The judicial system of colonial Maryland was modeled on English precedents adapted to the provincial needs. Within a few years of the settlement of Maryland in 1634, a court had begun to hear cases in St. Mary’s City. Later, as separate county courts came into existence, this court in the provincial capital became known as the Provincial Court. Eventually, as the business of the Provincial Court increased, other judicial bodies were evolved, including the Chancery Court to hear equity cases and the Prerogative Court to handle probate matters. Decisions appealed from these courts were at first heard by the governor and council and after 1694 by the Court of Appeals.1


The exact date of establishment of a separate county court in St. Mary’s County is impossible to determine, because the early local records of the county are not extant. During the first years of settlement the court that sat in St. Mary’s City, which became the Provincial Court, handled all judicial matters, because most people that constituted the white population of Maryland lived nearby. The first mention of St. Mary’s as a county is not found until 1637, and not until 1644 is there a record of justices of the peace being appointed specifically for the county. Periodically after 1644 the governor commissioned justices for the county court who held office at his pleasure. The number of county justices appointed at any one time varied from three to nineteen. Some appointees were designated justices of the quorum, meaning that at least one of them had to be present in order to hold court. After 1733, members of the governor’s council were included in the commissions for all county courts.2

Independence from England and the establishent of a state government initially brought few changes to the system of county courts in Maryland except that thereafter justices were appointed by the governor and council to serve during good behavior. In 1790 the General Assembly passed a law dividing the State into five judicial districts, with the first district being composed of Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties. Under this law the county court was composed of a chief judge appointed for the district and two associate judges appointed from each county. Justices of the peace were no longer members of the county court. A reorganization of the judicial system in 1806 divided the state into six judicial districts, with Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties constituting the first district. The governor and council appointed a chief judge and two associate judges for each district.3


The office of county clerk was established in 1644 to assist in the operation of the county court. The clerk maintained the records of cases heard by the court, issued writs and warrants, and recorded documents required by law to be filed with the county court. During the colonial period, county clerks were appointed by the governor for indefinite terms. Under the Constitution of 1776, county clerks were appointed by the county justices, and after 1790, they were appointed by the judges of the county court for a term of good behavior. A constitutional amendment that took effect in 1838 gave the governor the authority to appoint the clerks for seven-year terms of office.4


As the Maryland judicial structure evolved into separate courts, the jurisdiction of each became more defined. The county courts handled three types of cases—-criminal, civil, and equity. Criminal

proceedings involved actions committed or omitted in violation of the law. Civil actions dealt with the recovery of private rights or compensation for their infraction, such as nonpayment of debts or damages caused to persons or property. Equity cases involved matters requiring an equitable solution, such as estate settlements, title to land, and divorce.


In regard to criminal cases, the Provincial Court and the county courts at first held concurrent jurisdiction, except that the latter could not try persons charged with crimes punishable by loss of limb or life until 1773. Then the General Assembly authorized concurrent power to try offenses regardless of the sentence. This law remained in effect when the General Court replaced the Provincial Court in 1776. In 1791 concurrent jurisdiction was restricted to cases involving treason, murder, felony, and insurrection. Only the county courts or justices of the peace could hear lesser charges. Beginning in 1802, the General Court could accept jurisdiction in criminal proceedings only on a writ of habeas corpus or if a fair trial could not be obtained in a county court. After 1806, when the General Court was abolished, the county courts heard all felonies and some misdemeanors.5 Misdemeanors were also handled by justices of the peace and, in St. Mary’s County from 1836-1842, by the district court, the decisions of which could be applied to the county court.


As with criminal cases, the Provincial Court and the county courts at first held concurrent jurisdiction in civil cases, except that the latter could not hear actions where the amount involved exceeded 3,000 pounds of tobacco. In 1694, the civil jurisdiction of the county courts was expanded to include amounts at dispute up to 10,000 pounds

of tobacco or #50 sterling. A law passed in 1709 gave the county courts exclusive jurisdiction in cases where the debt or damage claimed was less than 5,000 pounds of tobacco or #20 sterling, with a right of appeal to the Provincial Court. A 1773 statute increased the amount for exclusive jurisdiction in the county courts to 30,000 pounds of tobacco or #100 sterling. These guidelines remained in effect in 1776, when the General Court replaced the Provincial Court. Original jurisdiction of the General Court, however, was restricted to cases involving amounts over #100 current money in 1786 and over #400 current money in 1802. After 1806, when the General Court was abolished, the county courts handled all such cases.6


Beginning in 1777 justices of the peace, sitting alone, had concurrent civil jurisdiction with the county courts in cases where debts or damages did not exceed #5 common money, with right of appeal to the county courts. The limit for such concurrent jurisdiction was increased to #10 current money in 1787 and to $50 in 1810. This jurisdictional limitation on cases that would be heard by justices of the peace remained at $50, except for the period 1836 to 1842 in St. Mary’s County, when the district court possessed exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases where values were less than $100. 7


The Provincial Court exercised exclusive jurisdiction over equity proceedings until 1669. Thereafter and until 1715 all equity cases were heard by the Chancery Court. In 1715 the county courts were given exclusive jurisdiction over cases where the value in dispute was under 1,200 pounds of tobacco or #5 sterling. In 1763 the county courts were granted concurrent jurisdiction with the Chancery Court in cases involving less than 5,000 pounds of tobacco or #20 sterling. All cases

—in which a greater amount was in dispute were heard in the Chancery Court. The maximum amount for concurrent jurisdiction with the county courts was raised in 1792 to 10,000 pounds of tobacco or #100 current money. In 1815 all jurisdictional limitations were removed and litigants could institute equity proceedings in either the Chancery Court or a county court. One type of equity case, divorce, was not initially handled by any court. Until 1842 only the General Assembly could grant a divorce. Thereafter, the Chancery Court, county courts, and General Assembly held concurrent jurisdiction.8


Besides judicial responsibilities, the county courts performed other functions assigned to them by law. In regard to orphans, the county courts appointed and supervised their guardians or bound the children out as apprentices. The register of wills and orphans court took over the former duty in 1777 and the latter in 1794. 9 In addition, until 1795 each county court served as the administrative agency of county government. It adjusted and paid expenses chargeable to the county, set the tax rate to meet these costs, and supervised maintenance of roads, courthouse, and jail. In 1795 the newly—created county levy courts assumed most of these responsibilities. The St. Mary’s County Court, however, retained authority to divide the county into road districts until 1802 and to process petitions for private rights of way until 1835. In the period of 1817 to 1851, petitions for public roads in St. Mary’s County could be handled by the General Assembly, the county court, or the levy court and its successor, the board of county commissioners. 10


In addition to hearing cases, the county courts were also involved in the selection of juries. Each court required the services of two

jury panels, whose members were chosen from among the taxpayers and voters of the county. The grand jury inquired into offenses against state laws and decided whether an accused person should be indicted. It also investigated and reported on other matters of public concern, such as the condition of the county jail or the public road system. The petit jury tried and determined issues in civil and criminal suits. As a means of regulating the legal profession, the judges of the county courts admitted attorneys to argue cases before it. 1 1


In 1779 the General Assembly enacted a law providing for the naturalization of foreigners who wished to become state citizens. Oaths of allegiance could be taken before the governor and council, the General Court, or a county court. Upon adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the federal government assumed responsibility for naturalizations. In 1790, however, federal law assigned the processing of applications to the local courts in each state. Thus, the county courts in Maryland continued to be involved in the naturalization process. 12


In addition to maintaining judicial records, the clerks of the county courts recorded other documents as required by law. These included instruments relating to real and personal property, charters, licenses, and the election and appointment of public officials. From the first settlement of Maryland, documents relating to the transfer of land were recorded by the clerk of the Provincial Court or by the clerk of the county court where the property was located. But not until 1663 did the recording of deeds become obligatory. In 1704 the General Assembly extended the law to include mortgages, leases over seven years in duration, and deeds of trust. 13

From 1776 until 1819, land records could be recorded in either a county court or in the General Court and after its abolition in 1806, the Court of Appeals. The statute was changed in 1819, and thereafter land records had to be recorded in the county court where the land was located. Although few did so, individuals could still have deeds and other documents recorded by the clerk of the Court of Appeals after 1819. As a security measure, a law passed in 1786 directed the clerks of the county courts to file abstracts of deeds with the clerk of the General Court, and with the clerk of the Court of Appeals after 1806. For St. Mary’s County this requirement proved especially important, because the courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1831. After the fire, individuals were encouraged to have deeds rerecorded, but the program was only partially successful.14


As with land records the recording of instruments relating to personal property, such as bills of sale and chattel mortgages, was not at first a legal requirement. When recording became mandatory in 1729, the law applied only to mortgages and deeds of trust. Because of statutes regulating slavery, many of the chattel records pertained to slaves and free blacks. Besides bills of sale, mortgages, and deeds of trust, the chattel records included manumissions of slaves, lists of slaves brought from out of state, which were required after 1792, and certificates of freedom issued by the county clerk to free blacks, which commenced in 1806.15


Before 1851 the county clerks had few responsibilities with regard to incorporation records. Under terms of an 1803 law, churches were required to file charters and amendments with the county clerks, but all other organizations obtained charters from the General Assemly.16

During the colonial period, a few types of business operations were required to obtain licenses from the county courts. These included ordinary keepers, retailers of liquor, hawkers, and peddlers. Laws passed in the nineteenth century extended licensing requirements to cover many other businesses, such as retail merchants, wholesalers, and brokers. At first only judges of the county courts could grant licenses, but in 1817 the clerks were given authority to issue licenses when a judge was not present. Gradually the clerks assumed a full responsibility for granting licenses and collecting the required fees, part of which was remitted to the State. 17


Under the terms of a law passed in 1777, no person could marry in Maryland without obtaining a license from the county clerk or having banns published. The clerks maintained records of marriage licenses, but not of marriage banns. 18


During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the county justices and the sheriff acted as election judges. A law passed in 1800 provided that the judges of the county court annually appoint three election judges for each election district in the county, a responsibility assumed by the levy court in 1802. Following an election, the election judges filed returns with the county clerks who forwarded copies to the appropriate state and county officials. The clerks also maintained records of gubernatorial commissions issued to elected and appointed officials and of their surety bonds and oaths of office. 19


