This Week in History
A Versatile Prison
For the week of Monday October 28, 2013
On October 29, 1805, the very first trial was heard in the newly constructed Argyle Township Court House and Jail in Nova Scotia. From that time on, all crimes committed in Argyle Township were tried in this courthouse. The Township, which had grown considerably as a result of the expansion of the shipbuilding and fishing industries, needed a courtroom where its most unscrupulous citizens could be brought to trial.
Most of the furniture on the upper level is original to the building; many different criminals (primarily persons accused of mutiny, piracy or theft) sat on these benches in the courtroom during its 200 years of operation. Perhaps the most notorious trial to be held here was that of Omar P. Roberts, who in 1922 was convicted of murdering his housekeeper, Flora Gray, and hanged. The jail in the building was closed two years later. The courtroom was used until 1944, when the municipal authorities established their offices there. The building was converted for use as a museum and community archive in 1983.The Argyle Township Court House and Jail was designated a national historic site in 2005 in recognition of its status as the oldest well-preserved specimen of the restrained yet elegant architectural design characterizing the New England meeting houses of the late 18th century. For more information about the administration of justice in Nova Scotia, please read The Slick Wit of Thomas Chandler Haliburton, Saving a Past for the Future and Liverpool Privateers in the This Week in History Archives.
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