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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 129   View pdf image (33K)
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ST. MARY'S COUNTY

Courthouse at John Hammond's

Although Giles Brent appointed justices to hear cases in St. Mary's County August 26,
1644,1 there is no record of a fixed place of county government until ten years later. On
October 20, 1654, the General Assembly passed an act establishing a county court 2 and
shortly thereafter, December 5, 1654, John Hammond was authorized to build at his own cost a
fitting courthouse and jail. In return for this service he was granted permission to operate
a ferry over Newtown River for the convenience of those having business with the court, and
he was also allowed to sell wine and hard liquor at retail.3 The best authorities now believe
that this courthouse was located on Hammond's property about a mile east of Leonardtown.4

Courthouse at St. Mary's City

When the General Assembly adjourned, October 18, 1694, it was understood that barring
an emergency this session, which began September 21, would be the last ever to be held in
St. Mary's City. Among other things left behind when the State government departed was
the handsome, if fragile, state house then only twenty years old. A replica of this large cross-
style building, one of the most remarkable in the colonies, was built as part of the Maryland
Tercentenary Celebration in 1934.5 The specifications of the General Assembly authorizing
the structure are unusually full:

An Act for the building of a state house and Prison att St Maries.
To th end there may be a decent and Convenient place for the administracdn of
Justice and a prison Erected for the Restraint of Malefactors & persons indebted the
two houses of your Lordships Generall Assembly Doe pray that itt may be Enacted
that there be a State house & a prison built att the Citty of St. Maries And Bee itt
Enacted by the Right Honble: the Lord Proprietary with the aduice and Consent of the
upper and lower houses of this present Generall Assembly and the Authority of the
same That there be a state house and Prison built att the Citty of St Maries the said
state house and Prison to be built of brick or stone with lime & sand and to be
Covered with Slate or tile laid in Morter and to be of these demencons (vizt) the said
State house to be two Stories high and to Continue in length forty five foote from
outside to outside with a porch in front sixteene foote Long and twelue foote broad
in the Clear on the Inside and a staire case over against the Porch on the other side
sixteene foote Square in the Cleere on the inside the first story of the said house Porch
and staire Case to be twelue foote from the topp of the floore which shall be paved with
flatt paveing Stone or Brick to the lower side of the summer and the second story to be
Nine foote in the Cleere from the upper side of the board to the lower side of the summer
the walls of the said house Porch and staire case to be built vppon a good secure and sound
foundacon oi twenty eight inches thick from the bottom of the said foundacon to the
water table which shall be three foote Cleere aboue ground and made shelving of and
The Rest of the said story to be twenty four Inches thick upp to the first floore the
walls of the second story of the said house Porch and staire Case to be Ninteene Inches
thick upp to to the wale plate and soe from the wall plate to the brest of the windows

1 Arch, of Md., III, 150-51.
2 Ibid., I, 347.
3 Ibid., X, 410.
4 Much of the information in this paragraph comes from
Edwin W. Beitzell, "Newtown Hundred," Md. Hist. Mag., 51,
125-27. No description of this courthouse seems to have been
preserved nor is it certain that it was not replaced before the
county seat was transferred to St. Mary's City. The total loss

of the county records has caused this gap in our knowledge of
the courthouses of St. Mary's County, a gap which is likely
never to be filled. It is worth noting that on August 7, 1677,
court was held at the house of Stephen Murty at Newtown
(Arch, of Md., LXVIII, 91). Was Murty an innkeeper?
5 For a thorough study of the original building and the
replica see Henry Chandlee Forman, Jamestown and St. Mary's,
Buried Cities of Romance, Baltimore, 1938, pp. 282-95.

129



 

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The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland -- Part 1: The Courthouses
Volume 545, Page 129   View pdf image (33K)
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