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OLD MONTANA PRISON: EARLY BEGINNINGS 7

Frank Conley was born on February 28, 1864, the youngest of seven children, at Havre de Grace, Maryland. In 1880, he left Maryland for Miles City, Montana. For eighteen months he joined a surveying party at Yellowstone National Park. Upon returning to Miles City, Sheriff Tom Irvine appointed Conley deputy sheriff of Miles City and Custer County. In 1886, Conley brought two convicted criminals to the Federal Penitentiary at Deer Lodge. Conley promptly resigned his position as deputy sheriff and secured a position as a guard at the Penitentiary. In 1889, Montana attained statehood and ownership of the Prison. One year later Conley formed a partnership with Thomas “Archie” McTague, and the Board of Prison Commissioners awarded them the prison contract. From 1890 to 1908 the Prison Commissioners periodically renewed the contract with Conley and McTague. During these years, Conley in effect, served as the warden of the prison.



In 1909, another firm underbid Conley and McTague and secured this coveted contract. But the state owed Conley and McTague a substantial amount of money for construction costs and prisoner care, obligations which neither the state nor the new contractors could honor. Consequently, the state took control of the prison and appointed Conley as warden, a position Conley held until relieved of his duties by Montana Governor Joseph Dixon in 1921. The residents of Deer Lodge demonstrated their affection and respect for Conley by electing him Mayor three times. He served as mayor for thirty-one of the years between 1892 and 1929 and died in Butte after a month-long illness on March 5, 1939.

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