The old jail is seen between the wings of the burned courthouse
April 2, 1846, Vol. II, Num. 47
Bill Wheeler convicted of insurrection and sentenced to be hung, special act of legislature remitted to imprisonment in penitentiary - broke from jail in this county. Reward of $100.
August 24, 1854, Vol. XI, Num. 17
Joseph R. Hunt, sheriff, offers $50 reward to anyone delivering to him three Negroes who “...broke the jail of Charles county and made their escape.” Dick Butler, a free Negro, accused of stealing corn, Alfred Scott and John Robinson, committed as runaways. “...Alfred Scott and John Robinson were coupled together with a heavy pair of spansels.”
November 10, 1857, Vol. XIV, Num. 29
County commissioners petition to build jail at Port Tobacco out of amount realized from sale of warehouse at Benedict
December 17,1857, Vol. XIV, Num. 34
Judge Crain called Jury’s attention to condition of Sheriff’s jail in Port Tobacco. “They have examined the place used as a temporary jail...and that a feeling of humanity and Christian charity requires that some more comfortable place should be provided for the reception of these unfortunate persons...”
January 28, 1858, Vol. XIV, Num. 40
The act to build a jail at Port Tobacco passed both houses
August 26, 1858, Vol. XV, Num. 18
Commissioners J.H. Hawkins, George P. Jenkins and Edmund Perry appointed to superintend the building of a new jail in Port Tobacco.
May 24, 1860, Vol. XVII, Num. 4
Grand Jury inspects jail “... recently erected in this village ...” Edward Hatcher “polite jailer...” of Mr. Sheriff Wheeler. Building is two stories high- walls “ ...hard brick...”strong and substantially built. Roof of slate ... surrounded with a balustrade, giving it for so small a building, quite an imposing appearance...” Interior has two rooms or cells - passage or hall on each floor. Rooms are small and present appropriate security and comfort. Window frames and sash seems to be made of inferior materials and workmanship, exceptionally unworkmanlike and imperfect manner. Inside gable ends indicate that the roof leaks - insufficiency of tinning around the chimneys. Messrs Hawkins and Jenkins of the building Committee said that Mr. O’Brien has agreed, at his expense to remedy any defect arising from inferior materials and imperfect workmanship...” Arrangement of water closets - constructed as to discharge contents into sink or well near the outer wall of the building and this “has no sewer or drain leading to the main run, through which its contents might be discharged and carried off by the tide...”
September 5, 1861, Vol. XVIII, Num. 19
Sold to highest bidder, the old house on jail lot - house to be removed within 30 days.
November 21, 1861, Vol. XVIII, Num. 30
Port Tobacco Jail again scene of breakout - 3rd time in past six months. Back wall opened removing bricks and mortar - three women and one man escaped, the man for the third time. Mr. Covell, jailor, and Mr. Shackelford, deputy sheriff were that night “doubly vigilant.”
March 5, 1869, Vol. XXV, Num. 44
Two white men and one Negro man, broke out of the Sheriff’s jail (near his residence) and escaped by burning a hole in the floor, and removing the dirt.
January 19, 1872, Vol. XXVII, Num. 38
James Richardson of Pomonkey district, escaped from Port tobacco jail - committed on charge of abducting 13-year old girl.
June 7, 1872, vol. XXVIX, num. 6
Charles Brown, colored, escaped from jail. Convicted of larceny of a pair of pantaloons, sentenced to six months. Was permitted by temporary jail keeper to go for water at hydrant and kept going ... thus reliev[ing] the county of any further expense of boarding him.
November 20, 1874, Vol. XXXI, Num. 30
James Burfy and two other colored prisoners escaped from Port Tobacco Jail during the night.
June 4,1875, vol. XXXII, Num. 5
G.S. Griffith, President, Prisoners’ Aid Society, toured Port Tobacco jail. He commended the cleanliness of jail but could not say much else that was favorable. Urged necessity of re-arrangements so that prisoners would not be so crowed, and sexes should be separated.
October 6, 1876, vol. XXXIII, num. 22
Charles Wilson alias Martin Henry and Henry Simpson, alias James Henry Butler, were arrested for burglary and are in St. Mary’s county jail. They escaped from jail and on their way through Charles County supposed to have killed Everett. On Friday, Sheriff Wade was on his way to Leonardtown to get the prisoners and remove them to our jail. “...Authorities there refused to surrender them and we think wisely, for Sheriff Wade and his deputy have not the best of reputation for safely keeping prisoners.” Mr. Ivans, according to the sheriff, gave positive identification of prisoners as being in Waring’s store the night before the murder. Prisoners “will remain in the custody of the sheriff of St. Mary’s County, Judge Brent having refused for the present, at least, to order them into the custody of sheriff Wade.”
October 6, 1876, vol. XXXIII, num. 22
Sheriff Wade is putting additional bars on jail windows so as to relieve the necessity of chaining prisoners. “Ironing ... is nevertheless a great deal of harshness and cruelty which ought to be avoided if possible. Operations have also been commenced looking to the erection of the famous fence. We hope to see it speedily finished and other necessary improvements made.”
October 20, 1876, Vol. XXXIII, num. 24
James A. Mudd, contractor, finished new fence 12’ high around jail “and he has made a faithful job of it ... if this is relied upon as a means of preventing escapes it will be but a frail dependence.”
Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser 2-10-1877 (from addendum to vol 6 of the abstracts)
Regarding Henry and Simpson Hanging: The reporter interviewed prisoners night before the execution. Simpson chained to floor by foot irons. Room had small fireplace, bars on doors. Window boarded up so they could not see gallows outside. 4,000 spectators at execution.
November 28, 1879, Vol. XXXVI, Num. 28
Wades’s Hotel used to lodge “wagon load of belligerent individuals” from Calvert County.
May 28, 1880, Vol.. XXXVII, Num. 1
Marshall Chapman, grand jury foreman, signed report to Judges “... have visited the jail...neat and cleanly condition...6 colored and 2 white male prisoners...2 colored female prisoners...each class in separate departments...seemed to be cared for... necessity erecting iron door to room occupied by sheriff or deputy...sheriff complained about having his slumbers molested by knowledge of his insecurity...We call attention to the unhealthy condition in which we find the two ends of the Courthouse, the corners being used for a necessary and emit an unpleasant odor. We suggest the building of a closet in order to abate the nuisance.”
December 23, 1881, Vol. XXXVIII, Num. 29
Henry Matthews, colored, committed to jail for stealing coat of Joseph Norris, colored, “broke jail.” B Made hole in cell ceiling above door, climbed between rafters, made another hole and dropped down into passage and unbolted door. Three prisoners have escaped in past six weeks.
August 4, 1882, Vol. XXXIX, Num. 8
J.F.S. Middleton resigned as town bailiff. Port Tobacco now without a guardian of the peace.
September 1, 1882, Vol. XXXIX, Num. 12
Adam Grinder cut his way out of jail. “...Procured large knife and wrench from an old pauper now in jail...Forced the casing from the wall near the door of the cell and with the knife succeeded in removing a brick from the wall near the staple which held the cell door lock; with the wrench he took the nut from the staple on the inside of the wall, pulled the staple out and got into the corridor from which access to the outside world was very easy. Small children playing around the jail saw him leave, notified the sheriff and Sheriff Southerland pursued...caught a short distance above Rose Hill on the road to Glymont. Considerable excitement was manifested in the village during the investigation nearly the whole male population being on hand during the time.” Grinder is a young white man from Marshall Hall.
February 1, 1884, Vol. XL, Num. 35
Peter Boarman, a colored man, who was committed to jail by justice Dent, a few weeks ago to be held as a witness against Henry Edelen, also colored, accused of stealing a cow, broke jail on last Saturday evening between 6 and 7 o’clock and made his escape. Boarman, Edelen and another colored man were all confined in one cell, and Boarman finding one of the planks of the floor, near the fireplace loose soon pulled it up, and then, whether with or without the assistance of the others, it is impossible to say, several others were loosened and soon a hole was made large enough for a man to drop through. The plastering was then kicked from the ceiling of the jailor’s room, which was immediately beneath, and Boarman let himself down. The door of the jailor’s room happened to be unlocked, and so he had nothing between himself and liberty but a small panel door leading into the jail yard. This he soon demolished with a log of wood, and jumping the jail fence was at liberty. The most singular part of this affair is that notwithstanding all the noise Boarman must necessarily have made in effecting his escape, none of it was heard outside of the jail. Boarman’s two companions refused to escape with him being afraid of recapture. Boarman has not been captured up to this time and his whereabouts are unknown.