The Constitution of 1851 reorganized the judiciary of Maryland and in the process changed the name of the St. Mary’s County Court to the







Records of the St. Mary’s County Court at the Hall of Records:


(Appeal Docket), 1840—1851

(Appeal Papers), 1827—1849

(Certificates of Freedom), 1806-1851

(Clerk’s Fee Book), 1816—1850

(Commission Papers), 1813—1851

(Commissions and Bonds), 1818-1851

(Commissions of Justices of the Peace), 1815—1851

(Correspondence), 1790

(Criminal Papers), 1817—1851

(Decree Record), 1848—1851

(Docket), 1795-1851

(Equity Docket), 1830—1851

(Equity Papers), 1815-1851

(Exhibits), 1815—1847

(Grand Jury Papers), 1831-1848

(Insolvency Papers), 1831—1851

(Judgment Papers), 1809—1851

(Judgment Record), 1807—1843

(Judicial Papers), 1800—1851

(Jury Papers), 1829—1851

(Land Commissions), 1804—1819

(Land Record Papers), 1788-1850

(Land Records), 1781—1851

(Land Records, General Index), 1827—1851

(License Papers), 1818—1849

(Magistrates Judgments), 1837—1842

(Marriage Licenses), 1794—1851

(Military Pension Papers), 1829-1835

(Minutes), 1795—1851

(Naturalization Papers), 1833—1850

(Petition Docket), 1811—1851

(Recognizance Papers), 1829—1851

(Supersedeas Docket), 1800

(Transcripts of Judgments), 1820—1824




Although the Constitution of 1851 reorganized the state judicial system and made several positions elective rather than appointive, many of the revisions represented only name changes. The counties and Baltimore City were divided into eight judicial circuits, replacing the previous six judicial districts. Each county court became the county circuit court. St. Mary’s County, along with Charles and Prince George’s counties, made up the first circuit, for which one judge was elected for a ten—year term. The Constitution of 1864 increased the number of circuits to thirteen, the first being composed of St. Mary’s and Charles counties, and made the term of office for judges fifteen years. The Constitution of 1867 established eight circuits, retained the fifteen-year term for judges, and provided for the election of a chief judge and two associate judges for each circuit except the eighth. Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties constituted the seventh circuit. Except for the number of judges, the provisions for circuit courts outlined in the Constitution of 1867 remain in effect to the present. The Governor with consent of the Senate, fills vacancies on the circuit courts, with judges so appointed holding office until the next scheduled election, when their continuance in office must be approved by the voters. A constitutional amendment which took effect in 1955 provided that each county in the seventh circuit have at least one resident judge. 20


The Constitution of 1851 established the county clerk as an elective office, with the incumbent serving a term of six years. The term of office of county clerk was reduced to four years in 1926. Vacancies in the office of county clerk are filled by the judges of the circuit court, with the appointee holding office until the next




Under the Constitution of 1851, the circuit courts retained the same criminal jurisdiction as was held by the former county courts. Periodically thereafter justices of the peace acquired increasing responsibilities over misdemeanors, including violations of motor vehicle laws and municipal ordinances, and in the conduct of preliminary hearings in felony cases. Trial magistrates and district court judges, which were established in 1939 and 1971 respectively and which ultimately supersceded the justices of the peace, handled a few felonies. If a defendant demanded a jury trial, however, the case was automatically removed to the county circuit court, and lower court decisions could still be appealed to that court.22


As with criminal cases, the circuit courts’ jurisdiction in civil cases changed periodically over time. In 1852, justices of the peace were given exclusive jurisdiction over cases where the debt or damages did not exceed $50 and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts for amounts between $50 and $100. The minimum amount for concurrent jurisdiction remained $50 until 1971. But, after the establishment of trial magistrates, the maximum limit that could be heard by the lower tribunal in St. Mary’s County was raised to $200 in 1941, $300 in 1949, $500 in 1953, and $1,000 in 1959. Since 1971 the state district courts have handled cases where the amount of debt or damages does not exceed $2,500, unless a jury trial is demanded. The district court has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts for amounts at issue between $2,500 and $5,000. Any decision of the district court can be appealed to the circuit court.23

when the federal district courts acquired expanded authority over bankruptcies filed by individuals.


With regard to equity proceedings, the Constitiution of 1851 made two important changes. The Chancery Court was abolished, and the General Assembly was prohibited from granting divorces. Thereafter,

the circuit courts alone possessed equity jurisdiction.24


Other judicial functions assumed by the new circuit courts included jury selection, admission of attorneys, naturalizations, and impanelment of grand and petit juries. Admission of attorneys to the bar came under control of the State Board of Law Examiners in 1898. The St. Mary’s County Circuit Court continued to process applications for naturalization until 1918, when under provisions of a 1906 federal law the judges elected to delegate this activity to the federal courts and the U.S. Bureau of Naturalization.25


The clerks of the circuit courts, like the former clerks of the county courts, were given responsibility for maintaining records of judicial proceedings and recording documents as required by law. The latter included instruments relating to real and personal property, such as deeds, mortgages, releases, and bills of sale. The tyes of land records recorded changed little after 1851, except that more plats, especially of roads and subdivisions, were required to be filed in the twentieth century. Beginning in 1888 in St. Mary’s County, mechanics liens——claims against land and improvements for labor and material furnished in the construction of buildings--had to be filed with the clerk in order to be effective. Other laws effective statewide provided for, but did not require, the recording of liens that involved chattels only. Installment contracts were covered by a

1916 law, and loans secured by crops and farm machinery by laws passed in 1933 and 1935.26


Before 1852, only the General Assembly could approve charters for incorporating businesses and other organizations, except churches. As a result of several general corporation statutes enacted between 1852 and 1868, charters and charter amendments were filed with the clerk of the county or Baltimore City in which the main office of the corporation was located. Under a 1908 law, these documents were first recorded by the State Tax Commissioner—-now the Department of Assessments and Taxation-—and then by the clerk. The same procedure is following today. 27


After establishment of the circuit courts, the county clerks continued to issue licenses for businesses and other operations and to collect required license fees. Since 1851 the General Assembly has frequently revised the license laws, tending in general to increase the number of activities requiring licenses. In St. Mary’s County these included slot machines for the years 1948— 1972.28


With marriage licenses the legal requirements have changed little since 1865, when a vital statistics law was passed. Since that year, persons planning to marry have applied to the county clerk for a license and furnished facts concerning residence, age, marital status, occupation, and, until 1970, color. Marriage records, based on returns filed by persons who performed the ceremonies, were also maintained by the clerks. Beginning in 1890, marriages could be performed without a license if banns were published; the clerks maintained records of these marriages. 29

registration of births and deaths. Persons having knowledge of these events were required to file the information with the county clerks. Without a means of enforcement, however, the law proved ineffective and few records were created. In 1898, the registration of vital statistics was placed under the control of the State Board of Health, which collected the required information from county health officers. 30


The county clerks are responsible for receiving election returns which came from the election judges, 1851 to 1896, and since 1896, the county boards of canvassers. The clerks also record commissions, bonds, and oaths of elected and appointed officers. In 1908 the General Assembly enacted a statute to regulate campaign practices. Candidates for local offices and their treasurers and political agents were required to file reports of contributions and expenditures with the county clerks. In 1968 the county boards of supervisors of elections assumed this function.31 The county clerks were also responsible for maintaining certain records relating to the registration of voters. Under an 1890 law, a person planning to leave Maryland temporarily and wishing to retain voting privileges had to file an affidavit of intent to maintain legal residence in the state. The requirement was omitted in a revision of the registration statute in 1896, reenacted in 1901, and repealed in 1945. Between 1902 and 1949, a person intending to become a state resident had to register with the county clerk. After a twelve-month residency, the individual could register to vote.32


Although laws, rules, and regulations are revised periodically, the circuit courts continue to fulfill traditional judicial and record—keeping functions.

Records of the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court at the Hall of



(Abstracts of Releases), 1949—1969

(Appeal Docket), 1852—1864

(Appeal Papers), 1852—1894

(Applications for Marriage Licenses), 1886—1976

(Audit Reports), 1941—1964

(Birth Record), 1865-1867

(Bond Record), 1956—1971

(Campaign Reports), 1934

(Cash Book), 1922—1932

(Certificates of Freedom), 1851-1864

(Certificates of Naturalization), 19081-1917

(Chattel Records), 1897—1964

(Chattel Records, Index), 1878—1964

(Civil Commissions), 1874—1945

(Clerk’s Fee Book), 1852—1891

(Coin Operated Machine License Record), 1948—1972)

(Commission Papers), 1851—1903

(Commissions and Bonds), 1851-1912

(Commissions of Justices of the Peace), 1851—1852

(Conditional Contracts of Sale), 1916—1939

(Corporation Record), 1869-1975

(Criminal Papers), 1852—1896

(Death Record), 1865—1867

(Declaration of Intention), 1907—1917

(Decree Record), 1852—1865

(Divorce Decree Record), 1968—1976

(Docket), 1852

(Election Returns), 1896—1932

(Equity Docket), 1851—1880

(Equity Papers), 1852-1873

(Exhibits), 1852—1858

(Federal Farm Credit Lien Record), 1941—1964

(Financing Statements), 1964—1978

(Grand Jury Papers), 1857-1922

(Insolvency Papers), 1853-1894

(Insolvency Docket), 1880—1897

(Judgment Papers), 1852-1913

(Judgment Record), 1864-1941

(Judicial Papers), 1852-1913

(Jury Papers), 1853-1905

(Land Record Papers), 1852-1934

(Land Records), 18511979

(Land Records, General Index), 1851—1948

(Land Records, Grantee Index), 1930-1962

(Land Records, Grantor Index), 1930-1962

(License Papers), 1853—1922

(License Record), 1891—1969

(Magistrates Judgments), 1869— 1952

(Marriage Certificates), 1859—193 3

(Marriage Licenses), 1851—1863

(Marriage Record), 1865-1960

(Mechanics Lien Record), 1892—1976

(Militia Enrollments), 1917

(Minutes), 1852—1949

(Mortgage Records), 1949—1977

(Naturalization Papers), 1853-1893

(Naturalization Record), 1908-1918

(Petition Docket), 1852—1949

(Plats), 1912—1919

(Receipts and Disbursements), 1948—1973

(Recognizance Papers), 1853—1897

(Register of Intended Voters), 1902—1958

(Removal Record), 1901-1979

(Speedy Judgment Record), 1928—1947

(Stallion Lien Docket), 1904—1909

(Stallion Liens), 19104—1910

(Survey Record of Benjamin Tipett), 1841-1873

(Test Book for Election Officers), 18916—1914

(Transcripts of Judgments), 1864-1945




During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, judges of the county court were commonly called justices of the peace. As a body they sat as a court to hear and determine cases brought before it. In addition, any justice sitting alone could decide certain misdemeanor and small debt cases.


