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Manors and Plantations

of Colonial Maryland


Almost everyone in the colony of Maryland in the 17th Century lived on a plantation and raised tobacco. Any farm that raised tobacco was called a plantation. It could be very large, sometimes thousands of acres, or perhaps as small as fifty acres.

The Scale of Head tract, owned by John Kinnick, was about 66-68 acres, and was located on the outer fringe of Boarman's Manor.

Between 1650 and 1699 Lord Baltimore had granted 30 tracts of land totaling 17,000 acres to Major William Boarman who had come to Maryland in 1645 and served as an officer in the Provincial Militia, High Sheriff, and as delegate to the Lower House of the Assembly. The land "east of Zachiah Swamp" consisting of 3,333 acres called Boarman's Manor and Boarman's Rest lay in the area now known as Bryantown.

Maryland was a Proprietory Colony of England, which had unique characteristics as compared to the other English colonies in America. One of these was that Proprietor, Lord Baltimore, a member of the Calvert family over several generations, made grants of lands to favored members of the aristocracy, also called the landed gentry (with the title, Esquire), of thousands of acres each in exchange for transporting colonists to America to populate the colony. These grants were referred to as manors, and they paid rents to the proprietor. In turn, smaller acreages were "sold" to individual planters. The "sale" was actually the right of leasehold, that is, they had the opportunity to pay rent to the manor "owner" who, in turn, of course, paid the rent to the proprietor. The proprietor retained ultimate "ownership" of the land - until it was forfeited as a result of the Revolution, of course.

A central policy called for awarding 50 acres of land to each person who paid to transport a colonist to America. A person in England could pay for themselves and earn the 50 acres. A person could pay the way of another and that person would "earn" the passage thorough a process called "indentured servant" - the person transported to America worked for the person paying their way for from four to seven (even nine) years (depending on the details of the contract and sometimes the age of the person) at which time they were given their freedom and certain material goods in order to be able to live on their own. A large number of colonists arrived in America under this process.

Tobacco took a lot of time and energy to grow. In fact, almost everyone might help with the tobacco crop, especially on a small plantation. Plantation owners who could afford help would bring indentured servants from England. An indentured servant was someone who worked for a plantation owner in Maryland in return for passage to the New World. The servant would have to work for about four years (this varied based on the individual contract provisions). During the specified time, he would get food, clothing, and a place to live, but he would have to do whatever his master asked of him. He could not marry or start a life of his own. After his indenture was finished, the servant received his freedom dues: one ax, two hoes, three barrels of corn, a new suit of clothes, and the rights to fifty acres of land (based on common contract provisions). Although this land was free, the new owner could not start a plantation without money. He would have to pay to have the land mapped out and registered with the government. Coming to Maryland as an indentured servant was often the best opportunity to own land for many people who could not in England.


1. When Maryland began… the Colonial History of St. Mary's County, written by Sandy Shoemaker, illustrations by Mary Lou Troutman, 2000,
2. Historic St. Mary's City, A Museum of Living History and Archaeology at the Site of Maryland's First Capital. Personal conversations with museum personnel.