Buried from the World

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Between 1829 and 1831, Jared Curtis, the newly appointed prison chaplain at the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown, interviewed every one of the over 300 inmates at the prison and recorded their biographies in two leatherbound notebooks. Those notebooks, fully transcribed and well annotated after their discovery in 1998, form the basis for Philip F. Gura's Buried from the World.

Curtis's notebooks provide the sole memorial of the hundreds of inarticulate prisoners who ...

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Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. 2002 Hardcover New 0934909792. FLAWLESS COPY, PRISTINE, NEVER OPENED--320 pages--TABLE OF CONTENTS: Introduction ix * Volume I1 * Volume II129 * ... Appendix 231 * Acknowledgments 235 * Index 239. --DESCRIPTION: --Between 1829 and 1831, Jared Curtis, the newly appointed prison chaplain at the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown, interviewed every one of the over 300 inmates at the prison and recorded their biographies in two leatherbound notebooks. Those notebooks, fully transcribed and well annotated after their discovery in 1998, form the basis for Philip Gura's Buried from the World: Inside the Massachusetts State Prison, 1829-1831. Curtis's notebooks provide the sole memorial of the hundreds of inarticulate prisoners who lived in the vast silence of Charlestown prison. The one or two paragraphs he devoted to each man capture in poignant shorthand lives otherwise lost to history, including details of age, race, upbringing and education, drinking habits, and the crime that Read more Show Less

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Overview

Between 1829 and 1831, Jared Curtis, the newly appointed prison chaplain at the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown, interviewed every one of the over 300 inmates at the prison and recorded their biographies in two leatherbound notebooks. Those notebooks, fully transcribed and well annotated after their discovery in 1998, form the basis for Philip F. Gura's Buried from the World.

Curtis's notebooks provide the sole memorial of the hundreds of inarticulate prisoners who lived in the vast silence of Charlestown prison. The one or two paragraphs he devoted to each man capture in poignant shorthand lives otherwise lost to history, including details of age, race, upbringing and education, temperance, and the crime that brought that individual to Charlestown. Curtis's words, surrogate for theirs, reveal as in no other known document the contours of the prison experience in Jacksonian America.

Gura places the document in its historical context with a thorough and thoughtful introduction. He reviews the nature of nineteenth-century prison reform as the backdrop for the 1829 reorganization of the Massachusetts facility in which Curtis worked. Gura also details the daily regimen and conditions within the state prison and discusses the demographics of the institution's remarkably heterogeneous population.

Massachusetts Historical Society

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Congregationalist minister Jared (1771-1862) was called to be the chaplin of the newly built prison in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where he began instituting his ideals of prison reform by allowing the prisoners to congregate with each other rather than be isolated in separate cells. Gura (American literature and culture, U. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) draws heavily on Jared's biographical sketches of the more than 300 inmates, all of whom he interviewed during his first two years there. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780934909792
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip J. Gura, the William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has published widely in early American history and literature. His most recent book, America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century, won a Deems Taylor Special Citation from ASCAP.

Massachusetts Historical Society

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


VOLUME I

March 10, 1829

Joseph Purchase—Age 31

Natick, he says, is as much his home as any place. Ed[ucatio]n poor. Can read & write some. Parents put him out when 7 or 8 ys old. Work'd at farming till 18 or 19 ys old. Was steady till about 15, then got uneasy and restless. Left the man he livd with & livd with another man. In 25th year committed his first offence. Sentenced for Manslaughter for 3 ys & was 3 ys in jail before he came here. Servd out his time and was out about a year, then sentenced again for attempt to murder for 6 years. Been here 41 months.

    A very hard case. Unfeeling and utterly destitute of moral feeling or sense of obligation. An infidel. Has no idea of ever trying to be anything.

John Quiner—Age 26

Born & brot up in Beverly. Parents now live there. Brot up a Seaman. Went to sea at 15. Decent common Education. Says his parents were very careful to bring him up well & in good & regular habits. With the exception of one or 2 voyages, had excellent captains. Saild 3 1/2 ys with a remarkably fine man Capt Seeley on board of which vessel was a man now Capt Odell of Boston a religious & excellent man & a good friend of his.

    Made his last voyage 2 1/2 ys ago. After quitting the Sea, became somewhat intemperate, tho not a drunkard. Says that as to anything dishonest, his character stood fair till the commission of the crime for which he is now suffering although from his intemperate habits, his reputation had suffered. Convicted of Larceny. Sentenced for 2 ys. Been here now 15 1/2 months. Says that hisintemperance produced a partial insanity & that it was in this state of mind that he committed the crime. Made his escape in Novr last & retaken the next day. Has never been in any other difficulty, & his conduct, aside from that, has been good. Says he is well treated by his officers.

