Monday, January 28, 2008

Port Tobacco Jail

Sorry about the lack of a posting yesterday...I was pretty late getting back from the presentation at Port Tobacco which, I'm delighted to say, went well. But we gave you two for the price of one on Saturday, so we're even.

Pete and I were conducting some research today at the Maryland State Law Library (easily one of the State's least used research facilities). We were looking into two sites: the Port Tobacco School and the Jail. We found an interesting tidbit on the jail, the site of which we hope to test this spring. It is a law passed by the General Assembly on December 27, 1811, authorizing the raising and disbursing of tax money for the purpose of erecting a jail. Here is the law in its entirety:

Laws of Maryland, Chapter 55 (passed December 27, 1811)

An act to authorized and empower the Levy Court of Charles county to assess and levy a sum of money on the assessable property thereof, for the purpose of building a jail in said county.

AND BE IT ENACTED, That the justices of the levy court of Charles county are hereby authorized, directed and required, to assess and levy on the assessable property in said county, at the time of levying their public levies, a sum of money not exceeding tow thousand dollars; that is to say, the sum of one thousand dollars, in the eighteen hundred and twelve, and the remaining sum of one thousand dollars in the year eighteen hundred and thirteen; together with the collector’s commission for collecting the same, for the purpose of erecting the jail aforesaid which said assessment so as aforesaid to be made and levied, shall be collected by the collector for the time being, in the same manner that other public charges are by law collected, and the same sums of money when so as aforesaid respectively collected, shall be paid by such collector to the aforesaid commissioners, or the major part of them, or to their order or orders which said commissioners or a major part of them, are hereby authorized and required to receive and apply the same to the use and purpose as by this act is directed.

AND BE IT ENACTED, That the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall be, and they are hereby authorized and required to contract and agree for the building of the said jail, and to direct the plans of the same; which said jail shall be erected on the public ground in Charles-town, commonly called Port Tobacco, in Charles county, and when erected, finished and completed, shall be used, held, taken and deemed to be the proper jail of Charles county.

AND BE IT ENACTED, That in case any of the said commissioners shall die, remove, refuse or discontinue to act, the remaining commissioners or the majority of them, shall appoint one or more persons, (as the case may be,) to fill up such vacancy.

AND BE IT ENACTED, That the said commissioners or the majority of them, shall render a full and fair account to the levy court of said county, of the receipts and expenditures of all monies by them received and expended by virtue of this act.

No doubt there is an earlier act that this law amends and I'll post it when I find it. There very likely was an earlier jail, similarly authorized, and I'll post information on that too when we find it.

We do not have specifications for this early 19th-century jail, but photographs of the burned courthouse (1892 and later) show a small, rectangular, nondescript brick building of two stories.


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