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Course has students digging for artifacts from 19th century jail


Middle school students digging for artifacts at Carroll County's old jail hope to find evidence of a gallows where three people were hanged.

Fifteen sixth- and seventh-graders will dig at the former jail at 98 N. Court St. in Westminster as part of a summer course sponsored by the Historical Society of Carroll County.

Last week, six eighth- and ninth-graders worked at the site, said Joseph M. Getty, Historical Society executive director.

The three-story stone building, which still has bars on many windows, was built in 1837, he said. It now houses Granite House, a private, nonprofit agency that helps the mentally handicapped.

"The kids really like it," Mr. Getty said about the dig. "Normally, kids pick up things real quick.

"Our historical research is focused on the jail yard and the stone wall," he said.

Last week, students dug in a 3-by-4-foot plot to try to find evidence of a stone wall that enclosed the jail yard, Mr. Getty said. The 17-foot-high wall was built in 1838 and torn down in 1912, he said.

The students found ceramics, glass and metal that probably were used by the sheriff's family, which lived at the jail, but not the stone wall, Mr. Getty said.

Students working next week will continue the search and also will look for evidence of the gallows and a platform on which it was built, he said.

Three convicted murderers were hanged at the jail -- a woman in 1859 and men in 1874 and 1916 -- said Mr. Getty, who researched the hangings through newspaper clippings.

The weeklong course, which costs $110, includes classroom instruction in research techniques with Mr. Getty and Historical Society curator Jay Graybeal.

"It's a nice thing to do in the summer," Mr. Getty said. "It does involve physical labor, and it gets tiring. It's also a brain teaser. The whole process is problem solving."

The Historical Society also offers a military history course late this month with Mr. Graybeal for $80.

Information: 848-6494.

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