Reorganization of the judiciary in 1791 resulted in justices of the peace being removed from the county court, and thereafter they were considered a separate judicial entity. Until 1853 the governor possessed the authority both to determine the number of justices of the peace for each county and the power to annually appoint them. In general the number of justices in each county tended to increase; St. Mary’s County had twenty—nine justices in 1810 and fifty-seven in 1848. The Constitution of 1851 provided that beginning in 1853 justices were to be biennially elected by county residents. An 1852 law apportioned the number of justices for each election district, with St. Mary’s County receiving two each for Election Districts 1 and 5 and three each for Election Districts 2, 3, and 4. The Constitution of 1864 made justices of the peace appointive by the governor for two—year terms, a selection process that remained in effect until the office was abolished. The number of justices was frequently increased or decreased by the legislature. In St. Mary’s County they generally ranged from one to four in each election district.33


Justices of the peace tried persons charged with misdemeanors in violation of state laws and town ordinances, and especially after the late nineteenth century conducted preliminary hearings in felony cases as well. In the twentieth century, the justices acquired jurisdiction




In civil cases, the justices of the peace at first had concurrent jurisdiction with the county court in matters involving debts or damage claims not exceeding #10 current money or 1,000 pounds of tobacco as long as title to land was not involved. In 1810, jurisdiction of the justices was expanded to include cases where the amount in dispute was no more than In 1832 justices acquired the authority to order the sale of real estate as a means of enforcing payment of judgments they had rendered against defendants. Such sales of property, however, had to be reported to and ratified by the county court. Between 1836 and 1842, a district court composed of justices of the peace functioned in St. Mary’s County. Occupying a position in the judicial organization between single justices and the county court, the district court heard civil cases where the debts or damage claims were $100 or less. For amounts in dispute of $50 or less the district court and single justices held concurrent jurisdiction. When the district court was abolished, the justices of the peace retained the powers they possessed before 1836. An 1852 law changed the maximum civil jurisdiction of justices of the peace throughout Maryland to $100, which for amounts over $50 was concurrent with the county circuit courts. This arrangement remained in effect for the next eighty-eight years, except for the period ioqp to 1900 when the justices could hear suits involving debts or claims of $200 or less.34


Judgments rendered by justices always could be appealed to the county court, or after 1851 to the county circuit court. In regard to record keeping practices, justices were not legally required to maintain dockets of proceedings until 1810. After 1815, a justice upon

leaving office was required to file his dockets and case papers with the county clerks in order to maintain a record of judicial actions. For the same reason defendants could have judgments handed down by


justices recorded by the county clerk.35


In a statewide reorganization of the lower court system, the General Assembly in 1939 replaced the justices of peace with trial magistrates. 36


Records of St. Mary’s County Justices of the Peace at the Hall of



(Magistrate’s Docket), 1819-1931

(Magistrates Papers), 1816—1932




Prior to 1836, the judicial system below the county court level consisted solely of justices of the peace. In 1836 the General Assembly added an additional lower court tribunal, called the district court. A district court was established in each election district of a county. Thus, St. Mary’s County had five district courts. Each district court consisted of three justices of the peace. The justices were appointed annually by the governor, who designated one as the chief judge. The district court had concurrent jurisdiction with justices of the peace over criminal misdemeanors and in civil cases where the debt or claims for damages did not exceed $50. The district court had exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases where the amounts in dispute were between $50 and $100. Any district court decision could be appealed to the county court.37


After only a six-year existence the district court was abolished in St. Mary’s County in 1842 and the local judicial system that existed before 1836 was reinstated.38


Records of the St. Mary’s County District Court at the Hall of



(Magistrate’s Docket), 1836—1842

(Minutes), 1836—1842




The county coroner was principally responsible for the investigation of suspicious deaths, a function performed prior to 1666 by the county sheriff and thereafter by a coroner appointed by the governor. From the early nineteenth century, the governor commonly designated one of the county justices of the peace as coroner.39


The county coroner, usually with the assistance of a jury, called witnesses, examined evidence, and thereby determined the cause of death, which findings were reported to the police authorities or to the county (later circuit) court. The office of county coroner was abolished in 1939, with its responsibilities assumed by the State Department of Post Mortem Examiners. 40


Records of the St. Mary’s County Coroner at the Hall of Records:




The Constitution of 1776 and enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1777 substantially altered the way the estates of deceased persons were probated in Maryland. During the colonial period, the central government maintained a highly centralized system of probate. At first the secretary of the province held jurisdiction in probate matters, and by 1670 he was also presiding over judicial hearings concerning estates. These judicial hearings eventually led to the formation of the Prerogative Court, the central provincial court for the settlement of estates.41


In 1672 the responsibility for all probate matters, both administrative and judicial, were removed from the provincial secretary and assigned to a new colonial official, the Commissary General. Because of the progressive dispersal of population away from the original center of population in St. Mary’s City, routine probate matters, such as probating wills and administering of oaths to executors, administrators, and appraisers, were often delegated to officeholders in the more distant counties. The General Assembly formally recognized this delegation of authority in 1692, when it authorized the Commissary General to appoint a Deputy Commissary for each county. Deputy Commissaries could also grant letters of administration and letters testhmentary, and after 1715 could approve uncontested accounts of estates worth less than #50 sterling. Estate papers processed by Deputy Commissaries were forwarded to the Prerogative Court for recordation. Some Deputy Commissaries maintained copies of probate records in the county as well, but if this was the case in St. Mary’s County the records have not survived. The few

extant St. Mary’s County records predating 1777 are transcripts of original Prerogative Court papers prepared pursuant to laws passed in 1779 and 1783.42


The Constitution of 1776 dismantled the central system of probate in Maryland, providing instead for a register of wills and an orphans court for each county. The register of wills was appointed by the governor and council for a term of good behavior, which in 1838 was changed to a term of seven years. The Constitution of 1851 made the office of register of wills elective by county voters and changed the term to six years. The term of office has been four years since 1926, and it remains an elected position. When a vacancy occurs between elections, a replacement is appointed by the orphans court. Judges of the orphans court under the 1779 law were appointed by the governor and council for a term of good behavior. The same law provided for five judges for St. Mary’s County. In 1791 the number of judges on the court was reduced to three and remains the same to the present. The Constitution of 1851 changed the term of office of orphans court judges to four years and provided for their election by county voters. These provisions have remained in effect to the present except that from 1864 to 1867 judges were elected for staggered terms of two, four, and six years


Laws passed in 1777 specified the duties and powers of the orphans court and register of wills. The orphans court assumed the former responsibilities of the Commissary General regarding the probate of wills, granting letters of administration and letters testamentary, superintending administration and distribution of estates, and resolving disputes. The court also was given jurisdiction over orphans

and the management of their estates by guardians, duties formerly performed by the county court. The register of wills assumed the responsibilities of the former Deputy Commissary for handling the routine probating of wills and granting of letters of administration, letters testamentary, and warrants to appraisers when the court was in recess. The register also recorded estate and guardianship papers and the proceedings of the orphans court. Gradually the register was given greater authority to administer the state testamentary law. In 1792 the register of wills was allowed to approve administration accounts where the value of the estate did not exceed #350. This monetary limitation was removed in 1817, and at the same time the register was given the power to examine claims against estates, accept inventories and accounts of sale, and approve accounts of guardians. All of the register’s actions were subject to review by the orphans court.44


Besides giving more responsibilities to the register of wills, other changes that have occurred in Maryland’s testamentary law since the eighteenth century concern the disposition of real estate, imposition of taxes, administration of small estates, and record keeping practices. Executors authorized by wills to sell real estate were required after 1832 to report these sales to the orphans court for ratification. An 1865 law granted the orphans court concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit court to authorize and ratify sales of real property of intestates where the appraised value was $1,500 or less, an amount that was increased to $2,500 in 1866 and $15,000 in 1962. This limitation was repealed in 1970. In cases where real estate had to be sold to satisfy the debts of a decedent, an equity proceeding in the county (circuit) court remained necessary until 1970, at which time the orphans court was empowered to hear such petitions.45

Distribution of land is governed by the will of the descendant. In the case of an intestate, distribution is determined by relationship of survivors to the deceased, with the order and proportion of entitlement being defined by law. Except as provided for in a will, the actual distribution of real estate to decendants was seldom recorded until 1970. Since then the executor or administrator has been required to execute and record with the county clerk a deed in order to pass title to heirs and legatees.46


In 1845, during a time when the State of Maryland was in financial straits, the General Assembly imposed an inheritance tax on larger estates passing to anyone but lineal descendants. In order to more adequately adjudge estate values, an 1848 law required for the first time that real estate be appraised and that a copy of this inventory be filed with the register of wills. The law, however, applied only to estates where the real property was subject to the inheritance tax. In 1929 Maryland adopted an estate tax, which was based on a percentage of the federal estate tax. In 1935 this inheritance tax was extended to lineal descendants.47


For the settlement of small estates, the General Assembly enacted a law in 1945 which laid out simplified procedures. A small estate was defined as one where the person died intestate leaving only personal property worth $500 or less. Settlements were handled through petitions, notices to creditors, certificates of payment, and court orders. The maximum amount to qualify as a small estate was increased to $1,000 in 1957, $5,000 in 1974, and $7,500 in 1978. The small estate law was made applicable in 1962 to estates disposed of by will. After 1970 a small estate could include land if the value of such




When the testamentary law was recodified in 1969, the system of record maintenance was simplified. Instead of recording each instrument in a separate book, the register of wills beginning in 1970 was required only to maintain a wills record, a release record, and a claims docket, with an administration proceedings book being used for recording other estate papers.49 For a few years, however, the St. Mary’s County Register of Wills followed both the old and the new recordation systems.


