The Anamosa Prison Press (Inmate Newspaper) January 1903

Buried by His Prison Friends

William Dilley, prisoner 239, whose death was chronicled in THE PRESS last week, was buried Monday afternoon in the city cemetery. His relatives had been notified of his death, and asked to claim the body, but for some reason did not take it. Gateman Gill, now the oldest guard on the force, put in a claim for Dilley's remains, purely out of friendship, and, together with a number of old-time inmates, bore the expense of Dilley's burial.

Taken as a whole the death and burial of William Dilley was the most impressing incident that has ever occurred in our Colony. When a young man scarcely past his majority Dilley had the great misfortune to become involved in a trial which resulted in sending him here for life. That was twenty-six years ago. There was no wall - nothing but a stockade around the Prison. The Prison was all in one building, where the boiler-room now stands. Dilley, therefore, virtually helped to build the entire Prison. At its completion - he died, with no one to do him reverence.

But for Gateman Gill, Dilley's body probably would now be resting on yonder hillside, side by side with two score brethren whom he had served with in durance. Gateman Gill's heart was touched. Fifteen to nineteen years ago Dilley was the pride of the officers' children who came into the yard almost at will, among them the little daughter of Major Gill. To the children Dilley was generous and kind. They learned to like him. For the little trinkets that Dilley made in his spare moments and gave to the children the children gave Dilley a bit of sweetmeat and walked with him hand-in-hand across the yard. Later, when Major Gill's daughter had grown to woman-hood, got married, and moved to Montana, once every year when the home visit was made she came to visit the old fellow, for he was now gray and marked with age. There was a bond of sympathy between the Gill family and the old prisoner which endured to the end. At Dilley's sickness, Major Gill was as solicitous as though he were a relative. It was an act characteristic of the warm-hearted veteran of the civil war to claim the dead prisoner's body - only a convict! - by virtue of being "next of kin," a true steadfast friend. As soon as it was made known that the expense of Dilley's burial must be borne by friends, that tender, brotherly impulse which the bond have for their brethren prompted a number of Dilley's comrades in durance to give of their meager savings in order that the dead brother might at least have a decent burial.

It was a touching scene; a scene which caused strong, prison-hardened men to weep tears of true sympathy as they looked at their dead comrade for the last time and saw the cover slipped over the casket. Never in the outside world was funeral more humble or solemn than the little cortege that left the Prison Monday afternoon and silently wended its way to the city cemetery.

New Year's day, while the inmates were enjoying a half-holiday in the yard, Dilley lay on a cot in the Hospital burning with fever. Between his delirious ravings there came a brief interval of calm. Realizing that his end was near, the aged prisoner sent for his shop guard, Officer Cruise, and convict 3074. Dilley wanted to leave his few trinkets of shell and so forth to his prisoner friend. It was his will. The whole estate, from a pecuniary valuation, wasn't worth a box of Trust cigars, but it represented the dying prisoner's all. In his spare moments he had found relief from his troubles in making trinkets. To him the shells and tools had been a source of inestimable value as a diversion. The money he accumulated was either sent to his brothers or squandered on some lawyer who promised to try to get him out. The crude tools and the remnants of shell were all he had in the world. These he bequeathed to his old comrade.

Gateman Gill and the friends who shared the expenses of Dilley's burial performed a noble act. THE PRESS commends them - May the Almighty reward them when their days are done.