The first building used as the Washington Country Jail was a log house at 26-28 E. Franklin Street in Hagerstown. In 1818, the state legislature authorized the county to spend $12,000 to build a new jail.
The new jail was built on this site on Jonathan Street. It was a one-story jai built of limestone, rough-casted outside, and enclosed with a wall on the north, west and south. The original entrance to the jail was through a house facing on Jonathan Street which was used as a residence for the sheriff and his family. The new jail started taking prisoners in 1826-1827. One of the first prisoners to occupy the jail was Sheriff George Swearingen who was elected sheriff in 1827 and convicted of murdering his wife in 1828.
The jail was destroyed by fire in 1857 and rebuilt in 1858. The last major renovation to the jail occurred in 1888 when a brick second floor was added placing steel cages over the old arched cells. The last hanging in Washington County was held at the jail in 1916.
In 1984, the prisoners were moved out of the old jail and into the new Washington County Detention Center on Western Maryland Parkway. The old jail was demolished in 1985.
Mr. Bill Mason was the first black police officer in Washington County and worked for the Sheriff's Department for 16 years, the last five serving as Captain.
(Sidebar)Washington County Sheriff
Seventy-eight different men have served as the Sheriff of Washington County between the time the office was created in 1777 and 2004. The Washington County Sheriff's Office is responsible for three main functions: operation of the County detention center, security at the Circuit Court House and civil process for the Circuit and District Courts, and law enforcement in areas of the County not served by a municipal police department.