BY BRENT PETERSON – GAZETTE COLUMNIST
Besides the lumber industry, Stillwater is known for one more thing, the prison. Stillwater received the prison during the early territorial days of Minnesota. The construction of the prison itself took place from 1851 to 1853. There were thousands of convicts that spent time behind the prison walls; even the notorious Younger Brothers were at Stillwater. But the one person who held the most control over the prison was the warden.
The only original portion of the prison that remains today is the Warden’s House. This house was completed with the original prison in 1853, and is now the center of history for the entire county. One of the longest-serving wardens of the Stillwater Prison was John Abbott Reed, and it was Reed who was in the warden’s office the day the Youngers came to Stillwater.
Reed was born at Grafton, N.H., on Dec. 25, 1831. At the age of seven, his father died, and he was sent to live with his grandfather in Merrimack County, N.H. He attended the Andover Academy, and after that he taught school. In 1854, Reed moved to Clayton County, Iowa, and there he taught school in the winter, and farmed in the summer.
In 1856, Reed married Miss Rachel France. Together the couple had four children: W.C., Clara L., Willie and Belle. In 1858, the Reeds moved to Blue Earth County, Minn.
In 1861, during the outbreak of the Civil War, Reed enlisted in Company I, 5th Iowa Cavalry. Afterward, this company detached and became known as Company B, Brackett’s Battalion, Minnesota Cavalry. Reed was mustered out Brackett’s as captain in June 1866.
Want to read more? Check out the Friday, April 11, edition of The Gazette, available in newsstands through Tuesday, April 15, or at our office, 1931 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.