March 7, 1884, Vol. XL, Num. 39
John Dyer, Peter Boarman and George Price, colored prisoners in one cell tore away the ceiling over their door, got into the hallway “and from here their escape was easy as the door leading into the jail yard as never been repaired since the escape of Edelen, who, it will be remembered, broke out the panels of the door with a log of wood.”
March 21, 1884, Vol. XL, Num. 41
C.E. Wade and J.H. Jenkins repairing jail - installing iron beams 3” apart in flooring.
March 28, 1884, Vol. XL, Num. 42
Washington Burch, jailor, under pressure to explain why keys to shackles were on ground and some suspect complicity in escape of Brooks, son-in-law to Burch. Keys found by LaVega Burch and given to sheriff.
April 18, 1884, Vol. XL Num. 45
William Brooks, mulatto, $250 reward offered “broke jail in Port Tobacco Thursday night March 6...” 30 years 5’11” small head and eyes, weighs about 170#, walks with long, swing stride, of quiet demeanor, wore ‘Herring Bone’ trowers [sic]. Occupation has been farm hand, carriage driver and hair cutter and shaver...Any person who receives, relieves, comforts or assists the aforesaid William Brooks will be prosecuted.” L.A. Wilmer, State’s Attorney, Charles county.
May 30, 1884, Vol. XL, num. 51
Grand jury recommended public reprimand by court be given to Sheriff David Smoot for failure to secure jail in such a way as to discourage jail breaks. Philip A.L. Contee, Foreman pro tem.-
December 10, 1886, Vol. XLIII, Num. 26
William H. Grey, Forman, grand jury reports that jail was visited “...and found it clean and in good condition, with the exception of a few window lights broken out, some plaster off and some bricks loose in wall over entrance door...”
September 9, 1887, Vol. XLIV, Num. 13
T.T. Owen authorized “to have the jail cleansed and white washed and provide other precautions he deems necessary for its sanitation...”
January 11, 1889, Vol. XLV, Num. 31
Charles Brown, alias Dutton, colored, jailed for larceny at Rock Point, attempted to escape jail. Deputy Otis Smoot discovered loosened bricks and burned window frame.
July 12, 1889, Vol. XLVI, Num. 5
Baptist Warwick, colored, committed to jail for larceny at Newburg, escaped. Discovered a weak place in the window made by Charles Brown in his futile attempt. Never repaired. Enlarged hole and escaped. Still looking for him.
August 14, 1891, Vol. XLVIII, Num. 15
Unsuccessful Attempt AT Lynching: J.J. Wheeler was alleged to have been killed by a man named Rye. At 1:50 AM about 30 masked men had beaten down the door or the jail when they were fired upon by the jail guards. Mob returned fire. When firing commenced from within the jail, mob retreated from the village in the direction of Nanjemoy where the Rhy-Wheeler homicide took place. Sheriff Adams had employed Washington Burch and Charles Gray, colored, to do guard duty at jail. Re-enforced by Edward Adams, the sheriff’s son, and Wesley Bowie. Missiles from weapons whistled about the second story windows of the Centennial hotel, across the square and some of landlord Norris’s lodgers are said to have been in jeopardy of their lives for a while. Sheriff Adams, fearing a further demonstration, quietly took his prisoner out of town on Tuesday night and Wednesday carried him to Baltimore, where he is now safely incarcerated. Prisoner’s nonchalant manner completely deserted him after the affair of Tuesday morning and he seemed to manifest much fear and nervousness
January 22, 1892, Vol. XLVIII, Num. 33
An article about moving courthouse states $30,000 needed to build courthouse and $10,000 for a jail.
June 16, 1893, Vol. L, Num. 2
Rev. Louis F. Zinkham, general agent of the Maryland Prisoners’ Aid Association visited the Almshouse and County jail. Much pleased with the condition and management of the almshouse, “but thought the jail was not a very secure building.”
