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2. Background - The Settlement of Maryland

George Calvert was born in Yorkshire, England, about 1580, of a family of some wealth and social position. His parents were probably Catholic, since there were numerous recorded instances of summonses and fines against the family for non-conformity to the Anglican religion1. The Calverts appeared to abandon Catholicism around 1590, which enabled George Calvert to attend Trinity College, Oxford, and to rise to a position of prominence in the court of James I. He was knighted in 1617, and in 1619 he became principal Secretary of State.

In 1624 Calvert announced that he had become a Catholic, which disallowed him from continuing in public office. However, for his past services King James rewarded him with the title of Baron of Baltimore. Calvert, who had purchased land and financed the dispatch of a group of settlers to Newfoundland in 1620, now turned his full efforts and resources toward the colonization of America.

After receiving encouraging reports from the settlers, Lord Baltimore took his wife and forty more settlers to Newfoundland in 1628. There he saw the hopeless condition of the settlement and the difficulties of farming in such a cold climate, and after spending a brutal winter there he abandoned the project and returned to England in 1629. On the return trip he stopped in Virginia, which had sustained an English settlement since 1607, and where he had hoped to resettle his colony. Although their refusal to submit to Protestant conformity made his group unwelcome there, Calvert was able to explore the Chesapeake bay, where he found an abundance of promising unsettled land. Back in England he petitioned King Charles I for a land grant north of the Virginia settlements.

Permission for the Chesapeake bay settlement came two months after George Calvert's death in 1632, and leadership of the colonization effort passed to his son Cecilius Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore. The charter granted to Lord Baltimore gave him almost regal powers in the new colony, including the appointment of all officials, control of the courts, militia, feudal manors, trade, taxes and custom duties, and ownership of all the land, which was in turn used to attract colonists and investors. Lots of 100 acres were assigned to individual colonists paying their own way, and for those financing groups of colonists, manor lots of 1000 acres were given for each five men transported and equipped. Annual quitrents were paid to Lord Baltimore for the land. The land grant system continued until 1684, after which land was purchased directly.

Prior to the establishment of the colony, the conditions of colonization were closely laid out by Lord Baltimore, including instructions to the colonists on how to conduct their relations with the Indians and neighboring Virginians, on the planting of corn, the conduct of worship services, and other topics. The instructions were intended to keep peace in the colony, which differed from other American colonies in its insistence on religious tolerance. For example, Catholics were cautioned against making public displays of their religion or discussing religious topics with Protestants.

The first Maryland settlers left England in 1633 on two ships, the Ark and the Dove, led by Governor Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore. Passengers included both Catholic and Protestant settlers along with two Jesuit priests and two Brothers. With stops in Barbados and other Caribbean islands and at Point Comfort, Virginia, they sailed up the Chesapeake and landed at St. Clements Island, about 25 miles up the Potomac River. After negotiating with the local Indians, who were friendly, and exploring the area, they decided on the location of their first permanent settlement, St. Mary's City, on the St. George River. They celebrated mass to mark the formal possession of the colony on March 24, 1634. The area originally acquired from the Indians correlated roughly with the present St. Mary's County, Maryland.

Life for the early settlers was difficult and laborious. Most came as young indentured servants, bound in service for a number of years (typically five) in payment for transportation to the colony. Six days per week of 10 to 14 hours work were required. Corporal punishment was allowed, although mistreated servants were entitled to a hearing in court. At completion of the indenture, many of the servants worked on for wages or by sharecropping to acquire additional capital in the form of tools and supplies needed to farm the 50 acres to which they were entitled. By 1642 the taxable-age (12 and over) male population of St. Mary's County had reached 225, of which 173 were free and 53 indentured servants. Males outnumbered females by four to one. Most lived on manors or individual farms spread along the various navigable creeks and rivers emptying eventually into the Potomac. The majority lived in one-room houses, maintained vegetable gardens and livestock for food, and raised a cash crop providing yearly incomes of two to three hogsheads of tobacco, valued at 8 to 15 pounds sterling. A typical estate inventory in 1668 for John Miles1 listed his valuable property as 3 cows with 2 calves, 3 horses, 4 hogs, 1 iron pot, 1 pewter dish, 1 feather bed with furnishings, 4 shillings and 6 pence ready money, and a crop estimated at 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Similar inventories for other farmers typically included an extra shirt or two, a pair of breeches, and a few tools including a hoe and axe. In the early years farm animals were acquired from Virginia, but the Maryland settlers soon became self-sufficient in that regard. With few fences, livestock roamed free, and were identified by clipped ear marks. Livestock theft was a serious offense, possibly punishable by death.

