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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 55   View pdf image (33K)
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CECIL COUNTY

Cecil County was set up in part because of the urgent necessity of Lord Baltimore to
protect himself against what he considered to be the encroachments of Pennsylvania. The
bounds of the new county were even anticipated, in 1670, by Augustine Herman's map of
Maryland. The formal establishment of the new county was not to occur, however, for another
four years when it was proclaimed by Charles Calvert who was then Governor of the province.1
This proclamation of June 6, 1674 had to be hastily revised two weeks later when it was
discovered that far too much of the area of other counties, especially of Kent County, had
been assigned to the new county.2 The boundaries of Cecil County, named for Cecil, Second
Lord Baltimore, have remained approximately the same to this day except for the northern
line which was not finally established until the survey of Mason and Dixon was run a
century later.3

Courthouse at Oldtown

As was customary in Maryland in the early period, the first courts of Cecil County met
in the homes of private citizens and in public houses. What is unusual is that this practice
continued for so long a time in Cecil County. According to George Johnston, the first court-
house was not built until 1692.4 This first building is said to have been erected on the "north
side of Sassafras River, a short distance east of Ordinary Point, at what was afterwards
called Jamestown, and is now designated on the map of Cecil County as Oldtown." s Johnston
deduces from the fact that the jurors were wont to deliberate on occasion in the yard, that the
courthouse was small—the oak under which they sat was long known as the Jury Oak. There
are, of course, other reasons for assuming that the building was small, chief of which is the
fact that courthouses were all small at this time. This courthouse somehow cannot be docu-
mented in existing records of the county, but from the report of a legislative committee of
1697 we can be certain that it was not finished at that time, and we are given one or two
precise details as to construction:

There is a new Court house building in Cecill County wherein may be a Brick
Chimney and there when finished the records are to be kept and no ordinary.6

The builder, according to Johnston, was Casparus Herman. But when it was finished we do
not know. It was abandoned when the seat of justice was moved to Court House Point.

Courthouse at Court House Point

When the boundary between Kent and Cecil Counties was adjusted, in 1706, giving Kent
the area lying between the Sassafras and the Chester, Oldtown ceased to be anywhere near
the center of Cecil County. Soon thereafter residents of the county began to insist that a
more convenient location be chosen and a new courthouse built. They addressed the usual
"humble petition" to the General Assembly which replied as was its wont by granting the

1 Arch, of Md., XV, p. 39.
2Ibid., p. 41.
3 Details concerning boundaries and election districts of this
county as of all the other counties of Maryland should be sought
in Mathews, The Counties of Maryland.
4 History of Cecil County Maryland, Elkton, 1881, p. 83. This

55

work is the chief secondary source for the history of Cecil
County. It contains a great deal of information but, unfortu-
nately, there are few references to sources.
5 Loc. cit.
6 Arch, of Md., XXII, p. 103.



 

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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 55   View pdf image (33K)
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