On or about January 30, 1907, Fred W. Besley walked up these stairs to the first Garrett County Court House in Oakland to file a deed for 1,917 acres of land which became Maryland’s first State Forest Reserve.
This valuable acreage was a handsome gift to the people of Maryland, and had been generously donated by brothers John and Robert Garrett. In 1906 the land was offered by the Garrett’s as the first State Forest providing Maryland would start a forestry and state parks program. In 1906 the State Forests and Parks program was enacted and the acreage passed from the Garrett Brothers to the State with the signing of the deed that State Forester Besley was about to file in the Court House.
Climbing these steps, Fred Besley launched Maryland’s efforts of managing Demonstration Forests on public lands. It is a forestry initiative that continues to this day with management programs on 66 state parks and 9 state forests throughout Maryland covering approximately 216,125 acres of forest land.
The following sketch depicts the first court house in Garrett County. It was built of red brick and used from 1877 until 1908 when the present court house was completed.
The first court house was located atop a prominent hill at the intersection of Green Street and Fourth Streets, overlooking the town of Oakland. With the completion of the present day court house, the first court house was converted to become the Oakland High School and then the offices of the Garrett County Board of Education following the opening of Southern High School. The first court house has been razed and the site it occupied is undeveloped except for these steps.
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Maryland State Forests and State Parks
Significant Monuments and Landmarks In Garrett County, Maryland
By Offutt Johnson and Champ Zumbrun
July 11, 2013
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