SKOWHEGAN — Workers tearing down a house on the old section of U.S. Route 201 next to the river in Moscow in the mid-1990s discovered a framed photograph hidden behind one of the walls.

The photo, dated Jan. 1, 1913, shows then-Somerset County Sheriff Frank Thompson posing with his nine deputies and a jail turnkey with each of their names and what towns they were from. All of the men are posed rigidly in suits, stiff collars and neck ties.

No one remembers how the picture, which is well preserved, got behind the wall in the first place.

That photo, along with another large gilt-framed photo of an early Somerset County traverse jury in September 1898, were donated Wednesday to county commissioners by Sheriff Barry DeLong, who is retiring.

“I think they’d be more fitting here in the courthouse,” DeLong said.

DeLong, who lived in Bingham when he was first elected sheriff in 1994, said the mystery photo was given to him by the owners of the house. He said it is the oldest known photo of the sheriff’s department.

“The guy that owned the house probably was a deputy,” DeLong said. “Over the generations, the family — son, daughter, or whatever — bought the house, tucked it in there and left or forgot about it. They used to stick everything in the walls for insulation.”

The second, larger photo of the traverse jury, or trial jury, is an early photo of 12 men assembled for court in Skowhegan. The jury foreman is Charles B. Gilman of Bingham. DeLong said he bought the photo at an auction in Smithfield.

“It names people on the jury and where they’re from, which is quite interesting if somebody wanted to trace their family back,” DeLong said. “They’d bring people from all the different locations in the county, like they do now. They take your name for jury duty and you get called in.”

The photos will hang in the courthouse along with other photographs and maps of the county.

County commissioners on Tuesday also presented DeLong with a retirement plaque from the Maine County Commissioners Association for his 20 years as Somerset County sheriff.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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