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Penitentiary/Prison FAQ's


Q: Where would I find information on the state penitentiary in Milledgeville?

A: The best source to consult is The Georgia Penitentiary at Milledgeville, a Master's Thesis by Nicole Mitchell. Other sources include James C. Bonner's "The Georgia Penitentiary at Milledgeville, 1817-1874," Georgia Historical Quarterly, 51 (Fall 1971): 303-327 and several student research papers in the local history vertical file.

Q: How long was the state penitentiary located in Milledgeville?

A: Construction was completed in 1817 and it was in use until the mid 1870s when the convict-lease system was established.

Q: Where was the penitentiary located?

A: It was located on the present site of Georgia College & State University and known as Penitentiary Square.

Q: What was the penitentiary used for during the Civil War?

A: It began operating as an armory in 1862. Prisoners made rifles and other armaments to supply the Confederate armies.

Q: What happened to the convicts in the penitentiary?

A: In November 1864, Governor Joseph E. Brown pardoned all convicts who would agree to help defend the city against Union soldiers.

Q: Did General William T. Sherman and his forces burn the penitentiary?

A: Sources suggest that Sherman ordered his troops to destroy the penitentiary because of its military significance. Others suggest that the remaining convicts set fire to the penitentiary in hopes of escape. Again, consult the Mitchell thesis and Bonner article.

Q: How many inmates were incarcerated in the penitentiary over the years?

A: At any given time, there were around 150-200 convicts. There was a total of approximately 2000 overall.

Q: Where was the State Prison Farm located?

A: The prison farm, which was built in 1911, was located on Georgia Highway 22. The prison farm was in existence until Oct. 15, 1937, when the state penitentiary was moved to Reidsville, Georgia.

Q: Who is Leo Frank and where was he imprisoned in Milledgeville?

A: In 1915, Leo Frank, an Atlanta Jew who operated a pencil factory, was tried and convicted of murdering thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, one of his employees. Frank was brought to the State Prison Farm in Milledgeville. Several weeks later, a mob traveled from Marietta to Milledgeville, seized Frank and took him back to Marietta where he was lynched.

Q: Where can I find more information about the Leo Frank case?

A: There are several books on the subject including And the Dead Shall Rise: The Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney, The Silent and the Damned: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank by Robert Seitz Frey, and The Leo Frank Case by Leonard Dinnerstein.

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