passed out as rewards for campaign activities, and those to whom they are passed go on the philosophy that the more the punishment, the more successful in the correction.
Under this philosophy, prison keepers swell their bank deposits by shrinking the prisoners’ food and by furnishing an inferior quality; a quality so poorly prepared that only the half-starved can eat it; so poorly prepared that the most consecrated Christian could not consistently say grace over it.
The prisons are no better. I have visited some whose floors were common cuspidors so thickly covered with tobacco quids that their sickening fumes almost knocked me back as I entered the door. On my way along the corridors, I have heard prisoners beg for bunks that were free from lice, and have seen green flies swarming in the cells.
We measure the strength of the chain by its weakest link. We measure the morale of the county by its prison. This measurement is an enviable tribute to Logan. In the management of the prison the county sees more than money; sees men. Sees more than punishment; sees purity. Seeing we are all human chameleons in that we absorb our surroundings; that suggestions are the steps in the mental and moral stairs; that cleanliness is the rising road. Logan county has adopted cleanliness as a creed and requires all prisoners to live up to it so that the air circulating through the cells is as free from offensive odors as the breezes that fit the leaves on the surrounding forest peaks.
A word about the way the jail food is prepared. Though a stranger and visitor, an unexpected one at that, I went to the prison when the court house clock was striking 12, and asked the keeper to let me eat dinner with the prisoners. He unlocked the iron door and passed me in—at the same time saying that dinner would be sent in directly.
I was not expecting roast lamb, quail on toast, an English pudding—neither did I get them. All I got were the old familiar Bs: bread, bacon, and beans. But they were good, as good as my mother prepared, way back when I plowed corn in Logan’s hills. In fact, while chasing a chunk of bacon around through my pan of beans—trying to make it stop long enough to cut off a mouthful with my spoon—I seemed again to be a plowboy—happy because I had more than I had when plowing barefooted on the backwoods farm.
Amid the rattling of spoons on the tin pans I watched the prisoners, most of them young, some good and some bad—some are good or better than you or I. All qualified and encouraged to go forth like the graduates from a school and bless the country with ideal citizenship.
I said then that Logan’s prison ought to become as famous as Denver’s juvenile court; that what Denver’s juvenile court was doing for boys and girls, Logan’s prison was doing for young men and young women.
Source: Logan (WV) Banner, 24 August 1926
African-Americans, Alabama, Appalachia, Arthur I. Boreman, civil war, history, J.W. McWhorter, Moundsville, North Carolina, Ohio River, Potomac River, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia State Penitentiary
HISTORY OF THE WEST VIRGINIA PENITENTIARY.
WRITTEN BY A PRISONER.
In 1863 the state was admitted as one of the constellation of states of the union. Virginia had seceded from the union by a majority vote. The strong and indomitable minority citizens of the Old Dominion residing in the western part of it, many of whom were Scotch and Irish descendants and natives of the adjoining states, who had taken up their homes in the valleys and on the hillsides, were loyal to the Union, loved well the flag, and reverenced with an undying affection the builders of the union of states for the greater blessing of the people, and stood firm and unyielding for an indivisible united country. By their hands and brave hearts they built a state stretching from the Potomac to the Ohio river, carved out of the Old Dominion. The war-born daughter of the historical commonwealth proved, in subsequent years, to be rich in the production of materials in active demand in the marts of commerce, and she now outstrips her mother state in the race for greatness, prosperity, and happiness.
Many regions of the state are mountainous, and the principal industries are lumbering, mining, and oil production. Many of the white people are typical mountaineers and somewhat rough and uncouth in manner, while the negroes, many of them, have drifted from North and South Carolina, Alabama, and other southern states to be employed in the development of these industries.
There are very many respectable farmers, professional and business men, and cultured ladies residing in these almost inaccessible parts; but the rough element in many places predominates, and the order of the day and night is drinking and brawling, ending as a rule in desperate encounters and murder. Most of the white and black inmates of the penitentiary have been and are now composed of the lawless men from these regions, from the time it was only a stockade of ten acres in 1866, when Hon. J.W. McWhorter of the Tenth Judicial District was appointed warden by Governor Boreman. He resigned this position after viewing it. In a letter to Warden Hawk he states it was for the reason that there was not so much as a building erected for the shelter of the inmates, and he thought he could not work the convicts to advantage under the circumstances. The penitentiary has been improved from time to time to the present, by additions, until it is a massive structure of stone and iron, with a high stone surrounding wall. It has 695 inmates at the present writing.
The center, or main building, is built after the old baronial castellated style of architecture, and with its several stories height, it makes an imposing appearance. It is flanked on the north and south by the stone and strongly-barred buildings, wherein the old and first built stone cells and the modern steel ones–900 in all–are placed. Entrance is to be had into the prison proper by means of a round turning iron-barred cage in the main hallway of the central building.
Source: E.E. Byrum, Behind the Prison Bars: A Reminder of Our Duties Toward Those Who Have Been So Unfortunate as to Be Cast Into Prison (Moundsville, WV: Gospel Trumpet Publishing Co., 1901), pp. 73-75.