Sentenced to concurrent terms of one and one and a half years in the penitentiary for possession of mash and wort*, and possession of a still, did little to solve Jack “Ingersoll” Wheaton’s problems. During his year of incarceration, his ex-wife Velma continued to write Warden Myers from Medford inquiring about the alimony payments of $30.00 per month she was owed in support of their 15-month old child.
Wheaton refused to send her any further money, contending that she had deserted him and “left with another man,” according to a letter from the Jackson County District Attorney. Residing with her brother, she addressed the situation in a letter to the warden dated March 5, 1929, in which she addressed the charge her ex-husband made, observing “I would certainly like to see him prove it.”
His marital problems may have been the least of his worries. The Washington County Sheriff, in his report to the Parole Board, noted that in addition to neglecting his family, Wheaton was “spending most of his time with other females of the neighborhood and selling liquor for a living, operating his outfit under conditions indescribably (sic) for filth and unsanitary conditions,” adding that “this man’s family, reputation, moral and mental characteristics are all to his discredit.”
The worst news for Wheaton may have been the prison physician’s report on his physical condition on admission, which noted: “Breath foul; Teeth bad; Bowel movements: constipation” and indicated that he “suspected syphilis; blood test to be given.” Clearly his problems did not end with his criminal record and incarceration!
Wheaton did not gain parole and served a one-year sentence before his release in March, 1929. He died on February 14, 1934 in Portland from bronchial pneumonia at the age of 29. The records don’t reveal whether he resolved the many problems he faced before and during his incarceration.
* Mash is a mix of grains, often malted barley supplemented by corn, sorghum, rye or wheat, steeped in warm water to create wort. Wort is the sweet infusion of ground malt or other grain before fermentation, used to produce beer and distilled malt liquors.