In 1785 it was found necessary, for the safety of the people to find some place, other than the common jails, for the confinement of persons convicted of larceny and other crimes.
in Boston Harbor
was selected, it then being owned by the state.
Here was a garrison (of which the governor of the state was the captain) stationed under an officer, usually of the rank of major (as a lieutenant), with a gunner, surgeon and chaplain and a detail of privates.
The gunner was William Hickling
, brother-in-law of Lemuel Cox
The officers appointed an overseer, to superintend the convicts' labor, in repairing the fortifications and picking oakum and making nails.
This employment of convict labor in nail making was the project of Lemuel Cox
, and he sent one of his sons to instruct the convicts, sixteen in number.
Of the commercial value of this industry there may be some question.
The notorious Stephen Burroughs
, in his interesting autobiography, interesting as showing a type of human character and throwing sidelights on the events of that day, gives his experience in nail making.
His daily output at first was five nails each day, but each nail, as he states, was equal to anything you ever saw, in beauty and elegance, but the cost of each he reckoned at ten times the cost of iron and coals.
The overseer expostulated on the small returns from his labor and the next day he was more expeditious and made five hundred nails, but they were all ‘horns and heads.’
The prisoners were in the habit of taking the nail rods and breaking them and throwing the pieces down the well, and vowing they made all they could, in nails from the rods furnished.
The authorities then offered a gill of rum to those making a certain number of nails from their supply of rods.
cautioned his fellow prisoners of the trap, but the offer of rum was too tempting, and all were participants except Burroughs
of the extra bounty.
The next day no rum was served and the convicts afterward were forced to fashion the