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Volume 15, Issue 20 ~ May 17 - May 23, 2007

The Jailer Doesn’t Work Here Anymore

The old jailhouse is a familiar landmark on Muddy Creek Road

by Vicki Marsh

For a longer version rich with oral history, look online HERE.

How many times had I driven by that small unobtrusive building? Why had I been drawn to it for 20 some years?

A small, vacant building sits beside the High’s convenience store at the intersection of Muddy Creek Road, Route 468, and Owensville Road, Route 255. Over the years, as I drove by countless times, it kept calling to me.

The Story Begins

“Really? Have you actually been inside?” I asked my friend.

“My husband and I were thinking of opening a coffee shop in the place,” she replied. “We took a tour of the building, and I saw the rusty old cell downstairs.”

A working barbershop was my first recollection of the tiny building that had once been the local police station with a jail downstairs. By the 1990s, it sat vacant, a small, lonely square on a tiny plot of land. The red and white-striped barber pole silently called to me I have a story to tell.

Crime and Punishment

Francis Moreland, one of Galesville’s historians, has three-quarters of a century of local knowledge. His family has lived locally since 1931.

The old station has stayed “pretty much the same until recently,” he recalled. “Upstairs was the trial office and the policemen’s office, and downstairs were the cells. A circuit judge would come around and hold trial. My first cousin, Anna Leech (later Anna Carr), was the secretary for the judge.”

In Moreland’s youth, Southern Anne Arundel County was sparsely developed, mostly farms and lots of tobacco. Other than a few robberies, Moreland said, local policemen had plenty of time on their hands. So they’d help the Morelands — and other local farmers — herd cows from their Galesville farm down past the police station to another farm in Owensville.

“That was way back when I was young,” Moreland said. “Probably in the 1940s.”

About that time, Moreland admitted with a grin, he spent a few hours in the jail cell himself.

“When we were going to grammar school — I might have been 12 or 13,” he said, “three or four boys and myself, we upset the outhouse behind the jail during Halloween. Someone got the police to come down and round us up and put us in the cell — just a few hours to teach us a lesson.”

Jean Siegert Trott, 81, — who wrote the town’s history in her book Galesville, Maryland: The Legend, The Legacy — remembers when her father — the justice of the peace, Louis Siegert Jr. — held trials in the living room of the house where she still lives.

Space was still tight when trials moved to the jailhouse. There were two rooms on the upper floor. The larger room was the courtroom, with no chairs except for the judge. Everyone else stood. The police officers used the other room. The basement had two cells. The police held prisoners there overnight and drove them all the way to Ferndale, near Baltimore, the next day.

In the early days, Captain Edward ‘Doc’ Dixon and Lynn Bussey maintained the law from Route 4 and Wayson’s Corner to Galesville.

Moreland and Trott believed the jail was built in the 1930s or early 1940s. I soon discovered it was earlier.

Frozen Custard and Haircuts

Moreland recalled the businesses that had occupied the old building over the years. After police station and jail, the building became a frozen custard stand, a beauty shop and a barbershop. Moreland remembered a machinist’s shop in the basement beneath the frozen custard shop upstairs.

Trott confirmed the frozen custard. She has fond memories of her father, who loved the milkshakes, taking the family to Zeigler’s Frozen Custard stand on summer evenings.

Briefly the building housed a beauty shop. Then, in 1973, Harvey Tucker opened a barbershop for African Americans, the first and only one in Southern Anne Arundel County. Clients traveled to Galesville from the Eastern Shore, Calvert County, Pasadena, Severna Park and Annapolis for the two decades Tucker ran the shop.

The Next Chapter: Jailhouse Antiques

Today Donald and Jeannine Hedler, of West River, are renovating the small, two-story building, for an antique shop.

Until the Hedlers bought the old building, they had no idea it had been a jail. Now they’ve added iron bars to the front window to emphasize its history. They’ll keep the remaining cell in the basement.

The Hedlers put a new roof on the building, which they learned was built in 1920.

I finally got into the jail, too. Inside, I could see the original cinderblocks peeking through crumbling cement walls to be covered with sheetrock.

Hedler described the building’s interior. She said the rear wall and the front walls showed evidence of larger windows that looked out on Muddy Creek Road and the swampy land behind.

Hedler said she learned that the trial judge sat on the elevated platform. The lower section held families and spectators. Sometimes the crowds were so large people had to stand outside and peer in the windows to see what was happening.

Crowds must have swarmed the jailhouse, like a scene from old Western movies, waiting for the judge to pass judgment. In those days, a judge in town for a sentencing must have been a big attraction.

Rooms both upstairs and downstairs have the remains of a chimney in the corner, probably a wood-burning stove that would have been the main source of heat.

Down the stairs was the cell in a darkened corner, rusty with age. The bars on the door let me imagine times past.

The marks of another cell, removed by an earlier owner, remain on the wall. Hedler pointed to where the cell had been anchored. Near the ceiling were the only windows, about 10 inches high by 30 inches wide, one still barred.

Hedler plans to refinish the iron bars on the windows and paint and restore the cell.

She’s calling her new business Jailhouse Antiques.

Ben Miller contributed to this story.

The itchingly curious Vicki Marsh, (above at left with Jeannine Hedler) broke into Bay Weekly with You’re Never Too Old: How Grandma Became a Biker (Vol, xiii, No. 46: Nov. 17, 2005).

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