Ann Haw Holt
As to the FDLE's "Mind Set of That Era"  The boys were doomed by a long chain of bloody 
history, years before they would even arrive.


Straley Comments:

To better understand the "Mind Set" of the era, as mentioned by The FDLE report one must go further 
back than Marianna to understand why boys were treated with such brutality that their stories could hardly 
be believed. Prior to the construction of the reform school that would become the Florida Industrial School 
for Boys then the Florida School for Boys and finally The Dozier School for Boys it was a common practice 
to "lease" boys out to work at sulfate mines and turpentine camps and lumber yards. These businesses 
paid the state of Florida less than one hundred dollars for a year's work and expected the boys to do a 
man's work and if they did not they were brutally beaten, some to death. This is and was the mind set of 
the area surrounding Marianna.


These are excerpts are taken from:

Anne Haw Holt
A Dissertation submitted to the
Department of History
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

ABSTRACT
This study examines form and change in the early development of the Florida prison system, especially the 
period from 1821 to 1925. I also examine influences on prison growth, including change in the state's 
economy and politics. I place particular emphasis on local and national pressures for change that 
government officials, the press and popular opinion demanded. That pressure occurred through 
statements published in newspapers, in speeches or letters to officials or through elected officials.

“Men, Women and Children in the Stockade” includes a brief overview of the administrative practices 
followed in state prisons and jails throughout the American colonies and in the 19th and early 20th 
centuries. It will present the history of the early Florida prison system in its historical context.

I have woven through the study consideration of how race and class affected actions and attitudes toward 
control of deviants. Specific chapters will examine how treatment of women and children evolved in 
Florida's early prisons and the use of the convict leasing system. Reports on how state officials and the 
public reacted to those practices are investigated. Official state records, newspaper reports, letters and 
other sources are examined to discover how the system adapted to deal with women, children and other 
special populations.

Finally, and important to presenting a full and balanced portrayal of the development of the Florida prison 
system, available letters and testimony of prisoners and ex-prisoners are included. Evidence gathered from 
the above sources balance the voluminous papers and reports Florida officials created.

Florida's convict lease system included children in its labor contracts with private businesses and 
individuals for more than forty years.

Another incident of brutality happened in a turpentine camp near Ocala. It garnered considerable notice, 
even in other states' press. Eleven young men visited Florida on a hunting trip. The Alachua County Sheriff 
arrested them as vagrants after they had been in the state about ten days, and the court sentenced them 
to serve thirty days on the county convict farm.

The men were eventually able to present their case to Judge Hooker in Alachua. They appeared before 
him "faint from hunger and with back bloody from repeated lashing." The Florida Times Union reported that 
the men received such barbarous treatment that some of them might die. "They were chained to negroes 
and ordered to do tasks which were impossible." The reporter revealed that stripped naked, the men were 
tied across logs, where a guard lashed them with raw hides until they bled. The end of the lash gashed 
their faces badly, and according to Judge Hooker, nearly tore Cumming's ear off.

Outraged citizens who lived near the Ocala convict camp threatened to storm the camp and release all of 
the prisoners. Judge Hooker calmed them by promising to personally see that the authorities investigated 
the turpentine camp and stop the brutalities. He also informed the group of citizens that he ordered the 
release of the eleven young men.

As the number of reports of brutalities committed on prisoners in state and county camps grew, several 
Florida newspapers began an attack on the convict lease system. In an article published in various state 
papers, the writer compared the actions of guards to those of wild animals. He reminded his readers that 
the state's leaders should protect the prisoners from abuse and inhumane treatment. If they could not, they 
should discontinue the convict lease system.

The Tampa Morning Tribune ran a nine-month-long campaign attacking the state and county convict lease 
system. Beginning in January 1908 and running through September, the paper routinely published 
editorials on abuses committed in the camps, and took the position that the state could not control convict 
system abuses. The Tribune editorialized that only abolition of the system could remove the black mark of 
convict abuse from the state.

