Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deeds Solve Archaeological Mystery

Last June, while excavating around the jail house site, I was struck by the number of early 19th-century ceramic sherds recovered from around the foundations. The reason I was surprised was that I had assumed that the jailhouse was part of the 3-acre lot that was surveyed for the courthouse in 1728.

Two deeds came to light today. The earliest of the two is from Joseph and Rachel Hutton. On January 2, 1859, they conveyed to William M. Lyon "a certain House and lot lying and being in the Village of Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland, known by the name of the Red house containing about one-seventh of an acre more or less" (Land Records JHC 1/67).

On April 24, 1860, William Lyon conveyed that same "Red house" and one-seventh acre to the Commissioners, noting its location as follows: "on the west of the Church & on which the Public Jail is now situated" (Land Records JHC 1/356).

These two deeds clearly indicate that there was a house on the lot and that the house and lot were sold to the County for the construction of a new jail, which occurred in 1859/1860. The domestic refuse, including a number of pearlware sherds, therefore, come not from the jail, but from an earlier dwelling, some of the foundations of which we may have uncovered in June. Moreover, the earlier jail (1818) which remained standing when the new jail was completed, but which the Commissioners ordered dismantled, probably was on the courthouse lot and may be closer to the courthouse than we had anticipated.


1 comment:

Dancing Willow said...

That makes good sense. Didn't the pictures which shown behind the court house look more like a dwelling vs. a jail anyway? As I remember, it looked like a rather tall structure with pillars on the front and facing it, the upper left had a random door on what appeared to be an upper floor that lead directly to the outside with an instant "drop"?