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Iowa History Daily: January 25 - The Fort Madison Pen

Iowa History Daily: On January 25, 1839, the Iowa Territorial Legislature passed a law establishing the creation of a prison in Fort Madison. The historic Fort Madison Iowa State Penitentiary served as Iowa’s flagship prison until closure in 2015 transitioned inmates to a newly constructed Iowa State Penitentiary (also in Fort Madison).

With construction starting seven years before Iowa’s statehood, the Fort Madison prison stood as the longest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi River. At completion, the prison housed a maximum of 550 inmates and paired with the state prison at Anamosa to hold most convicted Iowans throughout the state’s early history.

The site of numerous executions while Iowa still practiced capital punishment, the hanging of Victor Feguer on March 15, 1963, stood as the last execution of a federal prison for nearly forty years until the Indiana execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001. Feguer’s execution represents the last Iowan to receive the death penalty.

The other most infamous moment in the history of the historic Iowa State Penitentiary occurred when a riot broke out in September of 1981. For nearly 12 hours, prisoners took several prison personnel hostage. One inmate died during the riot before assault squads converged on the primary cell block to break the riot and resolve the situation. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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