November 3, 1893, Vol. L, Num. 22
John Blair, colored, from Glymont, lodged in jail, apparently lunatic. When two men went into jail to see him, he snatched keys away and ran out of jail. Finally overcome and put back in cell.
December 1, 1893, Vol. L, Num. 26
Circuit Court: ...Jury reported it had examined the jail, found its sanitary condition exceedingly bad. Recommended County Commissioners should look into matter at once. Further recommended “that the county commissioners should take prompt action towards making some disposition of the man and woman confined in jail and against whom there are no criminal charges.”
June 1, 1894, Vol. L, Num. 52
Grand Jury Report: “...have examined county jail, and while its sanitary condition is not the best, it is evidently not the fault of the sheriff, nor his jailor, but due to its location and lack of proper conveniences, and at the present its crowed condition. We further recommend that suitable metallic buckets be immediately provided for the use of prisoners...” They also recommend that Richard Penny, an afflicted pauper, of feeble mind and unable to walk or in any manner provide for himself be provided with suitable home other than the jail.
September 7, 1894, Vol. LI, Num. 14
John Johnson and Robert Briscoe, colored, broke jail, broke padlock and scaled plank fence. Sheriff Albrittain has not found them.
February 22, 1895, Vol. LI, Num. 38
Frank Thomas released from jail-purse made up sufficient to take him home.
March 1, 1895, Vol. LI, Num. 39
Jailor Padgett detected jail locks broken with idea of escape.
March 15, 1895, Vol. LI, Num. 41
Robert Briscoe, colored, committed to jail last Fall charged with robbing house of Edward Philpitt, Gylmont, broke out of jail. Captured in Washington where he spent 60 days in jail for assault.
Returned to county jail. “He is now safely ironed to the floor in one of the cells of the jail.”
February 28, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 39
T.C. Tippett and George Sidler, two white men, escaped from jail.
[physical description of men] $25 reward for their capture.
March 6, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 40
Jail-building committee returned from Norfolk full of praise for the jail they visited there. Will recommend to the building committee that the Manly company be awarded the contract. Building will be two stories with rooms on the first floor for the jailor and cells on second for prisoners. Materials will be stone, brick and cement, making it fireproof. “It will be fitted up with the latest improvements looking to the comfort and health of the prisoners. Cost to be $2500 and the building to be completed by May court.”
March 6, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 40
John Sidler, young white man who escaped from jail returned and delivered himself to sheriff. Accompanied by his father who had order from Justice Hindle for the young man’s release, so he was set at liberty to await action of grand jury. Nothing has been heard of the other man Tippett.
March 13, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 41
Chandler Pye, young white man, committed to jail by Justice Burgress for committing an assault on Philip D. Haislip, merchant at Riverside. Young man’s mind unbalanced. “Since being put in jail he has behaved very badly, trying to break open doors and windows and tearing down plastering. He has been chained to the floor for the past several days and will be kept so till his case is disposed of.”
March 20, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 42
Chandler Pye, the young crazy man, though chained in the center of the floor of his cell in the jail, succeeded in setting fire in two mattresses that were in an adjoining room. Dense smoke. Flames checked by free use of water. No damage.
May 1, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 48
New jail will have all modern improvements, steel cages, padded cells and corridors.
May 1, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 48
A Horrible Murder: Mrs. Joseph Cocking and Miss Daisy Miller Found dead in their beds. Story of Mr. Cocking: Investigation by authorities and the verdict of the coroner’s inquest. The Arrest of Cocking: and his removal to Baltimore City for safe keeping. Three column article (not reproduced in abstracts).
May 22, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 51
Joseph Cocking brought from Baltimore by sheriff on evening train. Brought to Port Tobacco and after eating supper with sheriff, lodged in jail. Arraigned this morning in La Plata. Cocking much improved in health and expresses gratitude for his treatment.
May 29, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 52
Circuit Court: Joseph cocking indicted for murder of sister-in-law Daisy Millar and wife, Fannie Cocking. Trial moved to St. Mary’s county on the third Monday in September.