During the colonial period, the county court supervised the management of property inherited by minor children. Guardians were required to post bond and file for approval annual accounts showing income and expenses. In 1777 this guardianship jurisdiction was transferred to the register of wills and orphans court. The county court had also supervised the apprenticeship of minors and heard disputes between masters and apprentices. In 1794 the register of wills and orphans court assumed responsibility for binding out children and recording indentures. A law passed in 1843 provided that the orphans court decide legal controversies concerning apprenticeships. The apprenticeship law was repealed in 1927.50


Between 1806 and the abolition of slavery in Maryland in 1864, the register of wills issued certificates of freedom to blacks who had been freed by their owners’ wills.51


Records of the St. Mary’s County Register of Wills at the Hall of


(Administration Accounts), 1674—1976

(Administration Bonds), 1799—1974

(Administration Proceedings), 1970-1977

(Annual Valuations), 1780—1919

(Cash Book), 1913-1931

(Certificates of Freedom), 1806-1852

(Citation Docket), 1813—1896

(Claims Docket), 1858—1956

(Commission Record), 1777—1834

(Condensation of Testamentary Laws), 1865

(Day Book), 1835—1850

(Distributions), 1782—1829

(Docket), 1777—1900

(Equity Docket), 1866—1895

(Estate Docket), 1808-1974

(Estate Papers), 1830—1951

(Exhibits), 1832—1840

(Fee Book), 1817—1888

(Guardian Accounts), 1787—1965

(Guardian Bonds), 1779—1973

(Guardian Docket), 1802—1897

(Indentures), 1794—1908

(Inventories), 1795—1972

(Inventories, Real), 1951—1975

(Joint Account Record), 1956-1972

(Notice to Creditors), 1965—1975

(Orphans Court Minutes), 1777—1801

(Orphans Court Proceedings), 1777-1964

(Petitions), 1786—188 1

(Petitions and Orders), 1955—1976 L

(Receipts and Disbursements), 193 1-1966

(Receipts and Releases), 1826—1981

(Small Estate Papers), 1945—1966

(Small Estate Record), 1945—1974

(Vouchers), 1792—1880

(Wills), 1658 1975

(Wills, Index), 1658—1967

(Wills, Original), 1807—1951




(Additions and Deductions), 1839-1859

(Alienations and Transfers), 1839—1864

(Almshouse Papers), 1848—1922

(Assessment Papers), 1839—1927

(Assessment Record), 1841—1957

(Assessment Summary), 1876

(Assessors Return), 1876

(Bounty Papers), 1864-1866

(Coroners’ Inquests), 1841—1921

(Correspondence), 1842—192 1

(Courthouse and Jail Papers), 1841—1928

(Levy List), 1839—1942

(Pension Papers), 1839—1924

(Proceedings), 1842—1916

(Road Book), 1839-1853

(Road Papers), 1839—1923

(Rough Minutes), 1873-1876

(Schedules of Property), 1876—1923

(School Papers), 1839—1895

(Tax Book), 1842—1887

(Tax Papers), 1839—1925




In response to a need to finance Maryland’s share of the war against England, the General Assembly in April 1777 enacted a law providing for the taxation of real and personal property. Execution of the law was delegated to commissioners of the tax in each county. The commissioners supervised the assessment of property and the collection of state and county property taxes. Annually from 1780 to 1786, and subsequently in 1793, 1798, 1804, and 1813, the General Assembly enacted additional laws providing for statewide general assessments of taxable property. Other reassessment statutes affected individual counties. Such a law, enacted in 1821, applied only to St. Mary’s County. Each general and local act provided for the appointment of county commissioners of the tax who served until a new assessment act was passed. Each such law named five commissioners for St. Mary’s County.52


Property subject to assessment and taxation included land and buildings, slaves, livestock, tools, silver plate, and household furnishings. Responsibility for imposing state property taxes lay with the General Assembly. Each county tax rate was set by the justices of the county court prior to 1795 and thereafter by the county levy court. Tax collectors appointed by the commissioners of the tax were responsible for both state and county levies.53


In assessment years, the commissioners of the tax appointed assessors to value property, reviewed and adjusted assessors’ returns, and supervised the collection process. In intervening years, the commissioners updated assessments to reflect current ownership and property values. This was done by means of information supplied by tax

collectors, notices from taxpayers, and, beginning in 1793, by lists of property transfers compiled by the county clerk and lists of new land patents provided by the Commissioner of the Land Office. The commissioners of the tax also heard appeals from property owners and authorized the sale of real estate for the nonpayment of taxes.54


A law passed in January 1831 abolished the office of commissioners of the tax in St. Mary’s County, transferring its duties to the levy court.


Records of St. Mary’s County Commissioners of the Tax at the Hall of Records:


(Additions and Deductions), 1819-1824

(Alienations and Transfers), 1786—1829

(Assessment Papers), 1791—1830

(Assessment Record), 1793—1830

(Assessors Return), 1804—1821

(Certificates of Slaves), 1804—1821

(List of Assessed Persons), 1813—1820

(Militia Enrollment), 1794

(Minute Book), 1807-1830

(Tax Book), 1807

(Tax Papers), 1796—1830




Prior to 1795, the justices of the county courts handled most administrative duties of county government in Maryland. Passage of a 1795 law marked the beginning of more formalized county government, with establishment of a levy court, consisting of county justices of the peace, in each county. Five justices constituted a quorum. Beginning in 1798, the governor and council annually appointed seven persons from each county as justices of the levy court. In St. Mary’s County until 1831 the clerk of the county court also acted as clerk of the levy court. Thereafter the levy court appointed its own clerk, who kept minutes and maintained the records.56


Initially, the duties and powers of the county levy courts were the same as those formerly exercised by the justices of the county courts. The activities included appointment of constables and road overseers, imposition of county property taxes, and adjustment and payment of ordinary county expenses, such as operating the county court, conducting inquests, holding elections, paying bounties on birds and animals, maintaining the courthouse and jail, providing poor relief, and maintaining roads and bridges. Gradually, and often on a county by county basis, the General Assembly, expanded the responsibilities of the levy courts, while retaining its right to authorize major county expenditures.


The St. Mary’s County Levy Court annually assessed taxes for the relief of the poor. A portion of the funds collected was allocated to the trustees of the poor for support of the almshouse, with the remainder being used for monies paid to needy county residents or to the persons caring for them. The power of determining the recipients

of poor relief, however, was vested in the General Assembly and the trustees of the poor. Not until 1823 did the General Assembly relinquish its authority to the St. Mary’s County Levy Court. The trustees’ right to award pensions was removed by a law passed in 1838. This same act gave the St. Mary’s County Levy Court power to appoint the trustees of the poor.57


Responsibility for public roads and bridges in St. Mary’s County was distributed among three agencies. Prior to 1802 the county court divided the county into road districts and the levy court annually appointed for each district an overseer to supervise maintenance. Thereafter the levy court performed both functions. As during the colonial period, the establishment of new roads and the alteration of existing ones was accomplished through state law. Such legislation usually appointed special commissioners to lay out or alter the road in question and directed the county to pay the costs. In 1802 the St. Mary’s County Levy Court acquired the power to process petitions for opening, closing, or altering roads, if the applicants chose to file at the local level. A third alternative became possible in 1817 when the General Assembly gave the St. Mary’s County Court the same power to process road petitions. When the county court approved road petitions, copies of the proceedings were forwarded to the levy court, which was responsible for levying taxes to pay for the work. A law passed in 1835 transferred from the county court to the levy court jurisdiction over petitions for private rights of way from plantations and mills to public places or public roads.58


Another responsibility of the county courts that was assigned to the levy courts was the inspection of tobacco. A law passed in 1797 directed the levy courts annually to designate inspection sites, to

repair tobacco warehouses as needed, to specify the number of inspectors needed for each warehouse, and to send the names of persons nominated as inspectors to the governor and council. The St. Mary’s County Levy Court ceased performing these activities sometime after 1832 when it was determined that the county no longer required a tobacco inspection warehouse.59


The levy courts also paid the expenses of holding elections and beginning in 1802 appointed three election judges for each election district in a county. Although a few financial accounts for schools in St. Mary’s County were filed with the levy court, it had no legal responsibilities in this area. As a result of a law passed in January 1831, which also provided for a general reassessment, the St. Mary’s County Levy Court took over the powers and duties of the commissioners of the tax and became responsible for the assessment of real and personal property and the collection of property taxes. 60


The St. Mary’s County Levy Court was abolished by law in April 1839 and was replaced by the board of county commissioners.61


Records of the St. Mary’s County Levy Court at the Hall of



(Additions and Deductions), 1835-1838

(Alienations and Transfers), 1832—1838

(Almshouse Papers), 1815—1834

(Assessment Papers), 1831—1838

(Assessment Record), 1831—1838

(Assessors Return), 1831

(Certificates of Slaves), 1831

(Coroners’ Inquests), 1832

(Correspondence), 1827—1838

(Courthouse and Jail Papers), 1829—l834

(Levy List), 1798—1838

(Minute Book), 1831

(Pension Papers), 1829—1838

(Road Book). 1802—1838

(Road Papers), 1828—1838

(School Papers), 1838

(Tax Papers), 1831—1838

(Tobacco Inspection Proceedings). 1811—1832




An act of 1838 abolished the St. Mary’s County Levy Court and vested its functions in a board of county commissioners. The five members of the board, one from each election district, were elected by county residents in April 1839 and took office in the same month. The commissioners served until the election of October 1841; when new members were chosen for three—year terms, establishing a cycle that continued until the adoption of the Constitution of 1851. From November 1851 until November 1893, the five commissioners were elected on a general ticket for two—year terms. A law passed in 1892 divided the county into three commissioner districts and provided for staggered terms of office. Commissioner district 1 was composed of election districts 1, 2, 8, and 9; district 2 of election districts 3 and 6; and district 3 of election districts 4, 5, and 7. Beginning in November 1893 and every two years thereafter one commissioner was elected from each district for a six—year term. The use of commissioner districts continues to the present. Since 1926 all commissioners have been elected simultaneously for four—year terms. In 1974 two additional members were added to the board, one elected from district 1 and one at-large.62


After each election the St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners appoints a clerk who keeps minutes of their meetings and handles routine administrative matters. Between 1890 and 1900 the clerk was also officially designated the county treasurer and given responsiblity for custody of county funds and disbursements as allowed and adjusted by the county commissioners. In July 1900 the county treasurer became a separate office and also took over the collection of taxes.63

The board of county commissioners performs its duties on the basis of discretionary power allowed by state law or in conformity with programs mandated by the General Assembly or state executive departments.


