You are standing near the site of the last jail associated with the County Courthouse at Port Tobacco. The jail was built in 1860 and was demolished in 1906. Imagine a two-story brick building with a slate roof. Each floor had two cells or rooms divided by a staircase in the middle. Accused vagrants, lunatics, escaped slaves, and criminals were housed here.
(Text box for two images of Port Tobacco. One is about a century old and the other is contemporary.)
The Port Tobacco jail is revealed in the image below after the center portion of the courthouse was burned in August 1892. To the right shows the reconstructed courthouse today.
(Text box for image showing five artifacts)
Artifacts found from recent archaeological testing provide clues to the material culture of the jail occupants.
(Text box for image of a fireplace, which is identified as the "Jail at Lancaster Courthouse, part of the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library, Lancaster, VA.)
The 1860 jail had fireplaces in each cell and sash windows with bars. Rings were mounted in the floor and walls to restrain prisoners if necessary. The cell was bare except for mattresses on the floor and a chamber pot. At times both men and women would be in the same cell.
(Text box for image of the exterior of Burch House in Port Tobacco.)
last jailer was Washington Burch, an African American, whose house you can see in the southern part of the town. Burch would attend to the prisoners by providing basic food and drink and ensuring the jail's overall cleanliness.
(Text box for two logos.)
This panel was sponsored by the Port Tobacco River Conservancy and funded by the Charles County Government, Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.
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