First convicts occupy penitentiary at Walla Walla on May 11, 1887.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 2/06/2003
  • Essay 5180
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On May 11, 1887, 10 convicts arrive at Walla Walla to become the first prisoners at the new penitentiary. Members of Company A, Washington National Guard, transport them from the prison at Seatco in Thurston County.

Construction on the new penitentiary began in September 1886. Superintendent was Frank Paine and the warden was John G. Justice. William Murphy, serving 18 years for manslaughter, received the distinction of being prisoner number one. On July 4, 1887, two of the convicts escaped, but were recaptured a few miles away. Guards were then placed on the walls.


Robert A. Bennet, Walla Walla, Portrait of a Western Town: 1804-1899 (Walla Walla: Pioneer Press Books, 1980), 140-141.

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