Editor Ocala Evening Star;
Dear Sir…We notice an article in your paper where the grand jury of Levy county recommended that “the state convicts leased by different parties in that county be looked into, and especially the Morriston camp, on account of inhuman treatment,” etc. etc.
In reply to these charges, we will say that the undersigned are the contractors of the prisoners of the Morriston camp, and their government and discipline are in direct accord with the rules and convict laws of the state and are strictly adhered to in every respect, or at least as far as practicable.
Their food consists of three-fourths of a pound of bacon very day, and as much peas, hominy and bread as each prisoner can eat. It is well cooked and served in a neat and cleanly manner.
Vegetables, fresh meat and fish are provided occasionally. One plug of tobacco a week and two suits of stripes are given them at all times during the year. They are furnished shoes during the winter months. They are furnished with soap, tubs and water and are required to properly wash themselves. They are given suits of freshly washed stripes every Sunday morning.
Good quarters, comfortably heated bunks, shuck or moss mattresses and good heavy blankets are furnished. Their quarters are policed and limed. Their health and sanitary condition is well looked after. The charge that we require the prisoners to do more than they should do…more than is usually regarded as a fair amount of work by the ordinary laborer…and that we treat them badly or punish them in any inhuman manner because they are prisoners is a slander, and we brand it as a willful and malicious falsehood.
It is intended to stir up strife and create misapprehension of a sensational character.
Dr. Walker of Cedar Key, sanitary physician of Levy county, inspected our camp and found the stockade and quarters in a cleanly and satisfactory condition.
Orderly citizens have at all times been welcome visitors to our camp, but we have always endeavored to avoid drunken fanatics or imbecile, and from such source came the false reports concerning our camp.
Now, Mr. Editor, we invite all proper authorities to carefully inspect our camp and invesrigate these charges.
Signed H. L. Morris & Sons
Morriston, Fla., Dec. 20, 1895. This is to certify that I have been intimately acquainted with Col. H. L. Morris’ dealings with his convict camp and feel safe in saying his treatment of his convicts has always been reasonable and often much better than could be expected under similar circumstances; and all the complaints I have ever heard came from parties who were not familiar with his dealings with them, and in most cases the complaints came from parties who desired to injure Col. Morris; and I can further certify that there was less sickness and deaths in his camp than was commonly experienced by the surrounding citizens.
Given under my hand and seal the day and date above written. [seal] I. S. Pedrick
Morriston, Fla., Dec. 21, 1895. To whom it may concern: This is to certify that I have been a constant visitor at Col. H. L. Morris’ convict camp for the past two years, and I can say I have never noticed any of his convicts being mistreated in any way, and as far as I know they were fed well. I have often noticed their food being prepared, which looked to be enough. I can further say I visited Morriston almost every Sunday while the convicts were kept there, and have never seen them at work on Sunday. Yours truly, [seal] Geo. T. Hill, J. P.
Phoenix, Fla., Dec. 21, 1895. This is to certify to all whom it may concern that I have been a constant visitor at Col. Morris’ convict camp, and can truthfully say I have never seen him mistreat them in any way. J. M. Hale, Notary Public
Phoenix, Fla., Dec. 21, 1895. To whom it may concern: This is to certify that I, as Col. H. L. Morris’ physician, was called several times to treat his convicts, and from my personal knowledge I did not see anything of a nature to constitute ill-usage or ill treatment. He always carried out my instructions and the convicts soon recovered. Respectfully submitted, O. C. Odell, M. D.
Col. H. L. Morris speaks with the bark on in this issue about the charge made against his convict camp. It is now in order for those who made these charges to either prove them or withdraw them. Col. Morris invites the proper inspection of his camp. Our columns are open to those who have information in regards to this matter. A fair and friendly discussion will no doubt do great good. We have always found Col. Morris liberal in his views and disposed to do what is right. He has recently moved his camp from Morriston to Summerfield.
Source: Ocala Evening Star: 12-26-1895
Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers