United States Attorney, Roy Fox, characterized the distilling operation federal agents raided in December, 1929 near Spokane, Washington as “being of the greatest capacity and most expensive ever captured in this district.” It included 1455 gallons of alcohol and moonshine whiskey which were produced from multiple stills as large as 500 gallons, as well as a re-distilling tank and the connection of a “water plant with the distillery for the purpose of facilitating its rapid operation.”
Nine men were listed in Fox’s parole report as participating in the operation, but the person identified as the owner and manager was Clara Nichols, aka Eva Black.
With a listed occupation of “candy maker,” Nichols was a federal prisoner sent to serve her sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary. She served six months of a two year sentence prior to her parole. Only two days after arriving in Salem, her husband John Nichols died, and she was allowed to attend his funeral.
However, her encounters with the law did not begin in the fall of 1930. According to the United States Attorney’s parole report, she was convicted of conspiracy to counterfeit United States coins in northern California in October, 1917 for which she was fined $500.
Nichols was the mother of two children. Her sister, Mrs. W.O. Booker, wrote the warden pleading for her release on parole.In a letter dated November 8, 1930, she characterized she and her husband as “… doing the best we can to school the children but we certainly need her help...[as]...we are not blessed with plenty,” adding that she was “hoping your advice will bring the children their mother for a Xmas present.”
As a side note, Nichols’ fingerprint record notes that both of her middle fingers were amputated, but there is no indication of how that occurred. Perhaps she suffered an accident while making candy?