Like I mentioned in the post, “Cardboard Guards of Leavenworth,” this prison is momentous in size and rich in history. Built in the early 1900s almost entirely of brick, the 40ft exterior walls practically take your breath away. Psychologically speaking, it is quite daunting as it dominates your view in every direction.
Which is why there have been several escape attempts in the history of USP Leavenworth, but none more infamous that the ambitious and cocksure attempt made in 1910, when the prison was still under construction. At this time, train tracks ran straight through the prison, bringing in new construction materials and prisoners from across the country. Becoming aware of this exploit, several prisoners devised a plan.
When the timing was right, six prisoners escaped by hijacking a train locomotive and smashing it though the prison gates. While five of the size men were quickly recaptured, the sixth prisoner named Frank Grigware, who was ironically imprisoned for train robbery, eluded U.S. authorities and escaped to Canada. If you look at a satellite photo of USP Leavenworth, like the one on my about page, you’ll notice that, in relation to the front of the building, the wall on the left-hand side is split by a solid slab of concrete where they broke through the gates.
Upon further examination, you’ll also notice a gate on the adjacent wall, making a straight line where the train tracks once sat. Anyway, back to Frank Grigware. After settling into the Canadian town of Sprit River, Alberta, the cunning and witty fugitive becomes mayor in 1916, a mere six years after his escape.
To the dismay of Grigware, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI catch up to him in 1933. Yet, Grigware catches another break. As serious doubt of his original conviction persist, U.S. authorities drop their extradition request in 1934. Grigware never returned to the United States and died in Canada in 1977.
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