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
(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.