From the Brethren in Prison.
Their Treatment, Their Feelings, and How They Spend Their Time.
May 25th, 1885.
A.M. Cannon, A.M. Musser, J.C. Watson, P.P. Pratt, Wm. Fotheringham, Rudger Clawson and Joseph H. Evans, incarcerated in the Utah Penitentiary:
Dear Friends and Brethren:–It is with feelings of gratitude toward God my Heavenly Father, that I address you at the present time, situated as we are, held under lock and key, for what? Striving to keep the commandments of the Lord. I have read the account of your trials in the News, and fully understood the modus operandi of your conviction. It is all right. There is a God in heaven that hears and answers our petitions, and we can well afford to pass through what we are now doing, with the assurances that we have that God’s kingdom will eventually triumph. Some of the poor creatures who are inflicting these things upon us may yet want one drop of water, and perhaps we cannot reach them. They have no conception of what they are doing; the adversary has complete control of them, as they have listed to obey him.
There are eight of us here. Brother Flake will be liberated on June 5th; Brother Skouson will have to stay 30 days longer, he not being able to pay his fine; Bishop Steward and I will go on July 6th; H.S. Phelps and James T. Wilson, on July 11th; G.T. Wilson and A.P. Spillsbury, on October 11th.
We are all well, both in body and mind, and hope that you have things as comfortable as we have. Our quarters are scrupulously clean. There are about 135 convicts here at present. Our cells are large and airy. The mason work is 7×18 feet, with a good bar partition half way, making each apartment 7×9. These have three single berths on each side, making room for six inmates in each apartment. There are good bar doors on each apartment so that there is a full current of air passing through. These are kept clean by men appointed especially for that business. At six in the morning, at the tap of the bell, every man gets up and makes his bed, which consists of a good mattress, pair of sheets, one pair of blankets and a pillow. The sheets and pillow cases are changed every week. At half-past six the doors are opened and the prisoners are turned into the yard to wash, etc., getting ready for breakfast at 6:45, when at the signal of three taps on the bell they fall into line in two ranks and are marched to the dining room, a well ventilated building, in which each has his regular seat, and where ample time is allowed to eat and plenty of food is provided. After every one is done eating, the bell is tapped and every man rises to his feet. Another tap and part of the prisoners file out, at the next tap another portion, and so on until the room is cleared. They then go to work, which at the present time consists of building workshops, blacksmithing, etc. At 11:30 the bell again is tapped as a signal to stop work, wash and get ready for dinner. At 11:45 the bell again notifies them to fall into line and march to dinner. After dinner the men are all marched into the corridor, which is 12 x 135 feet, running the whole length between two rows of cells, with gates at each end. Here they spend one hour in reading, conversing as they please in a moderate way, and at 1 o’clock turn out to work again. At 4:30 p.m. the bell again signifies stop work, and at 4:45 they form a line and march to supper. From supper they proceed to their cells, where they are allowed to do as they please in a moral way until 8:30 p.m., when the signal is given for lights to be put out and all retire. No more talk or noise of any kind is allowed unless sickness occurs, when the guard is called by rapping on the door, and the prisoners wants are made known and relieved.
This is a sketch of our daily routine. Our victuals are good and wholesome, I think we have as good bread as can be produced anywhere. While the rules and regulations are carried out strictly, it is done with kindness, and the man who yields obedience to the regulations fares as well as could reasonably be asked for under the circumstances.
On the Sabbath day while the men are shut up in the corridor, there are about twenty-four who have the free use of the yard; we are included in that number, and our cells have been left open, so that we can go into them when we choose, which I can assure you we appreciate, for we have not missed one Sunday afternoon so far of getting together and talking to each other, attending to the breaking of bread, etc., and we feel the benefits of it, and also feel that we are not alone, but that we have the prayers and faith of the Saints in our behalf. Well, God bless you, Brethren. My Brethren join me in this prayer. From yours as ever,
Charles I. Robson.
[Deseret News, June 24, 1885]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Sept. 2006]