As the number of reports of brutalities committed on prisoners in state and county camps grew, several 
Florida newspapers began an attack on the convict lease system. In an article published in various state 
papers, the writer compared the actions of guards to those of wild animals. He reminded his readers that 
the state's leaders should protect the prisoners from abuse and inhumane treatment. If they could not, they 
should discontinue the convict lease system.

The Tampa Morning Tribune ran a nine-month-long campaign attacking the state and county convict lease 
system. Beginning in January 1908 and running through September, the paper routinely published 
editorials on abuses committed in the camps, and took the position that the state could not control convict 
system abuses. The Tribune editorialized that only abolition of the system could remove the black mark of 
convict abuse from the state.

The Tribune editors wanted prisoner labor used to build public roads. This would require the state to 
create a system for the housing, care and control of prisoners, and the number of state prisoners was fast 
approaching 2000 men, women and children. The editors proposed the state construct a prison for juvenile 
offenders and a second for "hardened criminals" locating them on opposite ends of the state.

As the newspaper campaign progressed, letters from Florida citizens poured in to the papers. The majority 
of letters supported using the state's prisoners to build and improve its public roads. One letter writer 
suggested the prisoners drain some of the state's swamps, opening new land and attracting immigrants. 
Others charged that Florida's judges and others in the criminal justice system manufactured state convicts, 
and "actively arrested and convicted men and women to be sold to a "convict trust" and resold to 
phosphate mines and turpentine camps."

The paper announced that the letters it was receiving almost unanimously supported ending the convict 
lease system. How the state could end the convict lease system and exactly what sort of prison system 
should take its place remained unclear. Members of the ministry, representatives of labor, and members of 
the Republican Party opposed the system. John M. Cheney, running for governor under the Republican 
banner, charged that the crimes of the convict lease were committed under a Democratic administration. 
He argued that the system had become so infamous that New York journalists were exposing the horrors of 
the Florida camps to the nation.

Hillsborough County voters, by a two-to-one margin, chose to abolish the convict lease system. An editorial 
in the Saint Augustine Record credited the Tampa Tribune campaign with the victory against the lease. 
Most of Florida's counties still leased out their prisoners to private businesses and the state would soon 
consider a new four-year lease for the labor of hundreds of prisoners.

Florida's convict lease system included children in its labor contracts with private businesses and 
individuals for more than forty years. Some children labored under county contracts until the Legislature 
abolished the convict lease system in 1923. The Adjutant General's reports show that leases signed with 
Charles K. Dutton's turpentine operation in 1874 included seventeen children aged between eleven and 
sixteen. The lease for the labor of each child cost Dutton the same as an adult. He and other lessees 
expected the children to do enough work to pay them the cost of their lease, their keep, and a profit.

The Florida Times Union published a story told by James Miller, an ex-convict. Miller said that when he was 
in the Reason, Henderson and Company camp at Odessa, a fourteen year old boy was held down by 
guards while the Whipping Boss gave him seventy-five lashes, a number that was beyond excessive.

The Construction of FSB

Sixty-seven Jackson County residents donated $1,400 and 1200 acres of land near Marianna for the 
construction of the reform school. In 1899, two three-story brick dormitories were completed each designed 
to hold seventy-two children. One building housed white children and the other black children. The reform 
school opened on January 1, 1900, finally providing a separate place to incarcerate some of the children in 
the Florida prison system.

A 1903 report of a "Citizen's Committee" to the Florida Children's Commission however, charged that the 
reform school was "nothing more than a prison." This committee found forty- four children imprisoned at 
the reform school in Marianna, including thirty-seven black males, five white males and two females. 
Committee members reported they "found them in irons, just as common criminals, which in the judgment of 
your committee, is not the meaning of a 'State Reform School' as defined by the law creating said school."

A member of the Reform School Board took exception to the citizens' report. In a public information release 
he explained, the "corps of guards being so small it has been necessary to shackle many of the prisoners 
while they are at work to prevent escape and to prevent the over-powering of the guards." Children at the 
school worked in "step-chains," until 1930. Step-chains were "bracelets" welded on both of the prisoner's 
ankles and joined by a chain long enough for the child to walk freely but not long enough for him to run.