    Quiner is a man of sense & converses well. Speaks of his parents with deep feeling & seems resolv'd to do well but says he is afraid of his old habit of intemperance. Hopes he shall be able to resist it.

Dick Richards (Black man) —Age about 40

Does not know exactly his age. Born in Africa. Brot away in a slave ship when he was 12 or 13 ys old. Was sold in Bermuda. Liv'd there about a year, then he ran away & came on a ship to Boston where he has liv'd since—about 19 years. No education. Says he us'd to go to meeting. Loved to go to meeting. Went to sea some & lived at service some. Never given to drinking. Was led away by bad Company. 3 offender. 1st time confin'd one year, out 5 ys, went to sea. 2d time, confin'd one year, then out 9 months. 3d time, sentenc'd 4 ys. And has an additional life sentence. Been here 10 years. Says he has got along well has not been punish'd in six years & confin'd at night in the same room. Says he does not allow of any thing bad in his room. Has made up his mind fully, never to do wrong any more. Intends to try to get pardoned & if any bad folks try to lead him away he shall shake his head at them & shall never steal again, long as he live.

    Dick seems to be a good hearted, frank, clever sort of a fellow.

Robert Riley—Age 45

Born in Ireland. Says he was stolen away at the age of 10 by a sea Capt. & brot to America. Has not Education enough to read. Been in the US 29 ys. Lived most of the time in Boston. In the late war was 5 ys in US service. Has lived as a servant in the best families in Boston. Says he was not habitually intemperate, but us'd occasionally in a frolic, to get high. Second corner. First offense—3 ys—out 6 or 7 mo. 2d Sentence on 2 Indictments—3 ys on each. Been here 5 ys next June. Says he was guilty the first time, the last time not guilty. Did not know the money was counterfeit. Says he has been in Cells 3 or 4 times for misconduct. Health very feeble & says he is unable to work. Makes very strong protestations & appeals, as to his motives & resolutions. Has a good deal of Irish slang, and it is pretty difficult telling exactly what he is. Wept freely, and manifests some feeling.

David Remick—Age 40

Born in Mass, but moved with parents to Ballston N.Y. when he was young. Was brot up there. Had good parents & was brought up to good Habits. Decent Com[mo]n Education. At 15 left parents by their consent & advice. Work'd at various things—Brick-making—Boating & follow'd lumbering 7 ys in Canada. In 6 ys made 5000 Doll. The 7th year lost most of it by speculating in lumber. Came into this state to see his friends and was prosecuted in Berkshire for an attempt to Rape, & sentenced for 10 years. Stayed here 9 ys & 3 mo, & was pardoned. Was out 5 mo & then sentenced again in the same County for the same offence & sentenced for 10 ys. Been here now near 3 1/2 ys. Says he was not guilty of attempting Rape in either case. Says he has never been in punishment since he has been here. Says he believes the Bible to be the word of God. Never profane, nor much intemperate. Sometimes drink'd a little when in company, but never made a practice of drinking. Until he got into this difficulty always sustaind a fair character for honesty, industry, & integrity. (Did not see him as long as I wish'd, the Bell having rung for prayers.)

March 11, 1829

William Paine (Color'd man)—Age 36

Born in Salem & have lived mostly there & in Boston. Has always follow'd the Seas. Can read, and write some. Second time here. 1st time 4 ys—out 2—then sentenced for 6 ys. Been here 5 years. Sentenced both times in Boston. Says he never was a drunkard. Drink'd his grog as other sailors do, but never to excess. Says he was a pretty honest & a steady trusty man. Sentenced both times for Larceny. Was in the U. S. service in the Navy during the whole of late war, most of the time on the Lakes. Since in prison has never been punish'd for misconduct, either the first or last sentence. Says he reads the Bible and believes it. Appears humble. Is frank, & converses very well. Should think him a very good convict.

Robert Riley 2d—Age 34

Born in Kingston Jamaica & brot up in St Domingo. Can read & write. Born free. Always been a seaman. Was formerly steady till he lost all he had, & then he took himself to Stealing. Drink'd some—tho not very hard. Is here for 3d time. 1st time 2 ys—out 2 mo. 2d time 7 ys & 10 mo—in cells 10 mo for misconduct. Out 14 days, then Sentenced 3d time. Been here 3 ys. Sentence 5 ys. Says he has been punish'd a good deal, sometimes for fighting, & sometimes for other offences. Is very sorry. Intends now, if possible, to get along well & avoid punishment. Never means to commit any more crimes if he can but live to get out.

