On the night of December 6, 1871, the courthouse was burned. Normally we are left to
guess about which records were lost but the special correspondent of the Baltimore American
(Dec. 8, 1871) supplies us with some details:
The vault of the Register's office aided by the well directed use of the Junior
Company's steam fire engine, was proof against the flames and falling timbers. The
energetic Register, Mr. M. S. Barber, had, however, with his aids removed nearly all of
the important papers. The Clerk's office had been also nearly emptied by that officer
and his faithful deputies, but the fire reached and scorched some old papers already
recorded. The papers and books of the County Commissioners were all saved by the
gallant efforts of H. W. Lyday, a Commissioner. These papers were in an upper room,
and after great risk Mr. Lyday, Mr. E. W. Funk and others succeeded in carrying
I have not been advised whether the papers of the School Commissioners, also in
rooms up-stairs, were saved. Sheriff Bamford retreated in good order, without the loss
of a docket or process.
The Commissioners' safe fell through the floor, and the fate of its contents, which
are probably unimportant, has not thus far been ascertained. Mr. Lyday unfortunately
had not been able to get the key to rifle it before the burning, and now the lock
stubbornly refuses to act, whilst no one has been found who is able to pick it.
Perhaps the Special correspondent was a bit too optimistic for many records including
the valuable first twenty years of the Judgment records are gone and must have perished in
the fire. Among the papers which have disappeared some escaped the fire for this writer saw
a large trunkfull of such papers—some labelled "1777"—in a hotel in Roanoke, Virginia some-
time in the late 1930's. All efforts to trace them in 1939 and thereafter have proved fruitless.
In the first volume of this study (p. 156, and ibid, footnotes 10 and 11) I noted the attri-
bution of the courthouse of 1823 to Benjamin Henry Latrobe. At that time no part of the
Latrobe family papers—in which Edith Ross Bevan said there was, "much correspondence
between Latrobe and Ringgold relative to the Courthouse"—was available to me. Since that
time a part, but not all, of these papers have been purchased by the Maryland Historical
Society which kindly permitted me to examine them. I found only one item relating to the
courthouse (Latrobe Letters, 1817, pp. 36-37) :
Washington, March 10, 1817
General L. Ringgold
The time allowed me to design the Courthouse has been very short, that with the
utmost diligence, & encroaching on the duties of the Sabbath, I can only send you a
general design, & have hardly time enough left to add the necessary explanation.
The Courtroom is 63 ft by 40 ft.
Each of the Offices 18 feet square vaulted
The Jury rooms 18 by 16, the grand jury room 25.8 by 18.0
You were so pleased with the Church that I have designed the building in the same
taste but it will be a much handsomer building. I must defer the bill of scantlings to next