In its first five years of operation, the school provided neither vocational nor academic education. Children 
were "hired out" to work for people in the area, or they were compelled to cultivate the school's farm 
acreage and do maintenance work. The Marianna Times Courier explained that the Board of Managers of 
the school told their reporter "the Legislature has never provided money to pay a teacher."

A 1913 law enacted by the Legislature resolved to create the Florida Industrial School for Girls at Ocala 
and ordered the removal of the girls from the Marianna school. If the authorities removed the girls at that 
time, available reports do not indicate where they held them until the new industrial school was ready for 
use.

Revelations of abuses committed on juveniles in county convict camps continued to appear in the Florida 
Times Union and described in letters sent to the Governor. One report stated a sixteen-year-old white boy 
from Georgia named Girrard H. Brake, charged with vagrancy, received a sixty-day sentence in the 
Alachua County jail. The County authorities included Brake in a lease to a phosphate concern operating at 
Dutton. Witnesses reported that two men held Brake down while the owner of the camp applied the strap. 
The boy died as the result of the beating. Five physicians performed autopsies and they all attributed his 
death to torture.

Ex-convict W. F. Brown explained that a young prisoner named Oscar Anderson "was a docile boy, 
obedient to every order, and tried to do the tasks assigned to him as manfully as he could." Brown 
reported that the boy had orders to collect fifty-two buckets of turpentine every day, the same as required 
of an adult man, but the boy could not do it. "I saw them beat Oscar Anderson each and every day upon 
the alleged ground that he had not completed his allotted task. They beat him with a piece of leather, a 
strap, and they beat him until he was raw on the back." Brown explained the productivity quota doubled 
what free laborers did in a day. "The boys are given the same tasks as the men, and are obliged to work 
sick or well. I have seen them fall over in the fields and afterwards whipped because they fell."

Straley Comments:
These beatings were probably more frequent and more savage than the beatings that were doled out from 
the 1950's upward but the same instrument of punishment was used and in some cases no less severe. 
Why, considering the long history of the brutality of children in Florida as reported time after time and over 
a period of many years, would there be any doubt that this did not happen? It did happen and in some 
cases the beatings were applied by descendents of the same men who were known as "whipmasters" in the 
decades before FSB even came into being. Bad boys were of no value to men like these, they were merely 
slaves to the state that could be punished at will, flogged with leather whips legally.



The End of the Convict Lease System: The Murder of Martin Tabert

Early in 1923, the Florida Legislature received a copy of a resolution from the North Dakota Legislature. 
The resolution charged that Martin Tabert, a citizen of North Dakota, died in a Putnam Lumber Company 
convict lease camp from torture and physical abuse. The resolution also said an employee of the Putnam 
Lumber Company named T. W. Higginbotham, "Whipping Boss" of the convict camp killed Tabert.

Tabert's family, with financial assistance from various North Dakota organizations and individuals, formed a 
"Martin Tabert Committee" in the town of Langdon, North Dakota. The Martin Tabert Committee also 
sought publicity to support Tabert's parents in their effort to find out what happened to their son. The 
Taberts hired an attorney, Norris Nelson, to investigate their son's death

Several newspapers in North Dakota and the Industrial Solidarity newspaper in Chicago had carried the 
Tabert story earlier, but the New York World had national influence and a reputation for championing 
causes of this kind. Also, the World's editor knew that the people, the government and business leaders of 
Florida were "particularly sensitive to Northern criticism, especially that of a great metropolis."

In the campaign orchestrated and led by the New York World, articles exposing every detail of the Tabert 
case appeared in more than fifty important newspapers around the nation. Artfully included with the story 
of Tabert's death was the complete history of Florida's convict lease system, revealing its whipping of 
prisoners and other recorded abuses. This story also appeared in magazines throughout the United States 
and likely influenced the people of Florida, and humiliated their legislators, Governor Hardee, and 
especially the state's business leaders.

On Governor Hardee's recommendation, the Legislature immediately removed Jones as Leon County 
Sheriff on charges of malfeasance. The investigation revealed that B. F. Willis, the Leon County Judge who 
sentenced Tabert, conspired with Jones and the Putnam Lumber Company to furnish men for their camp. 
The legislators also removed Judge Willis from office.