    Probably a hard case.

Jacob Russell—Age 52

Home in Milton. Family wife & 6 Children. Farmer, once a man of some property but through misfortune lost it. Can read & write tho his Education is poor. Train'd up in steady and correct habits. Never intemperate—until the present confinement. Was well esteem'd by his neighbours & friends. Has been here between 3 & 4 ys. Sentenced 10 ys. Convicted in Dedham for an assault on his wife with intent to murder.

    Says he got melted by the heat in working hard, and became deranged. Made the assault, as he supposes, in this state of mind. Says he has no knowledge of it. Never been in punishment since his confinement. Says he reads the Bible a great deal. Believes it to be the word of God. Appears very well. Has considerable sensibility & I should think, not a harden'd man.

John Reed 1st—Age 37

Born in Ireland. Been in U.S. 14 ys. Brot up to the manufacturing business, principally the business of folding cloth for market. Decent common Education. Wife & 3 children in Boston. Sentenced for Larceny in Boston for 7 ys. Been here 16 mo. Says that previously to this trouble was well esteem'd & sustain'd a fair character. Never intemperate. Says he is not Guilty. Bought the goods of others not knowing them to have been stolen (Says he ought to have been more careful) (probably well knew the fact.) <Has been punished some since he come here.> Has a brother here—Henry Reed & has 2 Brothers in a Manufacturing establishment in Andover. Is a man of good natural talents. Says he has been in the cells twice for misconduct. Pleads that he did not intentionally err. I suspect he has some of the Irish grit occasionally. Nothing improper in his conversation or deportment. Was frank & pleasant.

Henry Reed—Age 27

Born in Ireland. Been in U.S. 9 ys—in Boston. Kept Grocery Store some & Livery Stable some. Has wife but no children. Decent Education. Sentenced in Boston for forgery 5 ys. Been here almost a year. Been in cells once for not doing work enough, and once for breaking Store. Previously to this confinement was a man of fair character, as he says. Was never intemperate or given to vice.

    Says he did not commit the forgery to defraud. There was no such man as the Note purported to be against. The note was made to be revenged on his Lawyer—Moore, of Boston, who had mismanaged his business. He gave him the note to collect, knowing there was no such man as the signature denoted & then refus'd to pay the expence which had been caus'd by trying to find him &c &c. Not much feeling & I suspect a rather hard case.

George Rosseter—Age 23

Home in N. York. Mother lives in R.I.

    Education tolerably good. Servd an apprenticeship at Saddlery business. Last 2 years before coming on to Boston, spent in Philadela. Came to Boston a year ago last October. Convicted in Boston 1 year ago. Sentence 5 ys. Larceny. First imprisonment. Has generally been industrious & well esteemed. Not vicious. Gambled some but not intemperate. A sensible young man, though I fear does not feel as much as he ought. Been in cell once for Gambling, tho he says he did not gamble. Has generally got along well since has been here.

Solomon Russell—Age 29

Home—Troy, N.Y. Education poor. Learnd shoemaker's trade. Has not lived in Troy for a number of years past. Liv'd in Providence & Boston, & has been to Sea some. Says he has been a wild youth. Convicted of Larceny in Boston & sentenced 2 ys. Been here 1 year. His first offence. Says he knows it is best for him to do right & be a good man. Sometimes he resolves to take a right course & then again his resolutions vanish. He does not know what will be the result. Thinks his mind has been corrupted here & he is very sorry he could not have been confin'd alone, & wishes he could be so now.

    Says he has been punish'd some. Probably, a sorry case.

March 12, 1829

John Read—says he spells Reed—Age 30

Born & brot up in N. York. Learnd the Trade of a Tailor & followd the business for a livelihood. Had a Shop in N. York. Decent common School Education. Mother died early, & his father had a large family & could not give him much learning, and did what he could to superintend his morals. Previously to his coming of Age, says he was not very wild or vicious. Left his master to whom he was apprenticed, 2 ys before his time was out. Went by his father's request to Jersey & liv'd 2 ys with a relative & work'd at his trade. When of Age while working at his trade as a journeyman in N. York there was a general turn out among the craft for more wages. In this way was thrown out of employ for about 3 months. In this time became idle and dissolute—gambled—ran after bad women &c &c—was suspected of crime, & thrown into Bridewell. Says he was not Guilty & was acquitted. Here became acquainted with many very great rogues, & made up his mind to follow mischief with them. Soon commenced his career & has pursued it since till getting here. Anderson al[ias] Stevens now in N.Y. Prison was the man who led him away. Says he is a very great scoundrel & a very dangerous man. Found he was unwilling to answer many questions & did not press him much. He is an infidel in sentiment. Believes there is a God & says he loves him with all his heart &c &c. Is a very accomplished rogue.

