Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wyoming Territorial Prison

The Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie was our family’s latest stop. For some strange reason our family seems to like exploring old jails. We loved Alcatraz, enjoyed the brig on the USS Lexington and we also had an enjoyable time exploring the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

The Wyoming Territorial Prison was built in 1872, with prisoners first incarcerated on January 13, 1873. The idea for the prison arose in 1869 when U. S. Marshal Church Howe complained to Washington of the increasing number of criminals in the Wyoming Territory. Soon after, the Legislature responded, passing an act in December 1896 to build a facility in Laramie City.

During our visit we learned about some of the inmates, including the most famous inmate ever to stay at the prison, Butch Cassidy! None of our boys had ever heard of him before, and the prison tour does a nice job of presenting the real Butch Cassidy, not the Hollywood version. We also learned about a famous local lawman, N.K. Boswell.

We got to see the infirmary and the chapel, where we learned about the first ever female chaplain that once served here. We got to explore some of the cells and see the warden’s house and the single guards’ barracks.

Our favorite part, however, was the broom factory. The factory was operational during the prison years where inmates worked and produced a usable goods to sell, brooms! They still make brooms here, however they are no longer made by inmates but rather by volunteers, dressed in prisoner garb. This was a special delight for Chase, the prison garb that is.

The volunteers were very nice and explained the broom making process to us, which is was actually fairly interesting. At least it was to us. It made us want to buy one of their handmade brooms, even though we don’t need one! This attraction is run by Wyoming State Park system and is free for kids and only five dollars for adults.

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