As the settlements spread they were divided into regions called "hundreds", originally intended to incorporate about a hundred families. In the early years the colonists were concentrated mainly in St. George's, St. Michael's, St. Clement's and Mattapanient hundreds. St. Mary's City, the site of the provincial government, consisted of about 10 residences, a mill, a forge, and a Catholic chapel. Government and court functions were carried out in the Governor's or Secretary's residences until the 1660's, when the first state house was built.

By 1645 King Charles I, who supported the Maryland Charter, had effectively lost all political power to the Puritan Parliament. Using a recent act of Parliament as a pretext, a merchant sea captain, Richard Ingle, who had previously been arrested in Maryland for treasonous statements against the king, organized an attack on the Maryland colony and subjected it to a two-year occupation referred to by the colonists as the "plundering time". The property of "papists and malignants" was seized and many colonists, including Governor Calvert and several Jesuit priests, fled to Virginia1. The Catholic chapel was destroyed and the two leading Jesuits were arrested and transported to England for trial. The houses of many Catholics who refused to take the required oath against Lord Baltimore and the king were looted and vandalized. This situation continued until late 1646, when Governor Calvert raised a force of Virginians and exiled Marylanders and recaptured the colony. A general pardon was extended to all Marylanders who would take the oath of fidelity to Lord Baltimore.

More problems arose in 1649 after Oliver Cromwell came to power in England. Maryland acknowledged the new government, but Virginia remained loyal to the new king Charles II, who inherited the throne after Charles I was beheaded in January, 1649. This placed the Puritans in Virginia in a dangerous situation, and the Governor of Maryland invited them to take refuge there, guaranteeing their rights and freedom of religion. In 1650 about 300 Puritans settled near the present Annapolis. Instead of showing gratitude for their salvation by the Marylanders, within four years the Puritans, claiming the support of Parliament, had seized the government of Maryland and reintroduced religious and political persecution to the colony. Catholics were denied protection by the Laws of England and were disenfranchised from the political process. An attempt by Governor Stone in 1655 to retake the colony with 130 men led to a battle in which the Puritans were victorious. Following this the Jesuit missionaries were again expelled to Virginia and their homes plundered, and many of those remaining loyal to Lord Baltimore suffered reprisals.

In the meantime Lord Baltimore appealed directly to Oliver Cromwell, whose government decided infavor of Lord Baltimore, and his proprietary rights were restored. An amnesty was proclaimed for the Puritans, and those who refused to take the oath of fidelity to Lord Baltimore were allowed to leave the colony. Freedom of religion was reinstated and remained in effect for another 28 years.

Resentment of the dictatorial powers of the Lords Baltimore and attempts to transfer power to the legislative body had been evident since the first years of the Maryland colony. These took a serious turn when the Protestant William of Orange and Queen Mary ascended to the throne of England in 1688. Using allegiance to the new monarchs and complaints about Catholic dominance in the Maryland government and political appointments as a pretext, Protestant leaders John Coode, Kenelm Cheseldyne, and Nehemiah Blackston organized a revolt and gathered an army from St. Mary's and surrounding counties to take over the government at St. Mary's City. They formed a new government comprised of Protestants only and removed Catholics from all official positions in the colony. Their government was supported from England, and a new governor reporting directly to the crown was sent to Maryland in 1692. The rule of Lord Baltimore was thus ended along with the policy of religious freedom.

As a result of this revolt Catholics were again disenfranchised, and in fact were even forbidden from entering St.Mary's city when the Assembly was in session. The Anglican Church was declared the official church of the colony, and all inhabitants were required to pay taxes to support the church. Payment of this tax was widely resisted by Catholics, Quakers, and other dissenters. More repressive legislation was passed in 1704, closing all Catholic churches and schools. The Jesuits continued to serve the area, but mass could only be said in private homes. The disenfranchisement of Catholics and other groups was more permanent this time, lasting until the upheavals of the Revolutionary War eighty years later. Another result of the overthrow of Lord Baltimore was the removal of the capitol in 1695 from St. Mary's City to the more centrally located and more Protestant Anne Arundel Town, now the city of Annapolis. With the centers of power removed, St. Mary's County continued on as a basically agrarian community, which it remains today.

In spite of the policy of religious intolerance adopted by the Protestant government, Catholic missionary activity in the area continued. In 1731 a new chapel was built at Newtown to replace the original one built in 1661. The new chapel, St. Francis Xavier, was built with no external adornment indicating its religious intent. As religious intolerance waned in the years approaching the Revolutionary war, a vestibule and choir loft were added to the chapel in 1767. The chapel still stands and serves as a parish church to this day.

  100but.jpg (576 bytes)Click to see a map of the Hundreds of St. Mary's County, around 1800.

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