Friday, July 10, 2009

St. Clements Island and Manor - Four Centuries of Uninterrupted History


Do you think you know a lot about history? How about the history of this place, Colton's Point and St. Clements Island just off shore?

375 years ago colonists from England first landed on the island and named it St. Clements Island while the point was called Longworth Point before becoming St. Clements Manor in 1636. It was settled before New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington, DC even existed. In fact all but New York City were part of the original Mary Land grant to the Calvert family.

One March day in 1634 two ships sailed up the Potomac, the Ark and the Dove, bringing between 256 and 300 English to settle the lands called Mary Land. They were determined to find freedom and opportunity here in the "New World". Their story is the beginning of the recorded history of St. Clements Manor and Island and a colorful history it came to be.

So what should you know about St. Clements Island and Manor?

It was the 1st colony in America, even the world, to guarantee freedom of religion.

It was the 1st colony in America to establish and maintain peace with Native Americans.

It was the 1st arrival of Roman Catholics in English speaking America.

The 1st Catholic Mass and Eucharist in the original colonies took place on St. Clements Island.

The 1st Jesuits in the original colonies arrived on the Ark and Dove.

St. Clements Manor had one of the earliest Catholic and multi-denominational chapels in the original colonies.

St. Clements Manor House was one of the oldest continually lived in homes in the original colonies.

St. Clements Manor is most likely the oldest continually occupied chartered settlement in the original thirteen colonies.

It was the 1st site in the New World where America was dedicated to the Holy Mother Mary.

The Mary Land settlement was one of the most successful of the original thirteen colonies.

Mathias de Sousa, who arrived on the Ark with Father White at St. Clements Island became the 1st Black man in America in 1642 to serve in a legislature.

Yes, St. Clements Island, the landing site for the colonists of Mary Land, is a very special place. You can go to the island and stand in the light house and look across the water and see the birthplace of our beloved first president George Washington.

Move your eyes a little down river and you see the birthplace of the most famous military leader in American history, Robert E. Lee. Did you know he was offered a chance to lead either the Union or Confederate armies in our Civil War? Lincoln offered him the job and even when Lee returned to his home and led the Confederate Army Lincoln never lost his respect for this greatest of all fighting men.

Consider this, since the landing 375 years ago when the colonists first constructed a fort on the Island it has been involved in every major war in our history.

Now humor me and close your eyes and imagine a time before cars, cell phones, television and computers. It is late in the 19th century and you can see and hear the big steamboats pulling up to the wharf on the island with passengers from Washington, DC and Baltimore coming to one of the most famous resorts on the east coast. Four hotels, a beer garden, fresh oysters, crab and clams awaited the holiday goers with dancing in the moonlight on the pavilions of the St. Clements Manor house.

Did you know St. Clement Island was named by Father Andrew White after St. Clement, patron saint of mariners, who became Pope just 59 years after Jesus died in the first century, the year was 92. He was friends with the apostles and traveled with Peter and Paul. St. Clement was martyred by being chained to an anchor and dropped into the Dead Sea.

The day the colonists were to sail for America was November 22, 1643. They left Cowes, Isle of Wight, England but only made it ten miles before encountering high winds and storms and pulled into a harbor to wait out the storm. Early the next morning the Ark was knocked loose from anchor by another ship and set out to sea followed closely by the Dove. It was early November 23, St. Clements day. It was only appropriate that Father White named the island St. Clements when they ended their voyage.

More to follow on the incredible history of St. Clements and the reason it is the most sacred site in the USA.

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