May 29, 1896, Vol. LII, Num. 52
Joseph Cocking is confined in jail in Port Tobacco where he will be kept until new jail is completed which will be about middle of June. Sheriff has guard of two deputies at the jail and he “was authorized by the commissioners on Tuesday to take all necessary precautions for the safe keeping of the prisoner till his trial comes off.”
June 26, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num 4
Committee from Court house Building Committee turned keys to the board stating that the new jail had been completed and was ready for use. Keys turned over to Sheriff Wade and the jail is now in his charge.
July, 3, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 5
Joseph Cocking lynched: Twenty five - thirty men involved in lynching. Two men entered Washington Burch’s home and found him hiding in a closet. Forced him to unlock cell door where Cocking was. After party left with Cocking Burch went to home of Sheriff Wade who already knew about it and was sitting on front porch 75 yards from jail. Burch then went to home of deputy sheriff Barbour and called him up. The two went in the direction taken by the lynching party and found Cocking swinging from bridge over causeway dead. Body taken to centennial hotel and coroner’s jury met therewith Dr. Owen testified that neck was dislocated. After hearing the evidence of Burch and a few other witnesses the jury rendered the verdict that “...Cocking had met his death at the hands of parties unknown.” Brother Thomas Cocking, Towson came to the county on the train Sunday morning and took the remains to Towson for interment at Prospect Hill cemetery at 10:14 p.m. that same night. Lynching took place on Friday night.
July 10, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 6
Governor Lowndes offered $1,000 for arrest and conviction of the men who lynched Joseph Cocking at Port Tobacco, Charles county on June 27th. “The sheriffs of both counties (lynching in Rockville on Saturday) ought to be removed for not being attentive to their duties. I wish I had the power of removal, but I have not.” Quote from Governor. Editor says he does not believe that the criticism of the Governor is deserved. “We are reliably informed that the sheriff insisted upon continuing the two guards at the jail and after his authority to do so was revoked by the county commissioners, he appealed to the Chief Judge of the Circuit, who in turn referred the matter to the State’s Attorney; but the sheriff was still left without the authority to maintain guards. It is generally accepted that with two resolute guards in the jail no lynching would have occurred.”
August 14, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 11
Murder suspect, George Matthews first prisoner to occupy new jail
September 4, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 14
John Grason, Towson, counsel for Joseph Cocking, charged with murder of his wife and sister-in-law at Hilltop, and lynched at Port Tobacco, says, upon examination of the law, he finds that he cannot hold county responsible for Cocking’s death. The sheriff of county can be held because it is clear that it was due to his negligence that the mob got Cocking. “No action against sheriff will be taken however, because he was very kind to Cocking. Mr. Grason says he is positive that he had evidence to show conclusively that cocking could not have committed the double murder.”
October, 16, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 20
George Mathews, first prisoner in new jail escapes.
November 27, 1896, Vol. LIII, Num. 26
Circuit court: Sheriff Wade and Jailor Burch indicted for lynching of Cocking and escape of George Matthews. S.E. Mudd, counsel, asked court for continuance. States’ attorney Posey said he did not want to assume responsibility for continuance of these cases. Court continued them by agreement of counsel until next May term.
June 25, 1897, Vol. LIV, Num. 4
Sheriff wade sued by John Grason, Esq. of Towson Bar for lynching of Joseph Cocking. Wade’s bondsmen are Congressman Mudd, S. Henry Cox, Samuel C. Padgett, Adrian Posey, William Croft and John W. Albrittain. “The declaration recites the atrocious murder of Fannie Cooking and Daisy Miller, the indictment of Joseph Cocking, the removal of the prisoner to the dilapidated building used as the jail at Port Tobacco, the repeated request to Sheriff Wade by the prisoner himself and his counsel that the prisoner be lodged in the jail at Baltimore city or the present jail at LaPlata, which was completed shortly before the lynching, and alleges the gross neglect on the part of the Sheriff to comply with these requests, and his further action in leaving the prisoner in the custody of Washington Burch ‘an aged and infirm negro’ as the causes for Cocking’s being at the mercy of the mob, which lynched him on the night of the 26th of June, 1896, and claims as damages $25,000.”
Big thanks Elsie!