Martin Tabert's fellow prisoners testified before the grand jury, describing the events that led up to his 
death. They said Tabert, strong and sturdy when he first entered the camp, weighed only 125 pounds at 
the time of the whipping. They explained that Tabert suffered with frequent headaches and his feet were 
badly swollen and covered with boils.

Several prisoners reported that they lined up, waiting for the guards to count them, on the night of Martin 
Tabert's whipping. T. W. Higginbotham, head guard and "Whipping Boss" of the camp, first called three 
men out of the line and beat them. When he finished with those men, he called for Martin Tabert. 
Higginbotham did not hear Tabert's answer and became angry.

Tabert, the prisoners agreed, was weak from his illness. He spoke softly and moved slowly. Higginbotham 
was so angry that he grabbed him and ripped off his undershirt. Then he began to whip Tabert. Glen 
Thompson reported that Higginbotham "whipped Martin about thirty-five to fifty licks." He described the lash 
Higginbotham used as a "four inch strap, five feet long, with three-ply leather at the handle, two-ply half 
way down." Another prisoner reported he counted eighty lashes in all.

A third prisoner testified that Higginbotham told Tabert to get up when he stopped hitting him, but the man 
was too weak to stand. This angered Higginbotham further and he said, "haven't you had enough?" and 
started whipping Tabert again. Several prisoners testified that this second whipping lasted as long as the 
first and Higginbotham placed one of his feet on Tabert's neck throughout the beating.

Another prisoner testified that when Higginbotham finished beating Tabert he hit him over the head with the 
butt end of the whip and continued striking him with the whip until he was back in line. Several prisoners 
reported that when they got Tabert in the sleeping shack and removed his clothes his "skin was all off his 
back in one chunk from his shoulders to his knees." Another witness said the doctor did not come to see 
Tabert and they "dared not ask for one" although they knew he was dying. This whipping took place on a 
Friday and Tabert died the following Wednesday.

Straley Comments:
Compare the testimony of T.W. Higginbotham to that of Troy Tidwell...They both swear to only giving....... 
"gentle blows"..... "ten blows" as said by both men under oath........ Tidwell: He called it 'spanking,' 
according to those at his deposition here Thursday. He said it was state-sanctioned discipline, punishment 
for kids who tried to run away or got caught smoking. He said he hit kids eight to 10 times per infraction 
with a thick leather strap, but never hard enough to harm them. He said he never made a boy bleed. He 
said he never raised the whip over his head

Higginbotham refuted the prisoners' testimony, swearing he had only given Tabert ten "gentle" blows with 
the whip because he refused to do his work properly. He denied putting his foot on Tabert's neck during 
the whipping and claimed that he sent for the doctor as soon as he heard the man was ill.

Higginbotham's lawyer argued that the Putnam Lumber Company employed him to discipline the prisoners 
and he had not broken any law because corporal punishment was legal in Florida. The court indicted 
Higginbotham for the murder of Martin Tabert. He denied the charge, saying he did not deny whipping 
Tabert and others, but the whipping he gave Tabert was light and according to law.

In November of 1922, the Board of Commissioners of Leon County voted to use all of their convicts on the 
roads after January 1, 1923. The Commissioners instructed the clerk to notify the Putnam Lumber 
Company that they would call the convicts in when their present lease expired at the end of December.

Members of the Legislature, The New York World and Florida newspapers began receiving letters and 
affidavits attesting to the evils of Florida's convict camps. Several ex-convicts offered testimony on 
Higginbotham's brutality. One reported, "One day he beat nearly every one of the men in the grading gang 
and there were more than twenty. Seems like when he got started he wouldn't know when to quit."

Tabert's family began writing letters to every name the other prisoners could remember of men who had 
served time in the Putnam Lumber Company camps. They began to receive letters from men in many 
states, who told essentially the same story about life in the camps and about "Whipping Boss" 
Higginbotham in particular.

