What is the Tennessee State Penitentiary
The Tennessee State Penitentiary opened on February 12, 1898 outside of Nashville, TN. Built on 1,200 acres, the construction took several years because each stone was carved by hand.
Inmates Worked while Incarcerated
Every inmate worked in a designated area of the prison. For example, some of the inmates work the farm lands which provided food for the inmates. While others worked in mills or in factories.
The penitentiary was designed to hold 800 inmates but, on opening day, 1,200 people were placed in the institution. The six by eight foot cells were sometimes packed with four inmates.
In June of 1992, the penitentiary was forced to close after a federal court deemed the facility to be overcrowded and unsanitary.
Could be the earliest photo of the prison. It may have been taken right after construction was finished. Abt 1898 Tennessee State Penitentiary
The 1950’s group The Prisonaires performing in the prison yard.
James Earl Ray being escorted into the Tennessee State Prison. After being convicted of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Ray spent time between TSP and Brushy Mountain, where he escaped twice, and he was brutally attacked on many occasions at both prisons.
Old Sparky (aka Old Smokey): It is on record that from 1916-1960, 125 men lost their lives in this chair. It is rumored that many more were put to death here than was recorded. Tennessee State Penitentiary
Tennessee State Penitentiary early 1900s
Tennessee State Penitentiary
The abandoned penitentiary is now closed down but still remains standing. There have been several movies filmed on this site in particular “The Green Mile”, “Walk the Line“, “The Last Castle”, and “Nashville”.
Links to Tipton County
During its 120 year history, the prison hosted both the famous and the infamous. Consequently, a few Tipton County residents ended up in the penitentiary. Below is a list of the inmates and their crimes.
Inmates 1831-1850 from Tipton County
|Cook, Henry||passing counterfeit bank notes||Tipton||25|
|Glanton, Benjamin F||grand larceny||Tipton||18|
|Hall, Redding R||passing count'r bank bills||Tipton||38|
|Holliday, Samuel||volentary [sic] manslaughter||Tipton||37|
|Redman, Henry K||passing counterfeit bank notes||Tipton||32|
|Shannon, William||grand larceny||Tipton||38|
|Spencer, James||petit larceny||Tipton||26|
|Townsend, Henry||assault with intent to kill||Tipton||32|
|Trimble, Richard||grand larceny||Tipton||24|
|Ward, Saml. G.||obtaining goods under false pretence||Tipton||29|
|Wilkerson, Thos.||grand larceny||Tipton||20|
Inmates 1851-1870 from Tipton County
|Bradley, W. K.||murder||1854||42||Tipton|
|Bradley, William B||murder||1854||42||Tipton|
|Branch, B. H.||larceny||1861||36||Tipton|
|Dunn, William||attempt to rob||1865||W||15||Tipton|
|Hammers, J. H.||larceny||1861||23||Tipton|
|Hill, Joe||house breaking||C||23||Tipton|
|Jones, Henry||burning boat||1853||39||Tipton|
|Smith, Mark||house breaking||C||19||Tipton|
|Woods, Scott||house breaking||c||19||Tipton|