Each day, another archive is digitized and made available online and today I fell into a couple surprising stories while researching the history of our fair town of Rockville. The first story was the 1850 trial of W. L. Chaplin, who was indicted for helping two enslaved men to escape and for assaulting the men who attempted to stop him. Because the court believed he could not receive a fair and impartial trial in Rockville, the case was moved to Ellicott City. I’ll have to follow the case out there to find out what happened.
The second surprise was that whipping was an acceptable form of punishment until the 1920s. With the headline “Whipping Makes Men ‘Feel Fine'”, the Chicago Defender related the lashing of two men for abusing their wives in Rockville in 1922. There aren’t many details in the paper except that it might have been done publicly (“they were bound to the post and then the lash was applied”) and that it was usually “applied” to African Americans as a punishment (“Kemp was the first white man to receive such punishment in Montgomery county for many years.”). This story is uncomfortable and infuriating in so many ways.