Crime and Punishment in Oregon, 1875-1915: A Study of Four Communities

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This works central thesis is that crime and punishment are idiosyncratic, interactive forces specific to a community. Using arrest ledgers, court records, prison and jail registers, newspapers, and archival collections the author examines the changing definitions of “crime” in these communities.


“This book is a nuanced work that will provoke a great deal of thought regarding Oregon’s criminal justice system and the substantial difference place made in the administration of justice. From the “power of moral persuasion” in Eugene to an “unwritten policy of shoulder-shrugging tolerance” in Pendleton, readers will see far different places in Oregon, then and now.” – Prof. Gordon Morris Bakken, California State University, Fullerton

“. . . Laythe’s work also challenges the stereotype that . . . those who are foreign-born are more likely to commit crimes. [The author] shows that the majority of those who were incarcerated in the Oregon State Penitentiary were American-born.” – Prof. Jerra Jenrette, Edinboro University

“. . . demonstrates incisively that crime, law enforcement, and punishment reflect all of the complexity and subjectivity that characterize society at large.” - Prof. James A. Young, Wilson College

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gordon Morris Bakken
I. Introduction

II. The Rogues of River City: Crime and Punishment in Portland, Oregon, 1875-1915
The River City
The Settler’s Laws
Tools to the City
A City of Anonymous Victims
The Benefit of Urban Anonymity

III. Asserting Moral Superiority: Crime and Punishment in Eugene, Oregon, 1875-1915
The Satellite Community
Formal Law and Informal Practices
Offenses to the Moral Order
Alternate Measures

IV. Harlots, Hanging, and Hoolihaning: Crime and Punishment in Pendleton, Oregon 1875-1915
In God Forsaken Country
The Haphazard Law
Wild, Wooly, and Tolerant
Mixed Messages

V. Demimonde on the Decline: Crime and Punishment in Jacksonville, Oregon 1875-1915
A Mining Town
The Rough Law
Naughty Neighbors and Friends Alike Punishment?

VI. Conclusion

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