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The Forgotten Prison on Kennison Mountain - Part 1 of 4
March 5, 2012 - Jodi Burnsworth
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“If you turn left down the Scenic Highway near the Cranberry Visitor Center in Pocahontas County, the spectacular view includes vast stands of spruce trees. Prison inmates planted 22,000 of them 40 years ago. For here on this mountain there was once a federal prison with no locks, a place where inmates kept their dignity and humanity, where prisoners and guards had respect for each other. But Mill Point Federal Prison Camp, a success story in a field where success stories are too few, has been closed now for 25 years.”
In researching the Mill Point Federal Prison, I found only one great resource: a wonderful article in the Spring 1985 issue of Goldenseal magazine. The author, Maureen Crockett, writes about what she remembered growing up there, as her father, Walter Fitzpatrick, was Mill Point’s parole officer in the mid-1950s so their family had housing at the prison.
The prison began in September 1938, about 17 miles southwest of Marlinton; this area is part of the Monongahela National Forest. There was no road between Mill Point and Richwood until the prisoners came to build one for the Federal Bureau of Public Roads.
While inmates and officers lived in tents at an elevation of 3,500 feet and slowly built Route 39, the federal government decided to turn the temporary camp into a permanent minimum security prison. Happy to leave those tents for permanent quarters, due to the hard winters in Pocahontas County, was one of the early superintendents, Mylton Kennedy. He wrote, “We’re on the Arctic island in West Virginia.”
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Mill Point Federal Prison Camp in its heyday. The four matching buildings are dormitories, with the administration building (rear) and the dining hall (foreground) closing the quadrangle. Staff housing is at the left rear. Photographer unknown, mid-1940s. Courtesy of Goldenseal.