Institutions

Courthouse workersHouses do not make a community. Nor do the people who inhabit those buildings. We need to have expectations of one another, rules to govern, and means of insuring that we adhere to those expectations and rules. Institutions fill that role. A community emerges from a lawless frontier when it builds schools, courts, markets, meeting places for fraternal organizations, and churches. And, of course, jails for those who flagrantly disregard other community institutions.

Port Tobacco stood apart from its surroundings during the 18th and 19th centuries, in part, because of its population--200 or more people living and working on 60 acres, an area smaller than many farms. But it stood out mostly because of the concentration of institutions. The courthouse (see image) housed the county courts and clerk. Christ Church served the vestry and congregation of the Anglican church and, later, of the Episcopal church. There were two newspapers in town by the late 19th century...the Times Crescent and Port Tobacco Times. There were schools for white children and black children, institutionalizing one of the less laudable aspects of Maryland society between the end of the Civil War (1865) and implementation of the Civil Rights act (1964). There was a Masonic Hall in what is now the village green, a "Colored Hall" next to the Burch House, and a jail behind the courthouse.

When you explore institutional sites in and around Port Tobacco, you explore the history of the community and how it developed.