Click the Photo to read about other hangings at the Jail.

419 West South Street, Frederick, MD

A preservation celebration is in order.  The Frederick City Mayor and Board of Aldermen on July 16 created an Historic Preservation Overlay to protect the old Frederick County Jail.  The building’s architect, Frank E. Davis is renowned and has at least ten buildings on the National Register of Historic Places (see pictures below).  The building has a remarkable integrity considering its many uses over the decades.   The jail yard impressively conveys a meaningful picture of the lives of those incarcerated in this space.  The jail yard was the last day alive of six people who were hung.   Read the story of Ceph Overs' hanging.

We will never know whether “Ceph” Overs was administered a fair trial.  Considering the horrendous numbers of lynchings during this time in history, we wonder (see footnote 1 on lynchings).  An article in Frederick’s newspaper of the time, The News, on April 19, 1901 recorded Mr. “Ceph” Overs hanging.  It records in macabre detail the hanging and his death that took 14 ½ minutes considering the hanging did not break his neck.  The article which details the numbers of Frederick citizens who were eager to watch the hanging, “Inside the jail about 200 persons gathered to witness the execution. Outside there was a great crowd in the street in the trees surrounding the jail yard crowned with men and boys. Roofs of houses in the neighborhood of the jail and windows commanding a view of the yard were filled with people.  To prevent any disorder a special guard of 50 men was sworn in and placed under command of Captain Jos. Groff. These guys were all armed with muskets and patrolled both the inside and the outside of the jail.”

We urge the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to agree with its Commisions and to create an Historic Preservation Overlay protecting this Historic Building and its jail yard for the education of the children and visitors to Frederick City.

Below is an excerpt of the article describing Mr. Overs offense, and conviction.  Above at the link, you can read the entire article. 


“It was announced yesterday afternoon that he would make a speech from the scaffold. This morning he stated that he had abandon this intention, but had prepare the following statement for publication in The News: "Before Almighty God, I ask pardon for all my evil ways. I wish to return thanks to all who have been so kind to me. I ask for all to please pray for the repose of my soul."

Overs ’ crime.

The crime for which Overs  was hanged was committed at Monrovia on 9 October 31, 1900.  Both Overs and his victim, Donaldson, were employed by Charles H. Smith in making improvements to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On the morning of the day on which the murder was committed Overs was criticized at the stable for using the horses roughly.   He suspected Donaldson of having informed their employer of his treatment of the horses and threatened to "fix him for it." Later in the day it began raining and work was stopped. A keg of beer was bought and after the men had been drinking for some time several of the men got into a scrimmage. Overs and Donaldson quarreled and Donaldson hit Overs in the back with a small stick of wood.  Overs was heard several times to threaten that he would "get even" and tried to borrow a razor, saying, "I'm going to kill that --------- Donaldson."  Failing to borrow a razor, he got an order for $3.00 from his employer on the store, of J. O. Walker, with which he purchased a $3 caliber revolver and cartridges.  He was so drunk that the clerk, whom he told of his intention to kill Donaldson, had to load the revolver for him.  Persons in the store warned him that he would be hanged for it, but he laughed and said he did not mind that, and in pantomine represented the death struggles of a man going to scaffold.  Overs then went to the eating room of the shanty where the men boarded and found Donaldson there.  He said to him, "you cut my head and now I'm going to get even."  Donaldson, jumping up, said, "now, Ceph, none of that,” and walked toward him, putting his hand on Overs’, shoulder. Overs, with the pistol under his coat and within a few inches of Donaldson's stomach, fired.  The ball entered the stomach, perforated the bowels and passed through the hipbone.  Overs ran from the room and boarded a freight train which was passing.  At Mt. Airy he was found on the train and arrested by Officer Fritz Leuba, who had been notified by telegraph of the murder.  Donaldson was taken to a hospital in Baltimore but died the next day.  At the trial the attorney for Overs represented that the shooting was done in self-defense, but it took the jury just six minutes to convict him.”

1. Excerpt from, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.  See the report’s Summary at

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) today released Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documents EJI’s multi-year investigation into lynching in twelve Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II. EJI researchers documented 3959 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 – at least 700 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.”

A preservation celebration is in order.  The Frederick City Mayor and Board of Aldermen on July 16, 2015 created an Historic Preservation Overlay to protect the old Frederick County Jail.  

Historic Frederick County Jail

Deserves Preservation