One of the most unusual escapes in the history of American prisons took place near Marion on July 21, 1971. At about 1:45 that afternoon, Warren George Briggs, bank robber turned scientist, leapt over two barbed wire-topped 15 foot high fences and ran unscathed through a hail of bullets into the woods surrounding the U.S. Penitentiary. Up until that time, the prison built in 1964, was thought to be escape proof.
Briggs claimed that he and four other fellow inmates risked what seemed to be certain death to prove that Briggs had invented and developed a water de-salting process that would enable mankind to purify sea water at a reasonable cost. And then, in what was the most amazing turn of events, Briggs turned himself in to the FBI four days later in Kansas City, Missouri.
Briggs, a slender 6’1” tall man originally from Baltimore, 34 years of age at that time, told his story to the press. “To escape from a maximum security unescapable prison and then surrender” would be a dramatic act to prove his sincerity, and gain public attention for his invention, he said. Four other inmates agreed to help him with his escape attempt, but were recaptured minutes after the event started. Their efforts were probably intended to be a diversion to help Briggs scale the fences. Continue reading
Not many homes in Marion can claim constant occupation by a single family line for more than 140 years but the house at 513 S. Market Street could make just that claim until recently.
After Jacob Holland lost his wife, Emily, in 1857, he left his family home in W. Virginia and brought his six children to Southern Illinois, settling in Marion by 1859. All three of Jacob’s sons, Caleb, Brice and Romulus, would go on to become leading Marion citizens and active city council members. In 1871, Romulus D. Holland married Adele Hundley, daughter of Dr. Robert M. Hundley, mayor of Marion from 1867 to 1868 and builder of the second county court house in 1858. Continue reading
Elizabeth “Betty” Eleanor Hay, was born November 3, 1928 to Charles W. Hay and Alliba Thurmond. Alliba was the daughter of Elisha Thurmond, founder of Thurmond Monument Company and mayor of Marion from 1927 to 1931. Charles Hay was a local Marion merchant and president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce through most of the 1930’s.
Betty’s name was derived from the first name of her half-brother, John Hay’s, fiancé who perished in a train accident named Elizabeth and Eleanor, who was the name of her mother’s aunt from Franklin County.
Even though, Betty’s family was living on S. Market Street at the time, Betty was born in DuQuoin, due to the presence of her mother’s first cousin, Dr. Marion Webb, who later went to Vienna, Austria to study. Continue reading