21st – Went to Town & din’d at S. Steretts with the Governor & a large agreeable Party. At half past 2 O’Clock a Thunder Storm from N.W. with heavy Rain which continued with little intermission until midnight
From the journal of Captain Henry Thompson, May 21, 1814. Courtesy the Friends of Clifton.
On May 16, 1814, the Grand Lodge of Maryland laid the cornerstone for the new Masonic Hall on St. Paul’s Lane. The new hall was designed by French architect Maximilian Godefroy and built by Colonel Jacob Small and Colonel William Steuart. Maryland Governor Levin Winder, Esq., serving as the R.W.G. Master of Masons led the ceremony.
The different Masonic lodges of this city formed in procession on Monday, the 16th of May, at the riding-school in George street from whence, accompanied by a band of music and a company military, they proceeded to the First Presbyterian Church, in East street (Fayette.) After divine service, the procession moved to, “a spot of ground near the southwest corner of the new court-house in St Paul’s lane where according to the ceremonies of that most ancient and honorable fraternity, the foundation was laid of a new and superb Masonic hall.”
On February 23, 1814, Nathaniel Hynson, warden of the Maryland Penitentiary since April 1812 and a prominent cabinet-maker, was replaced by a new warden Benjamin Williams. Williams’ appointment sparked a conflict between the Inspectors of the Penitentiary (a group that included Hezekiah Clagget, John Hillen, James Kemp, George Lindenberger, Isaac McPherson, John Oliver, Henry Payson, George Roberts, Baltzer Schaeffer, Samuel Sterett, and Elisha Tyson) and Maryland Governor Levin Winder documented in a series of letters between the parties.
On January 27, 1814, Benjamin Williams wrote “with concern” to Col. John Thomas in Annapolis sharing that the Inspectors of the Penitentiary objected to his appointment and remarking “should the intrigue of the Inspectors succeed, it would be a ruinous stroke to me.” On January 28, 1814, Baltimore judge Luther Martin wrote directly to Governor Winder, to note Williams’ arrival in Baltimore and object that none of the Inspectors had any prior notice and remarking that Hynson’s character and livelihood was affected by his removal.
The Maryland legislature established the state penitentiary in 1809 with an act declaring that “all prisoners convicted of any crime punishable by confinement in the penitentiary should be placed and kept in solitary cells thereof, and kept on low and [coarse] diet for such a time as the discretion of the court might direct.” The same act also determined that the warden or keeper of the penitentiary “in addition to the salary allowed him by the Legislature, have five per centum on the sale of all articles manufactured by the prisoners in the institution, with the power to appoint his deputies and assistants.” The keeper’s responsibilities included providing “a sufficient quantity of stock and materials, working tools and implements for the employment of the convicts and to contract for the clothing diet and other necessaries for the maintenance and support of the convicts.”
As a member of the Columbian Fire Company and a former member of the Baltimore First Branch City Council, Hynson was a well-known local citizen but likely still struggled from the sudden loss of wages from his position. Hynson may have returned to his trade as a cabinet-maker but, on March 14, 1821, he came back to the Maryland Penitentiary where he took over from Benjamin Williams as keeper until February 9, 1825.