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
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
Click to see a map of the Hundreds of St. Mary's County, around 1800.