Order in the Court — “Okay, I’ll Take an Ale” Charles County Courthouse (18CH777)



Figure 1.  Fragments from a Nottingham-type stoneware mug discovered during the excavation of the courthouse.

Quenching one’s thirst with a mug of ale or hard cider was a fitting end to a long day in court in the colonial period.  Taverns and ordinaries, often located near courthouses, were the scenes of celebrations as well sadder occasions for individuals drowning their sorrows after an unwanted legal outcome.  A fragment from a Nottingham-type English stoneware mug, recovered from the site of the first courthouse in Charles County, Maryland, was probably witness to many such revelries or disappointing endings.

plat map cut down

Figure 2.  1697 Plat map of the Charles County Courthouse and Ordinary.  Maryland State Archives.

A beautifully detailed plat map prepared in 1697 depicts the first Charles County courthouse.  Standing in a cluster of buildings, including an ordinary, several outbuildings, a fenced orchard and a set of stocks, this timber-framed structure was graced with a porch tower and glass windows.  It served as the courthouse from 1674 until its abandonment in 1727, when the location of the county court was moved to nearby Port Tobacco.  The courthouse was demolished for salvage in 1731 (King et al. 2008b) and over time, as the other buildings disappeared and people’s memories of them faded, the location of this first courthouse was lost. Continue reading