An ex-convict reported that Higginbotham regularly placed his foot on the neck of a man to hold him still 
while he whipped him. Still another reported Sheriff "Jim Bob" Jones arrested him for riding a train without a 
ticket. Like Tabert, he turned him over to Putnam Lumber Company. He said "the first week I was there I 
was licked with a strap by Higginbotham three different times." He described the strap as about "four feet 
long, four inches wide and with a handle two or three inches thick. It laid the skin bare from my shoulder to 
my knees. When Higginbotham got through, he said, next time I have to beat you, I'll kill you."

Dr. T. Caper Jones, the physician for the convict camp testified that he saw Martin Tabert three days 
before his death. He explained that he completed a burial permit saying that Tabert died of pneumonia and 
malaria. When questioned about the cause of Tabert's death, Dr. Jones confessed he falsified the cause 
of death on the permit. He then said Tabert had really died of syphilis. He hid his diagnosis to save 
embarrassment to the young man's family. Other physicians testified that the whipping as described could 
have caused Tabert's death. An article in the Literary Digest asserted that doctors throughout Florida 
denounced Dr. Jones as a "disgrace to the profession."

The Investigative Committee of the Legislature ordered Putnam Lumber Company to exhume Tabert's 
body and deliver it to his parents at the expense of the state. Conflicting stories described Tabert's burial. 
A spokesman for Putnam Lumber Company claimed that Tabert had a proper funeral, held in a cemetery in 
Clara. He described a funeral including "a small group of kind-hearted township people singing hymns, 
wide-eyed school children looking on and an itinerant pastor officiating."


An ex-prisoner claimed to have prepared Tabert's body and attended his burial. He claimed they put 
Tabert in a cheap coffin and dropped him in a hole half-full of water. He said the only people present at the 
burial beside him were the three prisoners who helped him carry Tabert's coffin. Further investigation 
revealed that despite Dr. Jones' testimony, Tabert's file with the State Board of Health did not contain a 
burial permit. The Investigative Committee ordered a thorough search for Martin Tabert's burial place so 
his body could be exhumed and returned to his parents, but his grave was never found.

Walter Higginbotham faced trial in Cross City, Dixie County, for the first-degree murder of Martin Tabert. 
The state's attorney asked for a change of venue, contending it would be impossible to get a fair trial in 
Dixie County, considering the extensive influence of the Putnam Lumber Company. The attorney submitted 
to the court that if they held the trial in Cross City, Higginbotham's friends and employees of Putnam 
Lumber Company would intimidate witnesses and members of the jury. Higginbotham protested, but the 
court agreed and granted the change of venue and the trial moved to Lake City.

Higginbotham's wife testified for him, vowing she was an eyewitness to the whipping of Martin Tabert and 
he was struck only eight or nine times. She claimed her husband used a strap that weighed no more than 
one and one-half pounds. Mrs. Higginbotham also testified that she personally attended the prisoner while 
he was sick with malaria, plying him with hot soup every day. Other witnesses testified that the strap 
Higginbotham used on the prisoners weighed approximately seven and one-half pounds and had a steel 
handle. Those witnesses also testified that Tabert received no care other than the little the other prisoners 
could give him.

Jury members deliberated a little more than an hour before they returned a verdict of guilty to second-
degree murder. Higginbotham's sentence was twenty years in prison, but he obtained release on bond 
pending the result of an appeal. In May of 1924, the Supreme Court of Florida granted his appeal and 
overturned the lower court verdict. The Court attributed its decision to "the error in granting a change of 
venue from Dixie County, on motion by the State, over the objections of the defendant without having made 
an actual test to decide that it was practically impossible to obtain an impartial jury in that county." The 
judges ordered that "the judgment is reversed and a new trial is granted."

The second trial of T. W. Higginbotham, held in Cross City in Dixie County, began in July 1925. The Martin 
Tabert Committee hired Stafford Caldwell, a lawyer from Miami, to assist the state in Higginbotham's 
prosecution. Caldwell wrote to Gudmunder Grimson, the North Dakota assistant state attorney, saying "the 
state, I think, has a fighting chance in Dixie County. Some of my conservative friends in Dixie County are 
not so sanguine. I am under the impression that Judge Kelly is not so sanguine of a conviction but is more 
confident of preventing an acquittal."

