One of the duties of the Sheriff was maintaining the jail and custody of its inmates. The County’s first jail was located at Hungerford’s Tavern, which has been described as a 24′ x 16′ structure. A whipping post and gallows were located in the rear. In 1801 the jail was moved to North Washington Street and West Montgomery Avenue in Rockville. In 1901 a new jail was built of stone and was located where the County Council Office building stands today.
A new County Jail was built in 1932 and located near the top of the Gray Courthouse. It contained eleven rooms where prisoners were confined. There was a room for trustees and a detention room for men who were serving sentences’ or awaiting trial. Two rooms were for women, two rooms for men and one for juveniles. Included were two bullpens and two “block-cells” rooms. Each room was ventilated and had a toilet and a shower.
As was the case in all the jails of the times, the Sheriff or a deputy would live, with his family, in quarters above the jail. The “Turnkey” as he was described, was in charge of the jail. In the 1940-41 budget, $1,920.00 was appropriated for salaries and $4,500.00 for other expenses of operating the jail. In 1950, supervision of the jail was turned over to the Montgomery County Department of Corrections.
Unfortunately, little is known about the Sheriffs of Montgomery County other than they ran the jails and performed many of the same functions that the Sheriff and Police perform today. On April 15, 1921 in the courtyard of the jail, Sheriff George E. Nicholson “sprung the trap” of the gallows which resulted in the last execution held in Montgomery County.
The Sheriff’s Office, according to recent memory, was located on the first floor of the Gray Courthouse until 1968 when the office was moved to the 3rd floor of the same building. Sometime shortly after renovation, the Sheriff’s Office moved to the third floor of the Red Brick Courthouse.
Since 1980, the Sheriff and his deputies are housed in the “new” Judicial Center located on Maryland Avenue. The Sheriff’s Office of the new millennium has a staff of over 130, performing many of the same traditional duties it has performed for over 200 years but with today’s modern technology. Some of the Duties are: