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The Twin Hells; a thrilling narrative of life in the Kansas and Missouri penitentiaries   By:

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A Thrilling Narrative of Life in the Kansas and Missouri Penitentiaries

By John N. Reynolds




The following pages treat of hell A Kansas hell and a Missouri hell. Those who desire to peruse works that tell about Heaven only, are urged to drop this book and run. I was an inmate of the Kansas penitentiary for sixteen months, and make mention of what came under my own observation in connection with what I experienced. While an inmate of this prison I occupied cells at various times with convicts who had served terms in the Missouri prison. From these persons I gathered much useful material for my book. After my release I visited the Missouri penitentiary, and verified the statements of those criminals, and gathered additional material from the prison records and the officials. I have written chiefly for the youth of the country, but all ages will be deeply interested in the following pages. A large majority of the convicts are young men from sixteen to twenty five years of age. They had no idea of the terrible sufferings of a convict life, or they surely would have resisted temptation and kept out of crime. The following pages will impart to the reader some idea of what he may expect to endure in case he becomes entangled in the meshes of the law, and is compelled to do service for the State without any remuneration. Every penitentiary is a veritable hell. Deprive a person of his liberty, punish and maltreat him, and you fill his life with misery akin to those who wander in the darkness of "eternal night," I think, when the reader has perused the following pages, he will agree with me, that the book has the proper title. That this volume may prove an "eye opener" to the boys who may read it, and prove interesting and instructive to those of mature years, is the earnest wish of the author.



Guilty! This word, so replete with sadness and sorrow, fell on my ear on that blackest of all black Fridays, October 14, 1887.

Penitentiary lightning struck me in the city of Leavenworth, Kansas. I was tried in the United States District Court; hence, a United States prisoner.

The offense for which I was tried and convicted was that of using the mails for fraudulent purposes. My sentence was eighteen months in the penitentiary, and a fine of two hundred dollars. I served sixteen months, at the end of which time I was given my liberty. During the period I was in prison I dug coal six months in the penitentiary coal mines, and was one of the clerks of the institution the remainder of the term. Getting permission to have writing material in my cell, I first mastered short hand writing, or phonography, and then wrote my book: "A Kansas Hell; or, Life in the Kansas Penitentiary." My manuscript being in short hand, none of the prison officials were able to read it, and did not know what I was doing until I obtained my liberty and had my book published.

This, no doubt, will be the proper place to give some of my antecedents, as well as a few of the details of the crime for which I was sent to the penitentiary. I spent my youth and early manhood at Indianola, Iowa, from which place I removed to Nebraska. After residing for some time in Columbus, of that State, I was appointed by the governor to assist in organizing the Pawnee Indian Reservation into a county. When organized it was called Nance County, being named for Hon. Albinus Nance, then governor of the State. I held the position of county clerk of that county for four consecutive years. During this time I organized the Citizens' Bank. I was its cashier at first, and, later on, its president. I had a lucrative business and was doing well... Continue reading book >>

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