Lincoln, NE State Penitentiary Fire, Mar 1901


Nebraska's State Prison A Mass Of Ruins - One Convict Lost.

LINCOLN, March 1. -- The Nebraska State penitentiary is in ruins and one convict, FRANK PLUNGER, is dead. Fire which started at midnight destroyed the cell house and entire main building and the loss will probably exceed $200,000. The building was practically new. The only building saved was the east wing occupied by the warden, the chapel and a small reserve cell room. The prisoners were removed under extra guard without difficulty. Lieutenant Governor SAVAGE, acting Governor in the absence of Governor DEITCH, arranged to have a sufficient number of the national guards sent to the jail to prevent any escapes.

The alarm was immediately given, convicts, guards and employes aroused and an appeal telephoned the Lincoln fire department for help. The convicts were ordered to clothe themselves and in their prison garb were marshaled into the huge court yard where two hours later, they were still standing in a long double column line to the number of nearly three hundred, under the espionage of a score of armed guards patrolling on the top of the wall surrounding the court yard. The warden and his immediate aides made quick work of removing the books, records and papers of the institution to a place of safety. Nothing else of value was saved from the burning structures.

The prisoners were apparently the least concerned of all the excited men when the fire was raging most furiously and never was a body of supposed lawless men more tractable and orderly when the panic was at its height. Perfect prison discipline was maintained. The casualties among the fire fighters was confined to slight burns or bruises.

When a search was made of the ruins of the west cell house at the burned State penitentiary this morning the remains of FRANK PLUNGER were discovered in his cell. He had been released with the other convicts in the building and had marched out with them but had gone back to get some personal effects. PLUNGER was sent from Cuming county for life six and a half years ago for the murder of his wife.

News of the fire caused great excitement in the city on account of the report of great loss of life and the escape of many convicts. The legislature being in session it is believed early action will be taken to make provisions to meet the emergency.

Reno Evening Gazette Nevada 1901-03-01