The State Attorney was correct in his assertion that the jury in Dixie County would have a strong bias in 
Higginbotham's favor. The men selected for the jury swore they could be impartial, but although there were 
dozens of eyewitnesses to Higginbotham's brutality to Martin Tabert, and the Supreme Court had even 
agreed in its ruling that the evidence was sufficient to convict, the jury quickly found him not guilty.

Newspaper reports on the trial had an indignant tone, and referred to the acquittal as a "gross miscarriage 
of justice." Several blamed the Florida Supreme Court. The Gainesville News declared the ruling was 
"unreasonable, especially in this case, for Dixie County, in which the flogging occurred, was absolutely 
under the control of the Putnam Lumber Company, which employed Higginbotham." The Miami News called 
the verdict a disgrace.

Martin Tabert's death and the ensuing legislative investigation into the county convict camps, sparked 
considerable discussion and debate in the Legislature on the merits of abolishing corporal punishment in 
all parts of the prison system. Coupled with the public's response to the World's publicity campaign, many 
legislators believed something had to be done. Letters containing reports of many incidents of cruel 
whippings in various camps went to newspapers and to members of the Legislature. The Joint Committee 
investigated the allegations and where they found the charges true, they removed prisoners from the 
camps.

The legislative Committee also found evidence of prisoner abuse in turpentine camps in Baker and 
Bradford Counties. These camps belonged to Florida Senator, T. J. Knabb. He regularly used convict labor 
in his businesses. Paul Revere White, an ex-prisoner, explained that when arrested for vagrancy, he 
received six months in the Alachua County jail and his labor was leased to Knabb's camp in Baker County. 
He said he was "kicked, beaten, and whipped practically every day" because he could not do as much work 
as others could. Dr. Lamb of Macclenny, testified that he treated White when he left the camp. He reported 
that White's "hands and feet were minus skin, ulcers were found on his legs, and one or more ribs were 
fractured."

J. B. Thomas, Convict Supervisor, reported that White slept on a cot with no covering when the 
temperature was eighteen degrees. He said he personally took White from Knabb's camp because he 
believed the man would die if left there. Supervisor Thomas concluded, "Mr. Knabb is running a human 
slaughter pen."

Paul White made a request to the Congress of the United States for an investigation into the convict 
leasing system in Florida and the turpentine camps of Senator Knabb in particular. The Congress ignored 
White's request at first. He received no reply until the Martin Tabert case hit the national newspapers. A 
congressional aide then contacted him and urged him to tell his story. White was suing Senator Knabb for 
$50,000 in damages for the abuse he suffered in his camp.

The Legislature procrastinated in passing legislation to abolish the lease system and the use of the lash to 
punish prisoners. A flurry of objections, petitions and letters urged it to act. Florida's United States Senator, 
Duncan U. Fletcher announced to a New York World reporter that he hoped the Florida Legislature would 
abolish the county convict leases, "for no matter how well they are fulfilled the system is wrong in principle 
and brings reproach to our state."

John W. Martin of Jacksonville spoke at a mass meeting of the Prisoner's Aid Society of Florida, saying the 
lease system was "an abomination sustained in this state by men who make money out of it." The 
membership of the Miami Rotary Club demanded that the Legislature abolish corporal punishment. The 
Tampa Board of Trade sent a resolution to the Legislature complaining that the disclosures of cruel and 
inhumane treatment to prisoners and graft in the convict lease system "brought disgrace to the state."

Many out-of-state newspapers joined the New York World in calling for the abolition of the lease system 
and the use of corporal punishment. Editorials appeared in the Dayton Ohio Journal, Bismarck North 
Dakota tribune, Chicago Daily News, San Francisco News and nearly one hundred other papers. Most 
Florida papers joined the fight. Influential state papers like the Miami Herald, the Pensacola Journal, The 
Ocala Star, The Florida Times Union, The Tampa Tribune, and the Tallahassee Democrat all demanded 
that the convict lease system be abolished.

