• Dairy farm once supplied USDB

  • People Behind Place Names

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    In the first half of the 20th century, Fort Leavenworth had more animals than people. Most of those animals were chickens, but there were also lots of horses and mules serving with Army units, and hogs and dairy cows for the agricultural products they provided.
    The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, like other older prisons in rural states, depended on farming to employ inmates and to offset the cost of feeding them. The USDB Farm Colony was developed during the period 1914-1922. It included a 2,400-acre farm complex with about 470 acres of tillable soil. The complex included hog barns, poultry houses, dairy barns, manure pits and other facilities associated with farming.
    Inmates assigned to the farm colony usually had less than a year left in their sentences and received on-the-job experience growing field crops, producing dairy products, and raising hogs and chickens. The USDB agricultural programs also included a greenhouse where inmates received training in the cultivation of house plants and ornamental shrubs. The greenhouse sales store sold plants and bulbs, poultry, eggs, fruits and vegetables from the farm.
    Before the farm colony was discontinued in 1996 to allow construction of the new Military Correctional Complex, the facility occupied two locations. The main farm was clustered around what is today building 424 on Sabalu Road about two road miles northwest of the old DB compound. The dairy farm and greenhouse were on Sheridan Drive about a half-a-mile from the prison. While the former location still bustles with activity associated with the Fort Leavenworth correctional mission, the latter location sits isolated and little remembered on the slopes of what earlier generations of post inhabitants called Hancock Hill.
    On the west side of Sheridan Drive just past the Envision Store is a flat terraced grassy area. Now occupied on its uphill end by the veterinary large animal quarantine corral, it once had nine buildings supporting the DB dairy farm. They were numbered 400 through 408 by the post constructing quartermasters who supervised their construction in 1918-1919. There were three types of buildings — five dairy barns with a capacity of 225 cows, two granary and feed storage buildings, and two silos.
    The barns and storage buildings were substantial red brick structures. The two silos, one actually a double silo, were made of tile on concrete foundations. The barns were similar in design to the stables that still exist today around post. Designed by the constructing quartermaster, most of the labor was provided by inmates using bricks from the post brick works located in the low ground near what today is USDB Road. When completed, the complex cost $45,177 (about $660,000 in 2017 dollars) excluding labor, which was free.
    Dairy farming is a labor-intensive business and the inmates and their military and civilian supervisors manned the operation around the clock. Prisoners working at the dairy farm rotated jobs so all could learn all aspects of the operation — caring for the herd, cleaning the facilities and producing milk, butter and cheese used by the USDB and post population. Cows were milked three times a day, initially by hand, but later with electric milking machines.
    Page 2 of 2 - One more building completes the dairy farm complex. At the USDB, soldiers were responsible for physical control of the inmates while civilian employees provided much of the instruction and supervision at the various places of vocational employment inside and outside the walls. The dairy farm was no exception.
    In 1920, the post constructing quartermaster completed a set of quarters for civilian employees on a small hillock at the end of a long driveway on the east side of Sheridan Drive. Building 428 is a brick one-story duplex with a full basement and a small attic. The building became noncommissioned officer quarters at some point. By 1937, it was converted to the post radio station. It later served for many years as the office for a military intelligence detachment. It is now vacant awaiting demolition or a new tenant.
    In the late 1930s, the dairy operation relocated to the main farm colony and the buildings removed. Today the former location of the dairy farm sits empty, mowed by the Directorate of Public Works to keep volunteer trees and varmints from taking over the site.
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