P.T. Kirby, Clyde Alley and William Ober

Line drawing of the Oregon State Penitentiary used as letterhead. "Oregon State Penitentiary" printed in an arc in block letters
Oregon State Penitentiary letterhead from 1898. Enlarge image
During Prohibition, the State Penitentiary hosted many career criminals who ran afoul of liquor laws. However, not all inmates serving time for violating the Volstead Act were individuals that made a habit of living on the legal margins.

During the spring of 1927, three men from Clatsop County began serving one year sentences for possession of a still. P.T. Kirby, Clyde Alley  and William Ober all served approximately six months in the Penitentiary prior to being paroled in the fall of that same year. In all three cases, their letters to the Parole Board cited their dire economic circumstances as the reason they were involved in distilling liquor.

P.T. Kirby, a woodsman, stated that he “was in bad circumstances and needed some money. Had small contract. No money until completed” though he also added in terms of future work, “prospects good, know the value of money now.”

Clyde Alley, a laborer, indicated “the reason I started to make moonshine was for the money there was in it that I needed bad” similarly adding “I can go home and go to work the day I get there.”

William Ober, the oldest of the three offenders at 40 years of age, painted a picture of a struggling farm in dire need of his return. “Have wife and three children … I have a mortgage of $4,000 on my place and tried to make some money to pay off the mortgage.” The most compelling statement he made painted a vivid image: “… I have lots of work at home, 26 head of cattle to take care of; my wife isn’t in shape to do it. Children going to school. River is washing badly on my place on high water.”

Although all three were paroled, in each case the judge recommended they serve their full sentence; the sheriff had no objection to parole; and the district attorney did not provide a recommendation to the Parole Board.

About the Inmates

Mug shot of P.T. Kirby with prisoner number 9870
P.T. Kirby's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View Kirby's fingerprint card
Name: P.T. Kirby
Received: May 12, 1927
Paroled: November 3, 1927
Crime: Possession of a still
County: Clatsop
Age: 36
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 157lbs
Build: Medium
Hair: Auburn
Eyes: Reddish Brown
Complexion: Sandy
Born: Wisconsin
Occupation: Woodsman
Mug shot of Clyde Alley with prisoner number 9871
Clyde Alley's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View Alley's fingerprint card
Name: Clyde Alley
Received: May 12, 1927
Paroled: October 26, 1927
Crime: Possession of a still
County: Clatsop
Age: 22
Height: 5’7 1/4”
Weight: 154lbs
Build: Chunky
Hair: Black
Eyes: Blue
Complexion: Medium
Born: Oregon
Occupation: Laborer
Mug shot of William Ober with prisoner number 9908
William Ober's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View Ober's fingerprint card
Name: William Ober
Received: June 29, 1927
Paroled: November 29, 1927
Crime: Possession of a still
County: Clatsop
Age: 40
Height: 5’8 1/2”
Weight: 145lbs
Build: Medium
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Blue
Complexion: Medium
Born: Oregon
Occupation: Farmer