The people of Oldsmar, and others in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties sent a resolution to the 
Legislature on May 10, 1923. They resolved to "continue to hold mass meetings in Oldsmar just as long as 
it is necessary, in order to let the State Senators understand plainly that we know they are misrepresenting 
the will of the people of this state." The group mailed copies of the resolution to every member of the 
Florida Senate and the House of Representatives.

Even the Klu Klux Klan joined the crusade against the lease system. A letter from the Justice Committee of 
the Klu Klux Klan went to Senator J. B. Johnson of Live Oak, and eleven other senators. The notice 
claimed the Klan was watching the Senators' "conduct in connection with your work against doing away with 
the leasing of convicts and applying the LASH to them." The letter accused the Senators of being traitors 
to their state and the people who elected them. It warned "you and every other man who hereafter vote to 
continue such hellish principals as convict leasing or using the LASH, that within thirty days after the 
senate and house adjourns, you will receive 100 lashes on your nasty hide, and a cote of tar and feathers."

When the Legislature took up the question of the convict lease system and the use of the whip to discipline 
prisoners, Representative Nathan Mayo made a stirring speech against corporal punishment. He waved 
aloft a whipping strap, describing it as made of leather more than two inches wide and four feet long. Mayo 
held up the actual seven and one-half pound strap with the heavy steel handle "Whipping Boss" T. W. 
Higginbotham used to discipline prisoners at the Putnam Lumber camp where Martin Tabert died. Mayo 
explained that guards commonly coated the whipping strap with syrup and dragged it in sand to make it 
more effective.

Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19th century American South, New York, Oxford 
University Press, 1984. p 190; NOTE: At the urging of State Senator Charles Crist, sometimes known as 
"Chain-Gang Charlie", the state of Florida reintroduced the use of chain gangs in its prison system in 
1995. Senator Crist wanted the prisoners working in the gangs chained together in a group of five, as they 
were in Alabama. Harry Singletary, then Florida Secretary of Corrections, refused to allow it, stating it was 
bad enough that the prisoners were chained individually.

Child prisoners at the Florida School for Boys had no rights. Most arrived there without facing a judge or 
hearing what he was being charged with. An "indeterminable time" was the vague term used when a boy 
would ask upon arriving. Even in the 50's and 60's boys were still being used as a labor force to turn the 
wheels of a decades old machine whose sole purpose was to produce: The following as an example of one 
year as reported in a newspaper article (archives) : a poultry division with 10,000 chickens, a modern dairy 
with Hereford cattle, a food processing plant which last year handled  111,000 pounds of pork, 7,450 
pounds of duck and even 4,080 pounds of rabbit. It has a truck farm which produced $9,000.00 worth of 
vegetables, a cane mill which spilled out 5,000 gallons of syrup. It also has 830 boys.

Straley Comments:
That is 5.5 times the National Standards for attendance at a reform school: This was the era where the 
Judges, Senators and Governors ruled the place "A Disgrace"  "An Abomination" and "1400 Acres of Hell"

Boys were taken off campus on a regular basis to load bags of produce and other goods onto a train that 
ran through the town and also to a local feed store nearby. These boys would spend hours of back 
breaking labor without a complaint, knowing what the penalty would be:The Whip. Boys that were taken to 
farms toiled from sun up to sundown picking melons and produce for the citizenry. The farmers paid the 
driver and the money was split up once the driver reached the campus. This went on from the time the 
campus, which started as a farm, was built in 1900 and until farming operations were discontinued.

The town of Marianna and the Florida School for Boys were in collusion in a money-making enterprise that 
raked in millions of dollars. The townspeople knew of the beatings, it was, after all, a small town where it 
would be hard to find a person who did not have a relative, no matter how distant, who also lived there. 
There was also an unspoken code:if you talked to the wrong person about the abuse your barn might be 
set on fire, your cattle poisoned, or you might get hit with a stray bullet from a hunter's rifle. I talked to one 
lady who told me these exact words and she also said: "You know, the word is out on you all, right now."