Loading

Provisional and Territorial Records Guide

Penitentiary Commissioner

Oregon Territory's first penitentiary opened in 1856. Although there had been law enforcement in Oregon since the formation of the provisional government in 1843, there were few jails. A two story jail had been constructed in Oregon City in 1845, from the proceeds of the Ewing Young estate, but it burned in 1846. A windowless iron box, about ten by ten feet, served as the Clackamas County Jail until the mid 1850's. It also was used occasionally to house prisoners of both the provisional and territorial governments.

In 1851 the legislative assembly appointed a commission to erect a penitentiary. There is no record of any work performed by this commission. A new commission was appointed by the 1852 legislative assembly. This commission supervised the selection and preparation of a site in Portland. The 1853 legislative assembly appointed another commission to construct and manage the penitentiary. The new commission selected Joseph Sloan as penitentiary keeper.

In February 1854, two convicts were turned over to Sloan for imprisonment. Sloan boarded the two until the completion of the penitentiary in 1856. Both of the convicts boarded with Sloan worked for the contractors constructing the penitentiary.

Penitentiary construction proceeded slowly. Contractors were changed several times due to unsatisfactory materials and work. The building was primarily constructed of brick and iron and two houses were built on the grounds for the keeper, assistant keeper and their families. The 1855 legislative assembly appointed a fourth commission to speed up construction. By fall 1856, the penitentiary's construction had progressed to the point which permitted occupancy. The penitentiary was completed in 1857 at a total cost of $85,000.

The 1856 Legislature abolished the penitentiary commission and established the office of penitentiary superintendent with the authority to manage the penitentiary. Governor George Curry appointed Sloan as superintendent, a position he held until June 1859. By statehood, the territorial penitentiary housed seventeen men and one woman, Charity Lamb, the notorious ax murderer.

Series Descriptions for the Penitentiary Commission

Account Statements
Audit Records
Commissioners' Correspondence
Convict Receipts
Convict Register
Invoices
Penitentiary Construction Bid Records
Penitentiary Contracts
Receipts
Reports
Vouchers

QUICK LINK to the records inventories!


309. Account Statements (PENCOM0001)

1853-1857
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents the financial transactions within accounts held by the US Treasury for the penitentiary commission. Statements show account name, transaction dates, transaction amounts, transaction descriptions, and certification. Series is not arranged.

 

310. Audit Records (PENCOM0002)

1853-1855
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series documents the investigation of the penitentiary commission and penitentiary officials by the legislature for the misappropriation of funds. Records include depositions, bids, receipts, and property executions.

 

311. Commissioners' Correspondence (PENCOM0005)

1853-1857
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series documents communications between the penitentiary commission and other territorial and federal agencies. Correspondence includes letters, memorandums, and transmittal reports. Correspondence shows date of communication, correspondents' names, and text of communication. Most of the correspondence in this series is with the territorial governor and deals with funding for penitentiary construction. Series is not arranged.

 

312. Convict Receipts (PENCOM0008)

1853-1858
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series documents the transfer of prisoners from the custody of the transporting peace officer to the keeper of the penitentiary. Receipts show convict's name, peace officer's name, receipt date, and keeper's signature. Series is not arranged.

 

313. Convict Register (TERRPEN001)

1854-1859
.1 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 19

Series documents inmate histories in the territorial penitentiary. Register entries show convict's name, county of conviction, crime committed, sentence, date imprisoned, date released, nativity, physical description, and remarks concerning escapes, transfers, captures, and deaths. Crimes include larceny, murder, assault, arson, riot, burglary, and rape. Convicts include Charity Lamb and Nimrod O'Kelly. Series is arranged chronologically by date admitted.

 

314. Invoices (PENCOM0006)

1853-1859
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents requests for payment from the penitentiary commission for services or supplies provided to the penitentiary. Invoices show requestor's name, invoice date, description of purchase, invoice amount, and commission certification. Invoices are for medical care for convicts, prison construction and repair, employee salaries, food and clothing for convicts, and prison advertising and printing. Series is not arranged.

 

315. Penitentiary Construction Bid Records (PENCOM0003)

1853-1858
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series documents the bidding process for the construction of the territorial penitentiary. Records include bid specifications, bid proposals, field notes, plats, and deeds to penitentiary lots. Series is not arranged.

 

316. Penitentiary Contracts (PENCOM0004)

1853-1856
1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents the construction of the territorial penitentiary. Contracts show contract date, terms, and authorization; contractors' names; and payment for work. Series is not arranged.

 

317. Receipts (PENCOM0007)

1853-1858
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents payments made by the penitentiary commission for staff salaries and building construction. Receipts show date, description of payment, payment amount, and commission certification. Series is not arranged.

 

318. Reports (PENCOMOO09)

1853-1859
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents formal communications to the legislative assembly about penitentiary construction and commission activities. Reports show report date, subject, and text of report. The subjects of the reports include penitentiary construction, internal audits, and prisoner statistics. Series is not arranged.

 

319. Vouchers (PENCOM0010)

1853-1856
.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series documents payments made by the penitentiary commission for penitentiary supplies and services. Vouchers show voucher number, date of voucher, payee's name, description of items purchased, voucher amount, and authorization. Most of the vouchers were issued to pay for salaries and building supplies for the penitentiary. Series is not arranged.

Delta Back Back to agency offices

 

 

Oregon Secretary of State • 136 State Capitol • Salem, OR 97310-0722
Phone: (503) 986-1523 • Fax: (503) 986-1616 • oregon.sos@state.or.us

© 2013 State of Oregon All Rights Reserved​