Athol Daily News – A Page in North Quabbin History: Reporter delves into the history of Warwick Prison Camp
Published: 07/26/2022 14:59:09
Modified: 07/26/2022 14:59:05
Liesel Nygard, secretary and volunteer at the Hardwick Historical Society as well as a sophomore journalism student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, started a project for the society, bringing together research on the Warwick prison camp.
Warwick Prison Camp, located in the Warwick State Forest on Richmond Road, opened in the early 1960s and closed in the early 1990s. “I don’t have any definitive years yet (for opening and closing.) However, my sources and research use the same approximate years, early 1960s to early 1990s. Most said 1992 or 1993 for the closing year. prisoners closed after a new septic tank was installed, causing light runoff into a stream that fed Richard’s reservoir, polluting it.
The camp housed up to 100 lower-security inmates at a time, according to Nygard, adding, “It was a pretty big camp.” Prior to being a prison camp, the area served as a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp during the Great Depression from 1934 to 1937.
Inmates were involved in all aspects of work around the camp, including kitchen maintenance, logging, road work and basket weaving. This allowed them to reenter society with professional skills, Nygard explained. Prisoner escapes were rare, Nygard said. When the prisoners escaped and were recaptured, they were sent to a high security prison, she added.
Nygard, who recently began this research, discovered that there was very little information online about the prison camp. “I was surprised not to see a lot of articles online,” Nygard said. Despite this, she said, “It’s been a fascinating project that has grown,” adding, “It’s become a bigger project than I had anticipated.” As for a completion date, she said, “I don’t want to rush. I want to do the research.
Nygard’s interest in journalism began in high school after taking an online course at Pioneer Valley Regional School. “I really enjoyed learning about other people’s stories. What attracted me the most were the stories behind closed doors. I was interested in the dark side of history, the investigative side of history.
While at UMass Amherst, she took a course called Journalism in Jail. “During our studies, we read a lot of stories from the Prison Journalism Project (www.prisonjournalismproject.org). The purpose of the class was to really focus on the perspective of inmates in correctional facilities.
As part of an assignment for this class, she and several other students wrote an opinion piece focusing on the mental health services provided at the Hampden County Correctional Facility. “We talked about the progress of the installation,” Nygard said. As part of the project, she continued, “I toured the Hampden County Correctional Facility to find out what the facility is doing in terms of mental health services for its inmates. Once I got the tour, I knew that was (crime and investigative journalism) what I wanted to do. It created a point of certainty for me,” she said.
As she considered a research project she would want to get involved in for society, she said, “I was thinking about what area would give me experience and help me in my career as a journalist.” Because of her interest in investigative and crime journalism, she chose to research the prison camp. “I’m interested in investigative journalism and crime, so it was perfect. Writing about the prison camp is great for me and great for my future CV.
Nygard hopes to collect oral histories from people involved in the camp, as well as photos and any other type of documentation regarding the prison camp. Those who may have information can contact Nygard at [email protected]
Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. His writings are on history with a particular interest in the history of the North Quabbin region. Contact her at [email protected]