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EARLY MARYLAND - ST. MARIES COUNTY

Leonard Calvert

The Dove

St. Francis Xavier RCC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning in 1571 a series of progressively harsher laws were introduced in England against the Catholics.  Many Catholics persisted in their faith despite the laws.  They believed that ultimately Catholicism would be restored in England -- but in the meantime American might provide a safe refuge.  Among those interested in such a plan was George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.  Lord Baltimore persisted and finally obtained a propriety charter from the Charles I.  Strongly feudal  in nature the charter made Baltimore and his heir the absolute Lords and Proprietors.

In November 1633 Lord Leonard Calvert (pictured on left), set sail from Portsmouth in the Ark & the "Dove" reaching the Chesapeake by way of the West Indies in March of 1634. For passenger lists see below. 

The first settlement began at St. Mary's City where a fort was built, followed by a storehouse and a chapel.  You can visit the restoration efforts that are taking place at St. Mary's City on the world wide web. (see below)  By the 1640's St. Maries County contained three main population clusters: St. Mary's, St. Clements and St. George's all organized as "hundreds" on the English model.  These in turn contained sixteen manors. 

Life in early St. Maries County was fraught with peril.  At various times there were conflicts with the neighboring Protestants.  During at least one period when the Protestants were in control the practice of the Catholic religion was punished.  St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, built in 1731, (seen here on left) was built during this period.  It was built to resemble a tobacco barn so that the authorities would be none the wiser.  Only later when religious tolerance became the norm was a brick front added to make room for a vestibule and choir loft.  Later a brick sacristy and small belfry announced that it was a church!  Some early Johnson ancestors attended St. Francis Xavier Church.

 Many who came to early Maryland came as indentured servants and life for them was no paradise.  They worked long hours in the fields.  In many cases it took up to 12 years to becomes "freeholders."  The diet was rarely sufficient and clothing and housing were often inadequate.  Medical care was negligible.  Even if they survived they had to pay surveyor's fees and register their land and buy the essential items to get their farms started.  Among these early farmers were our ancestors.  

St. Mary's City:

Ark & Dove list: