The Kent County Courthouse constructed in 1697 and razed by a fire in 1720. Source: Maryland Judiciary website.

This Week’s Kent County History Quiz Question: What important Kent County structure was razed by fire in 1720?

A. Emanuel Church
B. Kent County Courthouse
C. Ringgold’s Warehouse
D. None of the Above

This Week’s Answer: Kent County Courthouse

Through the passage of an act by the General Assembly of 1696, the justices of the county were authorized to purchase three acres of land to provide for a courthouse. According to records, land was purchased on the north shore of the Chester River for the fair value of 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Although the date of completion is not known, the courthouse is believed to have been used before March 23, 1698.

The courthouse did not survive long and records indicate it was destroyed by arson in the spring of 1720. The accused was “one Charles Hill, laborer and servant of Francis Collins.” Hill was arrested on May 9, 1720. He was taken to Annapolis for trial. Local court activities were moved to William Smith’s house in Chestertown.

An order was issued stating “the Court is to be held at the Said William Smith’s until the Court house for said County Shall again be repaired fo fitt to sitt in.”

The courthouse was rebuilt in 1720-1721 and used until the middle of the century when it was expanded over the years. In 1860 the legislature passed an act “to take down the present Courthouse and build a new courthouse on the Public Square in Chestertown.’ The 1860 facade was retained when the courthouse was enlarged in 1937. The contemporary wing housing the District Court was completed in the 1970s.

The Kent County History Quiz is a weekly local brainteaser sponsored by The Peoples Bank. Kent County historian and author Joan Horsey contributes to the quiz’s development. Our goal is to create an opportunity for local learning and discussion. If you have a quiz idea, send it to steve@kentpilot.org.