Property assessments, although locally administered, were based on state laws. County officials also collected the state property tax, whenever it existed. Passage of a general assessment law in 1841 marked the resumption of an annual state property tax after a hiatus of fifteen years. The law named the assessors for each county and outlined the assessment procedures and forms. The local governing body, the county commissioners in St. Mary’s County, reviewed and adjusted the assessors’ returns, heard appeals, and determined the final assessed values on property. This process generally remained the same for the general revaluations of 1852, 1866, 1876, 1896, and 1910, except that in 1896 and 1910 the county commissioners in each county appointed one of the three assessors for each election district and the governor chose the other two. During the years between general revaluations the county commissioners annually updated assessments to reflect changes in ownership and property values.64


Major changes in the method of assessment occurred in 1914, when the General Assembly established the State Tax Commission and a supervisor of assessments for each county. The tax commission supervised administration of assessment and taxation laws, developed instructions and forms for assessors, established assessment standards and methods, appointed the local supervisor of assessments from a list of nominees submitted by the county commissioners, and heard appeals from decisions of the county commissioners, who continued to determine final assessments. The supervisor, as chief assessor of the county,

supervised the other assessors, all of whom after passage of a 1916 law were appointed by the county commissioners, and assisted the county commissioners in updating assessments by compiling information about property values and changes in ownership. The 1914 statute also specified a reassessment of property in each county at least once every five years, a requirement that often was not met. In St. Mary’s County reassessments initially occurred at six year intervals, with general reassessments in 1917, 1923, and 1929. The next reassessment did not occur until 1938, because the General Assembly postponed revaluations during the Depression. In 1944 a method of continuous assessment was established so that one—fifth of a county was reassessed each year. In addition, assessors were made full—time employees. An act of 1955 provided for annual countywide reassessments. Since then the cycle has been changed several times and the administative organization restructured so that between 1973 and 1975 local assessment functions were completely incorporated into the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. The county tax rate in St. Mary’s County, however, continues to be set by the county commissioners.65


From 1841 onward taxable property was defined to include both real and personal property. Prior to the abolition of slavery in 1864, slaves were taxed as personal property, and for the years 1842-1847, Maryland imposed an income tax, which was assessed and collected at the county level. During the nineteenth century the General Assembly tended to broaden the categories of personal property subject to taxation to encompass such items as stocks, bonds, stock in trade, automobiles, and boats. Thereafter the trend reversed and eventually most personal property owned by individuals was exempt from assessment. From 1841 to 1900, the St. Mary’s County commissioners annually

appointed tax collectors, who were paid a percentage of taxes collected. In July 1900 the county treasurer, a salaried official, took over this function, which included the sale of property for the non—payment of taxes.66


The St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners assumed the levy court’s responsibility for appointing road overseers or supervisors, maintaining public roads and bridges, laying out new ones, and closing or altering existing ones. Under the Constitution of 1851, the county commissioners in all counties received sole authority to process road petitions, formerly concurrent with the General Assembly, subject only to appeal and condemnation proceedings in the county circuit court. The Constitution also changed the process of selecting road supervisors by providing for their election by the voters of each election district. The Constitution of 1864 stipulated that road supervisors once again be appointed by the county commissioners in each county. The road supervisors were primarily responsible for maintenance work on roads, while the county commissioners generally awarded the contracts for major road construction projects. The St. Mary’s County commissioners tried contracting out maintenance for two years from 1876 to 1878 and then adopted a system of district road commissioners who inspected the work of the supervisors and reported to the county commissioners. In 1894 a single road supervisor for the county replaced the district road commissioners. Between 1898 and 1908 the county commissioners returned to the system of road supervisors used before 1876, except for the period 1902 to 1904 when district road inspectors were employed to supervise road maintenance. Under a 1908 law, the St. Mary’s County commissioners appointed a road engineer to take charge of county road and bridge work. The engineer’s duties

included making recommendations for construction and repairs, conducting surveys, drafting specifications, and estimating costs for such projects. Between 1912 and 1920 a board of road commissioners performed these functions; thereafter the office of the county engineer was reestablished.67


The state began to play a greater role in the construction of roads in 1905, when money was made available to county commissioners to assist in building and improving county roads. In 1908 the General Assembly created the State Roads Commission and gave it authority to build state roads and to incorporate county roads into the state system. Under a law passed in 1933, the St. Mary’s County commissioners relinquished administration of the county road system to the State Roads Commission, now called the State Highway Administration and part of the Department of Transportation.68


Other functions assumed by the St. Mary’s County commissioners included appointment of trustees of the poor and approval and payment of pensions to the needy. In 1878, when the St. Mary’s County Trustees of the Poor were abolished, the county commissioners took over management of the almshouse. The commissioners contracted with a keeper to operate the almshouse and farm and to care for the residents, appointed a physician to provide medical care and periodically report on conditions of the physical facilities and treatment of the residents, and decided whom to admit and discharge. Mentally-ill paupers were usually sent to state hospitals. In 1955 the county commissioners closed the almshouse and provided for care of the residents in private homes.69

or persons caring for them until this function was taken over by federal and state welfare programs. State law in 1935 made the State Board of State Aid and Charities the central coordinating agency for federal and state public assistance programs, which were administered locally by a county welfare board, composed of one county commissioner and other persons appointed by the county commissioners from a list prepared by the state board. The names of these state and local agencies have since been changed to the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Social Services respectively.70


In the field of education, the role of the county commissioners has been confined chiefly to the appropriation and distribution of funds. When Maryland first attempted to establish free public schools in 1817, however, the funds were distributed by the Treasurer of the Western Shore directly to commissioners of the school fund in each county. This arrangement was changed in St. Mary’s County in 1839 when the county commissioners took over apportionment of the local share of state school funds. For each election district the statute named three commissioners of primary schools who were directed to lay out school districts, select school house sites, appoint trustees for each school district, and report on these activities to the county commissioners. Duties of the trustees included acquisition of land and construction and management of the schools. The commissioners of primary schools reported to the county commissioners annually on conditions of schools and number of pupils. Based on these reports, the county commissioners filed an annual report with the General Assembly. A law enacted in 1853 regarding schools in St. Mary’s County placed distribution of state and county school funds in the hands of a county board of school commissioners and the register of wills. The county commissioners were

required to impose taxes for the support of schools, and in this role they received reports from the school commissioners in support of their budget requests. Budget review and funding has remained the primary responsibility of the county commissioners throughout subsequent changes in public school administration. 71


In the area of elections, the county commissioners assumed the duties formerly fulfilled by the levy court. They provided for payment of election costs and appointed three election judges for each election district. When the state instituted voter registration in 1865, the county commissioners were required to furnish funds for conducting the program. In 1890 the power to appoint election judges was removed from the county commissioners and assigned to the newly created St. Mary’s County Board of Supervisors of Elections.72


In 1864, in an effort to meet the state quota for enlistment in the United States Army during the Civil War, the General Assembly provided for the payment of bounties to enlistees, including former slaves and slaveowners who freed slaves for military service. The task of determining eligibility was assigned to the county commissioners, who continued to process claims of enlistees and their heirs until 1867, when the Comptroller of the Treasury and the State Treasurer assumed these responsibilities.73


Many of the present functions of the St. Mary’s County commissioners have been excluded from discussion. Such areas as planning and zoning, housing, economic development, and inspections and permits have evolved during recent decades, and the records reflecting these activities remain in the local offices.




Laws to standardize and regulate weights and measures have a long history in Maryland. A 1654 law provided that each county court acquire standards and accurate instruments of weights and measures. A 1671 law named a standard keeper for each county and directed him to maintain the standard instruments and to inspect and test the weights and measures being used in the county. Subsequent appointments of the standard keeper in St. Mary’s County were made by the county court until 1795, by the levy court from 1795 until 1839, and by the county commissioners after 1839. The term of office was apparently indefinite until 1826 when it was set at one year. Inspection of weights and measures became a state function in 1951 with the creation of a State Superintendent of Weights and Measures, appointed by the State Board of Agriculture.74


Records of the St. Mary’s County Standard Keeper at the Hall of





In order to provide relief for destitute persons, the General Assembly in 1774 established the St. Mary’s County Trustees of the Poor and a county almshouse and farm, the residents of which were to be as self—supporting as possible. The first five trustees were appointed in the statute. Through 1837 the trustees annually chose a successor to the member who had served the longest. Thereafter the levy court (board of county commissioners after 1839) annually appointed the five trustees. After the initial acquisition of land and tenements near Leonardtown, the trustees annually appointed an overseer for the facilities and residents and a physician to furnish medical care. The trustees also filed accounts of expenditures with the county court from 1774 to 1794, with the levy court from 1795 to 1838, and with the county commissioners from 1839 to 1878. From 1799 to 1838, the trustees were permitted to approve pensions for persons for whom the almshouse was deemed unsuitable. This authority was held concurrently with the General Assembly until 1823 and then with the levy court until 1838. 75


The trustees of the poor in St. Mary’s County were abolished by law in 1878, with their duties being assumed by the board of county commissioners 76


Records of the St. Mary’s County Trustees of the Poor at the Hall of



(Accounts of the Overseer), 1859—1878

(Proceedings), 1866—1876




Prior to 1888 the governing body of St. Mary’s County performed all necessary financial functions, with its clerk undertaking the required clerical duties. An 1888 statute provided that the St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners select one of themselves by July 1 to act as treasurer and to take charge of monies received and to keep accounts of receipts and disbursements. Changes in the law in 1890 designated the clerk as treasurer and in 1900 made the office a separate entity of county government. The first treasurer, named in the law, took office in July 1900. Subsequent treasurers were elected every two years, beginning in November 1901; the term of office was changed to four years in 1926. The 1900 law also increased the duties of the treasurer by making that official responsible for the collection of state and county property taxes, a function that included the authority to sell real property for non-payment of taxes.77


Records of the St. Mary’s County Treasurer at the Hall of Records:


(Account Book), 1895-1898

(Tax Collection Record), 1910—1914




In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the county justices and the sheriff or deputy sheriff conducted the elections held in each county. Under a law passed in 1800, the judges of each county court were required to annually appointed three election judges for each election district. In 1802 the levy courts assumed this responsibility. In order to provide for more formal local supervision of elections, the General Assembly in 1890 created for several counties, including St. Mary’s, a board of supervisors of elections, composed of three persons appointed biennially by the governor. Part of the board’s duties included the biennial appointment of three election judges and two clerks for each election district and precinct. Previously the election judges had selected the clerks. The number of election judges for each polling place was increased to four in 1896, two from each major political party.78


The election judges and clerks supervised the process of voting whenever a primary, general, or special election was held. They checked qualifications of voters, enforced the laws and regulations governing elections, and tallied the votes at each polling place. The clerks, who were primarily responsible for keeping the poll books, were no longer needed when voting machines replaced paper ballots in the mid—twentieth century. Thereafter the election judges alone conducted elections. A few days after each election, one election judge from each election district and precinct met in the county seat and tabulated votes for the county. The official returns were then delivered to the county clerk, who maintained one copy and sent others to appropriate state and county officials. The county clerks also received and maintained the poll books listing persons who had voted.79

Although election judges continue to conduct elections, they no longer tabulate county election returns. In 1896 a board of canvassers was established in each county to perform this function. 80


Records of the St. Mary’s County Election Judges at the Hall of



(County Election Returns), 1832—1895

(District Election Returns), 1896-1900

(Poll Book), 1831—1891




To provide more formal local supervision over elections, the General Assembly in 1890 established for several counties, including St. Mary’s County, a board of supervisors of elections, composed of three persons appointed biennially by the governor. An 1896 law changed the method of tallying election results within a county by transferring this function from the election judges to a board of canvassers, made up of the supervisors of elections. The canvassers filed official election returns with the county clerk, who maintained one copy and sent another to the State Board of Canvassers, which tabulated the votes for state offices. The county board declared the official tallies for county offices. This procedure continues to be followed, except that since 1974 the county canvassers send the election returns for state offices to the State Administrative Board of Election Laws.81


Records of the St. Mary’s County Board of Canvassers at the Hall of Records:




As a result of stringent voter qualifications outlined in the Constitution of 1864, a state wide uniform system of voter registration was adopted in 1865. Previously only residents of Baltimore City had been required to register to vote. Under the 1865 law, the governor annually appointed three officers of registration for each county election district. In 1868 the term of office was lengthened to two years and the number of officers was reduced changed to one per election district 82


The officers of registration determined the eligibility of persons to vote and registered those individuals meeting the constitutional and legal requirements. The General Assembly periodically ordered that all voters reregister specifically in 1874, 1882, and 1890. In the intervening years the officers updated the voter registration lists prior to each election by adding new registrants and removing the names of those who had died, changed residence, or were otherwise disqualified. 83


In 1896 the officers of registration were replaced by the board of registry 84

Records of the St. Mary’s County Officers of Registration at the Hall of Records:


(List of Registered Voters), 1883—1887

(Voter Registration Papers), 1866-1889




An 1896 act of the legislature provided that the responsibilities for voter registration, formerly assigned to officers of registration, be assumed by county boards of registry. The act delegated supervision of registration procedures to the county boards of supervisors of elections 85


Each county board of registry was composed of two election judges from each election district precinct. A general registration of all voters was held in 1896 and periodically thereafter, depending upon state law and local regulations. In the interim, prior to each election, the boards of registry updated registration lists by adding names of new voters and deleting those no longer eligible to vote. Under a 1945 law the supervisors of elections, with approval of the county commissioners, acquired the authority to establish a permanent system of registration, under which a voter remained enrolled until he or she moved, became disqualified, or failed to vote within five years. Membership on the board of registry was changed at this time to include the clerk of the supervisors of elections and a person appointed by the governor. Since 1967 the supervisors of elections have selected the two members of the board of registry.86


Records of the St. Mary’s County Board of Registry at the Hall of





By an act of the legislature of 1853, jurisdiction over public schools in St. Mary’s County was placed in the hands of a board of school commissioners, which assumed the duties formerly performed by the board of county commissioners and the commissioners of primary schools. The act provided that every four years the judges of the St. Mary’s County Orphans Court select five school commissioners, one from each election district. The statute also gave the orphans court the authority to make rules and regulations regarding administration of schools and required the register of wills to act as treasurer of the school fund. Money to support education was provided from a state school fund, county taxes, and tuition paid by all but the poorer parents. Duties of the school commissioners included distribution of these funds among the school districts, keeping accounts of expenses for each school district, biennial appointment of a five—member board of trustees for each school district, supervision of the trustees, and employment of teachers. The trustees were responsible for building school houses, recommending teachers, and managing operations of the schools in their respective districts.87


The framers of the state Constitution of 1864 decided that Maryland required a statewide educational program that would be uniform from county to county, and mandated that the General Assembly put one into effect. The resulting legislation in 1865 established a comprehensive, centralized state educational system. A State Board of Education was established to supervise all local public schools, to issue rules and regulations, to select textbooks, and to appoint school commissioners for each county for four—year terms. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, as administrative officer of the

state board, supervised execution of state policies and regulations, which included annual inspections of every school in the state, and determined the number of school commissioners for each county. The county boards of school commissioners had the authority to revise boundaries of school districts, to select school house sites, to build school houses, to establish high schools, to pay expenses of operating schools, and generally to execute state policies. Each county board was also required to submit to the state superintendent annual reports on schools, pupils, curriculum, and expenditures of state and county funds. Besides serving on the county board each school commissioner assumed direct supervision over several school districts and in this role employed teachers, distributed supplies, and maintained school buildings. The president of the county board granted teachers’ certificates 88


The state Constitution of 1864 provided for the first time in Maryland a free public education for all white children. The 1865 statute extended this right to education for black children, but only if the taxes collected from black county residents were sufficient to support a segregated school.89


This educational system established by the 1865 statute proved too cumbersome in practice, and it was substantially revised in 1868. One change was the replacement of the county boards of school commissioners with the new boards of county school commissioners.90


Records of the St. Mary’s County Board of Schol Commissioners at the Hall of Records:


(Accounts), 1866—1868

(Proceedings), 1865—1868




An act of the General Assembly of 1868 decentralized many aspects of the state school system, following a three—year experiment with centralized state direction. The law outlined in detail standards and policies for qualifications of teachers, curriculum requirements, and length of school terms. Supervisory responsibilities at the state level were assigned to the principal of the State Normal who acted only on a part-time basis.91


In 1870 the General Assembly established the Board of State School Commissioners to oversee public education programs, advise the county boards, grant teacher’s certificates, and compile statistics for annual reports. In 1872 the name of this state agency was changed to the State Board of Education.92


The 1868 statute provided that each county board of county school commissioners be composed of one person representing each election district. The first school commissioners were appointed by the boards of county commissioners; members of subsequent boards were elected by county residents in November 1868. A law passed in 1870 changed the selection process, with judges of the county circuit courts appointing the school commissioners for two-year terms. Counties with 100 or fewer schools, such as St. Mary’s County, had three school commissioners, while counties with more schools had five. In 1890 the governor was given authority to appoint the school commissioners for St. Mary’s County. An 1892 law changed the term of office to six years, with one school commissioner being appointed every two years.93


The responsibilities of the county school commissioners remained substantially the same as those held by their predecessors. They

executed educational policy set by state law and the state board and provided for the construction, remodeling, and closing of schools, including black institutions and secondary schools. The commissioners disbursed state and county funds for the operation of the school system and reported to the state board on schools, pupils, curriculum, and expenditures. They could also change the boundaries of school districts, investigate charges against teachers, and annul teachers’ certificates. To act as secretary, treasurer, and administrative officer of each county board, the school commissioners annually appointed a county examiner who also had authority to issue teachers’ certificates. In 1904 this office became the county superintendent of public education.94


The 1868 law reestablished a system of school district trustees, similar to that in effect prior to 1865, naming them boards of school house district trustees. The General Assembly changed the name in 1870 to board of district school commissioners and in 1872 to board of district school trustees. In 1868 each board of trustees was composed of one school comissioner and two persons elected by taxpayers of the school district. Beginning in 1870 the school commissioners annually appointed three trustees for each school district. The trustees were responsible for maintaining and managing the school houses, employing teachers, and advising the school commissioners of needs for new or remodeled school buildings. If the trustees neglected to fulfill their duties, the school commissioners could assume their responsibilities until the district board became an effective body.95


In 1916, the laws governing public education in Maryland were revised and the board of county school commissioners was replaced by the county board of education.96

Records of the St. Mary’s County Board of County School Commissioners at the Hall of Records:


(Accounts), 1868—1897

(Annual Reports), 1871—1916

(Proceedings), 1868—1901

(School Reports), 1896—1916




In 1916 the General Assembly revised the state law governing public education. The name of the county agency responsible for educational matters was changed from the board of county school commissioners to the board of education and the new board was given greater discretionary authority. This law, with subsequent revisions, has governed the operation of public schools in Maryland to the present day. The law provided for a State Department of Education, headed by a State Board of Education. The state board determines policy, interpretes and enforces school laws, and appoints the State Superintendent of Schools. The state department, headed by the superintendent, administers the state school system.97


