Under Governor Harrison Reed (Florida's ninth governor), U.S. arsenal property at Chattahoochee becomes Florida's first penitentiary. The prison is governed as a military operation and is put under the supervision of the Florida Adjutant General. The two-story brick building was originally officer's quarters of the Chattahoochee Arsenal, and was also used to muster confederate troops during the Civil War, before becoming Florida's first prison.
Jim Barineau is an Operations and Management Consultant II who works in administrative services at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. He and his colleagues are responsible for all support functions (maintenance, IT, finance, purchasing, security, etc.) for the hospital. Though he claims not to be an historian, Mr. Barineau admits he did learn quite a bit about the history of this facility while writing historic preservation grant applications for work on the powder magazine, one of two original buildings that remain from the federal arsenal that was constructed on this site in the 1830s. The preservation project will transform the building into a museum and conference center. "We hope to work closely with DOC on displays when the museum is complete since this was the first prison prior to becoming the first mental institution," said Mr. Barineau.
According to Jim Barineau, the line drawing shown above "is believed to be the layout of the quadrangle that comprised the main portion of the original Chattahoochee Arsenal. The next picture is of the shot tower and one of the original buildings in the south wall of the quadrangle. The building that served as the Officers' Quarters (shown as third image above) is located to the west and slightly north of this building and remains in use today as the hospital's Administration Building."
Mr. Barineau continues..."The next picture is an interior shot of the powder magazine, one of four original out buildings at the arsenal - this one located approximately 1,350 feet to the southeast of the quadrangle. The building was used for many different purposes during the years - as a carpentry shop, a casket factory, etc. and later, probably in the 1940s to 50s, became a mattress factory and sewing room."
Florida's first recorded inmate, Calvin Williams, arrives in Chattahoochee. He was convicted in November 1868 for larceny and sentenced to one year.
In 1868 Florida's penitentiary system received its first inmate, Calvin Williams, convicted of larceny.
Inmates work eight hours a day except on Sunday. Prison sentences are reduced by three days for each month a prisoner had not been punished. In addition, inmates who perform their work well and do not violate prison rules could receive an additional five days off of their sentence each month.
The Legislature passes the Penitentiary Act, placing the Commissioner of Public Institutions in charge of prisons. The state penitentiary opens with 14 guards and nine inmates. Six months later the population escalates to 42 inmates. The insane are also incarcerated there.
The first commander of the penitentiary holds the rank of Colonel and receives $3 per day; a Lieutenant receives $2 per day; Sergeants receives $12 per month and Privates of the Guard earn $10 per month. All are entitled to quarters, rations, clothing and equipment.
Florida State Hospital staff in the late 19th century. (Photo courtesy of FPC.)