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Archive for Friday, April 12, 2013

100 years ago: Fire destroys three buildings at state prison; national guard in readiness

April 12, 2013

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From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for April 12, 1913:

  • "Fire starting in the twine plant of the Kansas penitentiary [in Lansing] this afternoon destroyed the twine plant, tailor shop and engine house. Fearing mutiny, the inhabitants at Lansing were for a time panic stricken. Guards kept the prisoners working in the mines below ground and others at outside work were rushed to their cells. News of the fire soon spread to Leavenworth and hundreds began streaming out to the prison anticipating an outbreak. The building destroyed were three story brick structures, one hundred feet long. Fanned by a high wind the fire soon swept the buildings away and reached within two hundred feet of the cell house. A hurry call for aid was sent to Leavenworth three miles away, and the Leavenworth fire department responded with all its apparatus. Aided by the prison guards and every available citizen of Lansing, the department soon seemed to be making headway against the flames.... The fire was brought under control about 1:30 o'clock after five buildings had been destroyed at a loss of about $700,000. It started from an explosion under a motor in the twine plant.... About one-third of the convicts of the prison who work in the shops had just quit for dinner when the fire was discovered. Authorities at first seemed to think little of the blaze. A few guards threw buckets of water upon the flames. Warden Codding took his place at the door of the cell house counseling the prisoners to remain quiet and telling them that they would be taken out if the flames got too close. The greatest excitement prevailed in the insane ward, which was 150 feet from the twine plant. Fifty criminal insane inmates set up a continual roar, crying and beating upon the iron bars."
  • "Lawrence came very near being affected by the Lansing fire today. Captain Samuel G. Clarke of Company H., K.N.G., received word this afternoon from Adjutant General C. L. Martin to have his company in readiness for immediate service should the guards be required to aid in the handling of the prisoners at Lansing. However, the dispatches from Lansing indicate that the situation is well in hand and that the services of the guard will not be required. Captain Clarke has his company in readiness and the Lawrence boys will be able to reach the scene of trouble in a very short time should the order come for them to go."
  • "Governor Hodges left at 2:30 for Lansing. He believed the state could arrange to rebuild the burned buildings without the necessity of a special session of the legislature. The state carries no insurance."

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