Jerry Cooper and I (Robert) have talked many times on the conditions at the Marianna Reform School. This
was the original name for the reformatory. We have come up with many archive articles, numbering 97 on my
site, as well as the archive section on his website:  

From State Archival Records

Jan. 1, 1900: The Florida State Reform School opens.

June 1, 1903: A legislative committee reports it ``found [inmates] in irons, just as common criminals.''

1911: A report of a special joint committee on the reform school says: ``the inmates were at times
unnecessarily and brutally
punished, the instrument of punishment being a leather strap fastened to a wooden handle.''

June 5, 1913: The school's name is changed to Florida Industrial School for Boys.

Nov. 18, 1914: A fire erupts in a ''broken and dilapidated'' stove in the white boys' dormitory while almost all
of the staff members
were in town. Six boys and two staff members die in the fire, resulting in a grand jury report.

Oct. 22, 1918: A flu epidemic strikes. The mayor of Marianna sends a telegram to Tallahassee: ``Industrial
school in critical shape.
Need nurses and doctor, am using every person able, so many places cannot attend to all.''

Jan. 4, 1926: A committee is appointed to investigate whether boys could be paroled from the Industrial
School for Boys to relieve
``crowded conditions at the institution.''


There were not many records from 1900 to 1940, the time period that Jerry and I agreed had to be the most
brutal of times. Neither of us believe that a cemetery existed back then, in light of this time of overwhelming
racist abuse and cruelty of black boys and the fact that white boys didn't fare much better, we believe they
were merely thrown into pits, probably dug by the inmates. When one was filled it was covered over and
another dug.

I can just about hear the Jackson County Board screaming their heads off about no proof, imagining,
guesswork and speculating. However, the reason there was such brutality at the school came from the
turpentine camps, lumber camps and phosphate mines that stretched from Jacksonville to the other end of
the panhandle. There were hundreds of these camps, each with a whip master and the living conditions were
brutal beyond imagination. This was considered the norm for prisoners, even boys as young as fourteen.

The Turpentine Camps

The Death of Girrard H. Blake & Torture of Oscar Anderson

This is what walked in the door of the Florida Reform School, the whips, the chains and flogging as
punishment or at whim:   Note Chaplin Andrew's Bower's Statement:


These are the graves that may never be found. We both have tremendous respect for Professor Erin
Kimmerle and USF. Perhaps they will find them, perhaps not. Regardless we will both go to our graves
knowing in our hearts that this probably happened. They threw prisoners into the swamps after death at
some of these camps.

I myself overheard two guards talking about the boys that had been killed and thrown into the swamp at the
Florida School For Boys. I was directly behind them, separated by a louvered door, changing into my hospital
whites when they came in out of the rain and commented on a boy that had ran. He had, they said, ran one
time too many and probably wasn't coming back. One commented on the number of boys that had been
thrown into the swamp. I froze, knowing if they heard me behind that door, they would have opened it and
God only knows what would have been the outcome.


Jerry Cooper
Robert Straley
Please scroll down to the end and read
comments by Jerry and Robert and
links pertinent to this report.
This article from 1918 sums up what we had
maintained about 1900-1940. That the
conditions were at their most brutal time
period which created circumstances of poor
living and health conditions beyond
imagination. This would have led to the
deaths of many boys, many more than the
years in the 50's and 60's. This is the
strongest evidence of that time period that
justifies what we have been reporting all