Charles W. Rice—Age 21

Brot up in Boston. Parents live there now & are reputable. Education good. Learn'd the Trade of House carpenter of his father. Says he was tolerably steady till about 19. Then left his father. Married 2 ys ago next June. One child. Was unsteady & wild after leaving home.

    Went into Worcester Co. Work'd at his trade. Hir'd a horse and Chaise to ride out with wife. Ran away with it. Was apprehended & sentenced in Ipswich to this prison for 5 ys. Been here a year next May. Got along well here.

    Has some tenderness of feeling. Says he is resolved to lead a good life hereafter.

Timothy Ridican—Age 16

Born in Ireland. Been in U.S. three years next May. Mother was poor & he left her, he says because he thought he could help her more by going to Sea than by staying at home. Came to Boston & went fishing several voyages. Was friendless. Could not get employment as he wanted. Got into bad co[mpany]. Got to drinking, then to stealing. Sentenced once to City Prison for thieving. Afterward sentenced here for 2 years. Been here 10 months. Can read & write some. Says he has got along well here. Has some tenderness of feeling & says he shall certainly never again commit crimes.

March 13, 1829

John C. Russell—Age 48

Born & brot up in N. Hampshire. Saddler and Harness maker. Has wife & 1 Child. Has liv'd some at West Cambridge. Decent common Education. Father died when he was young, & was left to care for his mother. Was a steady, industrious young man, & much respected. Married in N.H. and after a year or two moved to West Cambridge. Says his wife was from one of the most respectable families in the town & her father wealthy. When he was 21 he had a property of $4000—left him by his father. When he came to Cambridge, was in good circumstances.

    Went into the Butchering business. Did not succeed well. Belong'd to an independent Militia Company & spent a good deal of money in equipping &c &c. Between this and all his ill success with Butchering line lost most of his property. In addition to all this, lost his wife, which very much affected him. She left a son about 2 ys old which he carried to its grandparents & has not seen it since.

    This was about 23 years ago. His losses & death of wife brot on great depression of spirits & a sort of mental alienation. Went to drinking to excess, to gambling & from this to other sins. Has changed his name that his friends may not know of his condition. Has been in prison a good deal—in all 9 or 10 ys. Is a man of sense. Open & frank. Conduct in prison exemplary. Says he is confident he shall, if he ever gets out, live a different life. The only bar in the way he says is intemperance & he thinks he shall be able to overcome it. Prison a horrible school of corruption.

George E. Roulstone—Age 33

Home in Charlestown. First Confinement. Decent common Education. Says he had good parents. Learn'd the trade of a Morocco draper. Work'd at that some after he was of age, and at tannery some. For the last year or two drew a hand Cart in Boston. Says he was generally steady and industrious. Convicted in Boston of Larceny & sentenced 1 year. Been here about 5 months. Says he sold a gun for another fellow supposing it to be his. The fellow it appears had stolen the Gun & ran away & he had to suffer for it. Says he has never been punishd or in any difficulty here.

    Says he is determin'd fully to do well when he leaves the prison. Never much intemperate. Drinks sometimes. Appears like a rather stupid but harmless sort of man.

March 16, 1829

Jacob Richmond—Age 37

North Carolina. Wife & child. Married about 5 ys ago. Born free. Cannot read. Never had any opportunity to learn. Always follow'd the Sea. Began to go to Sea at 12 ys old. Says he was generally cook or Steward & sustain'd a good character as a seaman. Says he never made a practice of swearing when at sea. Has often rebuked others for swearing. Was cast away at Sea & got into New Bedford. From there went Whaling. When he returned to N.B. got into this difficulty. Says he got into the habit of drinking while employ'd in whaling, & when he return'd was persuaded while in a state of intoxication to swear in Court that a certain man had been engaged in tearing down a building there, and was convicted of perjury. Sentenced for 2 ys. Been here about 4 mo. Says he did very wrong. Did not understand the nature & guilt of so doing, but never should have done so had he been sober.

    Says he has behav'd well here & has been in no trouble. Seems to be a very good hearted, frank, & clever fellow, though ignorant. Thinks this trouble will be a good lesson to him as long as he lives. Wishes very much to get back to Carolinas.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from BURIED FROM THE WORLD by Philip F. Gura. Copyright © 2001 by Massachusetts Historical Society. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

Illustrations vii
Introduction ix
Volume I1
Volume II129
Appendix 231
Acknowledgments 235
Index 239
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