Under the 1916 act, the governor appointed the members of the county boards of education. In St. Mary’s County the board consisted of three persons who served six—year terms. In 1953, the membership of the board was increased to five, with each member serving a five—year term. The 1916 law assigned the county boards all the powers and duties formerly held by the school commissioners, and gave them additional responsibilities for the development and operation of county schools. The statute of 1916, with later amendments, established a minimum statewide program of education including courses of study, length of the school year, and certification of teachers. In addition to fulfilling state requirements, each county board set its own education policies, allocated state and county funds, employed teachers and other personnel, determined the location and mode of construction of schools, and appointed a county superintendent of schools, subject to approval by the state superintendent, for a four—year term of office. As secretary, treasurer, and administrative officer of the

county board, the county superintendent executed state and county programs by making recommendations concerning school construction and employment of teachers and principals, assigning school personnel, preparing courses of study, receiving and preparing statistical reports, and maintaining records of students, teachers, and the county board. 98


The 1916 statute retained the trustees for school districts. A county board of education appointed three persons from each district to serve three—year terms as the district board of school trustees. The trustees’ role as custodian of local school houses and property and as an advisory body to the county board on matters involving teachers and physical facilities diminished substantially as school consolidation programs in the mid—twentieth century brought about more populous school districts in which one—room school houses were replaced by larger facilities offering a more varied curriculum.99


Records of the St. Mary’s County Board of Education at the Hall of



(Annual Report), 1916-1926

(Principals Annual Reports), 1922-1925




Slavery in Maryland was officially abolished on November 1, 1864, when the Constitution of 1864 took effect. In the hope that the federal government would compensate former slaveowners, the General Assembly in 1867 authorized the compilation of records establishing who had owned slaves and how much the slave property had been worth. The governor appointed a commissioner of slave statistics for each county, who remained in office for two years. Former slaveowners furnished the commissioner with descriptive information on each slave. The records of the commissioner were then filed with the clerk of the circuit court. Despite these measures, compensation for former slaveowners was not forthcoming from the U. S. Congress.


Records of the St. Mary’s County Commissioner of Slave Statistics at the Hall of Records:




In 1858 the General Assembly incorporated the town of Leonardtown, the county seat of St. Mary’s County. The governing body consisted of five commissioners elected annually. Their duties included the levy and collection of taxes on real and personal property and the passage of ordinances and resolutions regarding such matters as fire and police protection, water and sewage systems, and construction and maintenance of streets. In 1904 the term of office for the commissioners was changed to the present two years, staggered so that two members are elected one year and three the next. 101


Records of the Commissioners of Leonardtown at the Hall of





The Secretary in Maryland primarily functioned as a clerk for the Governor and Council, recording their proceedings and maintaining papers needed for executing their duties. After 1706 the office was split between a principal Secretary, who resided in England, and a Deputy Secretary in Maryland. During the seventeenth century the Secretary held several other titles——Surveyor General, Attorney General, Commissary General, Naval Officer, and Rent Roll Keeper--which by 1689 had become separate offices. The Secretary was also judge of the Land Office from 1717 to 1738. The Constitution of 1776 excluded the position of Secretary from the government structure.102


One source of revenue for the provincial government was the poll tax levied on taxable inhabitants, who were defined as male freeman, male servants, and male and female slaves over sixteen years of age. Lists of taxables were prepared annually by the constable of each hundred in a county and returned to the county sheriff who sent a copy to the Secretary. Only a few copies of these taxable lists are extant today. 103


Records of the Secretary in Maryland pertinent to St. Mary’s County at the Hall of Records:




The Governor and Council, acting together, were the chief executive officers of the colonial government and after 1776 of the state government. The governor administered the central government, appointed civil and military officials, granted pardons, and remitted fines. The council assisted and advised the governor. Both the governor and members of the council were commissioned by the proprietor and served at his pleasure. During the colonial period the governor, acting as the representative of Lord Baltimore, also granted land patents and supervised collection of the proprietor’s rents and revenues. Prior to the War of Independence the Governor and Council acted in both legislative and judicial capacities. Between 1650 and 1675 they comprised the Upper House of the General Assembly, and thereafter the council sat alone as the upper house. The Goveror and Council were judges of the Provincial Court during the period 1634 to 1674 and of the Court of Appeals from 1650 until 1776. The goveror also usually served as Chancellor of the Chancery Court.104


The Constitution of 1776 restricted the Governor and Council to executive responsibilities and changed the method of selection of each. The governor, who could serve no more than three years in succession, was elected annually by the General Assembly, as were the five members of the council.105


By law the Governor and Council received copies of certain records generated by local government officials, including levy lists and election returns which occassionally were attached to poll books. After the annual settlement of county expenses, each county court sent a copy of the itemized levy list to the Governor and Council for their

information about assessable property and taxes. County election judges, after tallying votes, prepared duplicate election returns and sent one copy to the county clerk and the other to the Governor and Council so that they could tally votes for state-wide offices and prepare commissions for elected county officers. These copies of levy and election records are especially significant for St. Mary’s County because the original county records are not extant.106


The council was abolished by constitutional amendment in 1838, and thereafter the governor exercised sole executive authority in the state. 107


Records of the Governor and Council pertinent to St. Mary’s County at the Hall of Records:


(Election Returns), 1789—1790

(Levy List), 1779—1792




The framers of the Maryland Constitution of 1776 replaced the Provincial Court with the General Court. The General Court was divided between two geographical jurisdictions, with one court for the Western Shore and another for the Eastern Shore. The General Court had original jurisdiction in certain criminal and civil matters, and it heard appeals from decisions of the county courts. Between 1786 and 1806, the clerk of the General Court maintained abstracts of deeds, compiled and sent to him by clerks of the county courts. These security copies of land records proved especially beneficial for St. Mary’s County, where the land records were destroyed in a courthouse fire in 1831. When the General Court was abolished in 1806, the clerk of the Court of Appeals took over responsibility for deed abstracts. 108


Records of the General Court of the Western Shore pertinent to St. Mary’s County at the Hall of Records:


(Land Record Abstracts, St. Mary’s County), 1796-1806 (Land Record Abstracts, St. Mary’s County, Index), 1796—1806




The Court of Appeals dates from 1694, when it began to hold regular terms of court. As the highest tribunal in Maryland, the court hears appeals from decisions of lower courts. When the General Court was abolished in 1806, the clerk of the Court of Appeals assumed responsibility for maintaining the deed abstracts, compiled and sent to him by clerks of the county courts. In 1874 the General Assembly assigned this function to the Commissioner of the Land Office. 109


Records of the Court of Appeals pertinent to St. Mary’s County at the Hall of Records:


(Land Record Abstracts, St. Mary’s County), 1806-1831

(Land Record Abstracts, St. Mary’s County, Index), 1806-1845




1. Gust Skordas, "Maryland Government: 1634-1866," in The Old Line

State: A History of Maryland, ed. Morris L. Radoff (Annapolis: Hall of

Records Commission, 1971), pp. 323—328.


2. Ibid., pp. 328—329; Regina Combs Hammett, History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland (Ridge, Md., 1977), pp. 46-54.


3. Maryland Constitution (1776), arts. 40, 48; Acts of 1790, ch. 33;

1804, ch. 55; 1805, ch. 55; 1805, ch. 16.


4. Hanimett, p. 54; Maryland Constitution (1776), art. 47; Acts of 1836, ch. 224; 1837, ch. 161.


5. Skordas, pp. 324—325; Acts of Jun. 1773, ch. 1; 1790, ch. 50; 1801, ch. 74; 1804, ch. 55; 1805, chs. 16, 65.


6. Skordas, pp. 324-325; Maryland Constitution (1776) art. 56; Acts of

Jun. 1773, ch. 1; 1785, ch. 87; 1801, ch. 74; 1804, ch. 55; 1805, chs.

16, 65.


7. Acts of Jun. 1777, ch. 12; Apr. 1787, ch. 16; 1835, ch. 201; 1841, ch. 95.


8. Skordas, pp. 325—326, 329; Acts of 1791, ch. 98; 1814, ch. 94; 1841,

ch. 262; Carl N. Everstine, Divorce in Maryland, Legislative Council

Research Report 25 (Baltimore, 1946), pp. 3-5, MdHR 785639.


9. Skordas, p. 329; Acts of Feb. 1777, ch. 8; 1793, ch. 45.


10. Acts of 1785, ch. 49; 1794, ch. 53; 1801, ch. 54; 1816, ch. 261;

1834, ch. 253.

11. R. Lee Benson, The Grand Jury, Legislative Council Research Report

32 (Baltimore, 1958), pp. 18-21, MdHR 785646.


12. Acts of Jul. 1779, ch. 6; Federal Acts of 1790, ch. 3.


13. Archives of Maryland, I, pp. 487-488; XXVI, pp. 262—266.


14. Acts of 1785, ch. 9; 1805, ch. 65; 1818, ch. 104; 1831, ch. 175.


15. Archives of Maryland, XXXVI, pp. 460-462; Acts of 1791, ch. 57;

1805, ch. 66.


16. Joseph G. Bland!, Maryland Business Corporations, 1783-1852, Johns

Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, ser.

52, no. 3 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1934), pp. 10—11.


17. Archives of Maryland, XXXIII, p. 105; LXI, pp. 473—482; Acts of

1784, ch. 37; 1816, ch. 242; 1824, ch. 148; 1825, ch. 214.


18. Acts of Apr. 1777, ch. 12.


19. Maryland Constitution (1776), arts. 3, 42; Acts of 1799, ch. 50;

1801, ch. 74.


20. Maryland Constitution (1851), art. 4, secs. 8—9, 24; (1864), art.

4, secs. 3, 24; (1867), art. 4, secs. 3, 5, 19, 21; Acts of 1953, ch.



21. Maryland Constitution (1851), art. 4, sec. 14.


22. See sketch of St. Mary’s County Justice of the Peace. Acts of

1970, ch. 528.


23. Acts of 1852, ch. 239; 1941, ch. 855; 1949, ch. 476; 1953, ch. 297;

1959, ch. 437; 1970, ch. 528.




25. Acts of 1867, ch. 329; 1898, ch. 139; St. Mary’s County Circuit Court (Naturalization Record), p. 26, MdHR 20418.


26. Acts. of 1888, ch. 64; 1892, ch. 419; 1916, ch. 327; 1933, ch. 185;

1935, ch. 281.


27. Blandi, pp. 10—11; Acts of 1852, chs. 148, 221, 231, 322, 338, 369;

1860, ch. 285; 1867, ch. 379; 1868, ch. 471; 1908, ch. 240.


28. Acts of 1868, chs. 209, 448; 1874, ch. 256; 1878, ch. 337; 1890, ch. 91; 1894, ch. 380; 1916, ch. 704; 1933, sp. sess., ch. 2.


29. Acts of 1865, ch. 130; 1890, ch. 465.


30. Acts of 1865, ch. 130; 1898, ch. 312; State Planning Commission, Public Health Administration in Maryland, Publication 18 (Baltimore, 1938), pp. 19—20, MdHR 787598.


31. Acts of 1896, ch. 624; 1908, ch. 122; 1968, ch. 613.


32. Acts of 1890, ch. 573; 1896, ch. 202; 1901, ch. 2; 1902, ch. 133;

1945, ch. 934; 1949, ch. 421; Carl N. Everstine, The Declaration of

Intention Act, Legislative Council Research Report 28 (Baltimore,

1948), pp. 1—22, 40—41, MdHR 785642.


33. Maryland Constitution (1851), art. 4, sec. 19; (1864), art. 4, sec.

47; Governor and Council (Commission Record), 1793-1826, p. 20, MdHR

2347; Secretary of State (Commission Record), 1847—1854, pp. 77—78,

MdHR 7927; Acts of 1790, ch. 61; 1852, ch. 274; 1867, ch. 203; 1874,

oh. 4.




35. Acts of 1809, oh. 76; 1814, oh. 82.


36. Acts of 1939, oh. 720.


37. Acts of 1835, oh. 201.


38. Acts of 1841, oh. 95.


39. Archives of Maryland, II, pp. 130-131; G. Kenneth Reiblich, A Study of the Judicial Administration in the State of Maryland (Baltimore:

Johns Hopkins Press, 1929), p. 49.


40. Ibid.; Acts of 1939, oh. 369.


41. Elisabeth Hartsook and Gust Skordas, Land Office and Prerogative

Court Records of Colonial Maryland (Annapolis: Hall of Records

Commission, 1946; Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.,

1967), pp. 82—85.


42. Ibid., pp. 85—90.


43. Maryland Constitution (1776), arts. 40—41; (1851), art. 4, secs.

17—18; (1864), art. 4, sec. 43; (1867), art. 4, sec. 40; Acts of Feb.

1777, oh. 8; 1790, ch. 58; 1836, oh. 224; 1837, oh. 161; 1922, oh. 227.


44. Acts of Feb. 1777, oh. 8; Oct. 1777, oh. 9; 1791, oh. 76; 1816, oh.



45. Acts of 1831, oh. 315; 1865, oh. 162; 1866, oh. 81; 1962, oh. 46;

1969, oh. 3.


46. Second Report of the Governor’s Commission to Review and Revise the Testamentary Law of Maryland (1968), pp. 11-12, MdBR 806306; Acts of




47. Acts of 1844, oh. 237; 1847, oh. 222; 1929, oh. 275; 1935, oh. 90.


48. Acts of 1945, ch. 458; 1957, ch. 104; 1962, ch. 85; 1969, oh. 3;

1974, oh. 649; 1978, oh. 863.


49. Acts of 1969, ch. 3.


50. Lois Green Carr, "The Development of the Maryland Orphans’ Court,

1674—1715," in Law, Society, and Politics in Early Maryland, eds.

Aubrey C. Land et al., Proceedings of the First Conference on Maryland

History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), pp. 43-46;

Acts of Feb. 1777, oh. 8; 1793, oh. 45; 1842, ch. 25; 1927, ch. 186.


51. Acts of 1805, ch. 66.


52. "Sketch of Tax Legislation in Maryland," in Report of the Maryland

Tax Commission to the General Assembly (Baltimore, 1888), pp.

CXXXI—CXXXIII, MdHR 793312; Acts of 1820, ch. 3.


53. "Sketch of Tax Legislation," pp. CXXXIII-CXXXIV, CXLVI, CLIV.


54. Acts of Feb. 1777, oh. 21; Nov. 1781, oh. 4; Nov. 1792, oh. 71;

1797, ch. 89; 1803, ch. 92; 1812, ch. 191.

55. Acts of 1830, oh. 22.

56. Acts of 1794, ch. 53; 1798, ch. 34; 1830, ch. 22.

57. Acts of 1773, oh. 18; 1822, oh. 186; 1837, ch. 32.

58. Acts of 1801, ch. 54; 1816, ch. 261; 1834, ch. 253.




61. Acts of 1838, oh. 67.


62. Maryland Constitution (1851), art. 7, sec. 8; Acts of 1838, ch. 67;

1853, ch. 372; 1892, ch. 669; 1922, ch. 227; 1974, ch. 499.


63. Acts of 1838, ch. 67; 1890, oh. 170; 1900, oh. 237.


64. "Sketch of Tax Legislation," p. CLXI; Acts of Mar. 1841, oh. 23;

1852, oh. 337; 1866, oh. 157; 1876, oh. 260; 1896, ch. 120; 1910, ch.



65. Acts of 1914, ch. 841; 1916, ch. 629; 1943, oh. 717; 1955, ch. 116;

1973, ch. 784; Second Biennial Report of the State Tax Commission

(1918), pp. 7-9, MdHR 793306; Thirteenth Biennial Report of the State

Tax Commission (1941), p. 14, MdHR 793369.


66. Governor’s Operating Economic Survey, Report on the Offices of

General Administration (1969), p. 23, MdHR 806342; Acts of 1841, ch.

325; 1847, oh. 252; 1900, ch. 237.


67. Maryland Constitution (1851), art. 7, sec. 9; (1864), art. 7, sec.

6; Acts of 1853, oh. 300; 1876, ch. 238; 1878, ch. 409; 1894, oh. 564;

1898, ch. 153; 1902, ch. 354; 1904, oh. 407; 1908, oh. 381; 1912, oh.

209; 1920, oh. 358.


68. Acts of 1904, oh. 225; 1908, ch. 141; 1933, oh. 425.


69. Acts of 1878, cli. 218; Hammett, p. 396.


70. Acts of 1935, oh. 586.

1916, oh. 506.

72. Acts of 1865, oh. 174; 1890, oh. 538.

73. Acts of 1864, ch. 373; 1867, ohs. 156, 167.


74. Archives of Maryland, I, pp. 346-347; II, pp. 279—281; Acts of

1825, oh. 206; 1951, ch. 666.


75. Acts of 1773, ch. 18; 1799, ch. 65; 1822, oh. 186; 1837, oh. 32.


76. Acts of 1878, ch. 218.


77. Acts of 1888, ch. 511; 1890, ch. 170; 1900, cli. 237; 1922, oh. 227.


78. Maryland Constitution (1776), arts. 3, 42; Acts of 1799, ch. 50;

1801, ch. 71; 1890, ch. 538; 1896, ch. 624.


79. Acts of 1790, ch. 16; 1799, ch. 50; Franklin L. Burdette, Election

Practices in Maryland (College Park: Bureau of Public Administration,

College of Business and Public Administration, University of Maryland,

1950), pp. 50—51, 57, MdHR 803247.


80. Acts of 1896, ch. 624.


81. Acts of 1890, oh. 538; 1896, oh. 624; 1974, ch. 91.


82. Maryland Constitution (1864), art. 1, secs. 1—6; Acts of 1865, ch.

174; 1867, oh. 336.


83. Acts of 1865, cli. 174; 1874, ch. 490; 1882, oh. 22; 1890, oh. 573.


84. Acts of 1896, ch. 202.


85 Ibid.


86. Ibid.; 1906, oh. 703; 1945, ch. 934; 1967, ch. 392; Burdette, pp.



87. Acts of 1853, ch. 279.


88. Maryland Constitution (1864), art. 8; Acts of 1865, oh. 160.


89. Maryland Constitution (1964), art. 3, sec. 4; Acts of 1865, ch.



90. Report of the School Law Revision Commission (1968), pp. 26-27, MdHR 806297; Acts of 1868, ch. 407.


91. Ibid.


92. Acts of 1870, ch. 311;


93. Acts of 1868, oh. 407;


94. Acts of 1868, ch. 407;


95. Acts of 1868, oh. 407;


96. Acts of 1916, oh. 506.


97. Ibid.


98. Acts of 1953, oh. 597; Report of the School Law Revision

Commission, pp. 5-6; Abraham Flexner and Frank P. Bachman, Public

Education in Maryland: A Report to the Maryland Educational Survey

Commission, 5th ed. (New York: General Education Board, 1921), p. 45,

MdHR 805998.


99. Acts of 1916, oh. 506; Report of the School_Law Revision Commission, p. 33.

100. Maryland Constitution (1864), Declaration of Rights, art. 24; Acts of 1867, oh. 189.


101. Acts of 1858, ch. 73; 1904, oh. 401.


102. Donnell MacClure Owings, His Lordship’s Patronage: Offices of

Profit in Colonial Maryland, Studies in Maryland History, (Baltimore:

Maryland Historical Society, 1953), p. 29.


103. Skordas, p. 315; Archives of Maryland, XXXIII, pp. 463—464.


104. Skordas, pp. 309, 322—323.


105. Ibid., pp. 331—332.


106. Maryland Constitution (1776), art. 42; Acts of Oct. 1780, ch. 26;

1790, ch. 16.


107. Skordas, p. 333.


108. Ibid., p. 344; Acts of 1785, oh. 9; 1805, oh. 65.


109. Skordas, pp. 323—324; Acts of 1805, oh. 65; 1874, ch. 66.