Full Text:Jail's most famous prisoner: Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs Five-time presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Eugene V. Debs was imprisoned in the Woodstock jail in the 1890s for illegally encouraging a railway strike. Founder and president of the American Railroad Union, in 1894 Debs directed union members to boycott work on any trains in which there were Pullman cars. The strike was in support of the employees of railroad baron George Pullman who had gone on strike in June after they received a one-third cut in wages. Wanting to prevent a massive shutdown of the postal service, which was then transported primarily by train, President Grover Cleveland ordered that the trains must run. Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) A federal court in Chicago filed an injunction against the American Railroad Union, which Debs ignored. President Cleveland then sent federal troops to Chicago to enforce his order. In the trial that followed, Clarence Darrow served as Debs' defense attorney. Debs was sentenced to six months in jail. The judge chose Woodstock, 55 miles from Chicago, to keep Debs out of the public spotlight and to prevent possible demonstrations. Six other members of the ARU were sentenced to three months, also in Woodstock. Debs and his fellow union members entered jail on January 9, 1895. Debs started a daily regimen of physical exercise, reading and debate for himself and his small group of inmates. Debs dined on roast chicken with Sheriff George Eckert and his family, slept in a comfortable bed with clean sheets, and received numerous distinguished visitors during his stay. Visitors included socialist Victor Berger from Milwaukee who left him Das Kapital by Karl Marx; British labor leader Keir Hardie; the Chancellor of Germany; !J|f; Governor Waite of Colorado; and reporter Nellie Bly, best known for her 1889 trip around the world in 80 days. Debs read voraciously during his incarceration as well as wrote and received hundreds of letters, and carried on union activities from his cell. He also worked on a speech he planned to deliver in Chicago upon his release. On his last day, the other prisoners presented Debs with a signed testimonial, and the townspeople carried Debs to the train station on their shoulders. Debs has said that he made his conversion to socialism from unionism during his stay in Woodstock. In 1900, a newly-formed Social Democrat party drafted Debs for president. He ran again in 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920. During World War I he was imprisoned again for his criticism of the war. Debs made several visits back to Woodstock, including one on the campaign trail as he ran for president in 1908.