North Street Jail

A postcard of the North Street jail around 1914. The sheriff’s residence and office were located in the front, while the stone section contained the lockup.

I remember when the jail was on North Street in Elkton. Looking at the buildings today, I can’t determine which building housed the jail. Can you give more historical information regarding this jail?

— Carolyn Clark

The Cecil County Jail on North Street in Elkton was abandoned for the modern detention center that now serves the county in 1984. The passing of the old lockup was largely unnoticed, it routinely having been maligned as a place that somehow managed to outlive its usefulness in just 128 years. That old institution has an interesting history, one that evolved from the days of gallows and whipping posts. When it opened in 1871, newspapers hailed the sheriff’s home as a state-of-the-art monument to law and order. Considering that it replaced “a so-called jail” where notorious types were “chained to the floor,” it probably wasn’t hard to make that claim. For those who ran afoul of the law there were 20 cells, surely enough to “accommodate any demand that Cecil county culprits,” could place on it. Sheriff Thomas, the first official to turn the key and swing open the wide heavy grated iron door, let in his “house guests.” In the years to come, those cells would have their own stories to tell, and the jailhouse walls would stand as silent witnesses to more than a few tragic scenes. Out in the old jail yard, more than one man would draw his final breath while at the end of the hangman’s noose. The last hanging took place there in October 1905. Many men received the lash at the whipping post in inner yard. One spring day in 1912, a cold-blooded shooting in the outer yard snuffed out the young life of Sheriff J. Myron Miller. In 1984, in a secret nighttime operation, Sheriff John F. DeWitt moved inmates from the jail to Landing Lane. An era had ended.

The brick section facing North Street contained the sheriff’s office, residence, and kitchen. Strong stone walls in the rear section secured the prisoners.

— Mike Dixon

Do you have a question about Cecil County that the Historical Society of Cecil County’s panel of experts might be able to answer? Send them to history@cecilwhig.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.