Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Histories Mysteries - The Landing at St. Clement's Island in 1634


In the past five years I have heard and seen many different versions of what happened when the colonists to Maryland arrived in 1634 and it is time that historical societies and historians finally get the record straight. With the arrival of Lord Baltimore's colonists in the new world and the unique grant that gave him unprecedented powers to colonize America including the power to establish religious freedom, it was one of the most significant colonies in our history.

First of all, in 1628 George Calvert, the 1st Lord Baltimore, traveled the Potomac River on a trip to Virginia to scout locations for his Mary Land settlement as soon as King Charles approved his grant. The grant was approved by the King shortly after George died in 1632 and his son, the 2nd Lord Baltimore was determined to complete his father's dream of a colony grounded in religious freedom.

The expedition left England in late 1633 and arrived at St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River just a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay about March 3-5, 1634. The approximately 315 passengers and crew used a barge or skiff they brought with them to move supplies to the island and immediately began building a fort. It was to serve as a fortress to prohibit foreigners from illegal trade on the river for it was the narrowest point for crossing the Potomac River.

On March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, a ceremony with all members of the expedition was held on the Island to read the official grant, celebrate the first Roman Catholic Mass in English speaking America, and conduct the first Eucharist ceremony in the colonies. A huge cross was made from downed trees and carried by the Catholics to the site of the Mass where it was erected. The Stations of the Cross were also part of the ceremony. Also the new colony was first dedicated to the Holy Mother Mary.

A couple of days later the Ark and Dove took many of the colonists to the future site of St. Mary's City. St. Clement's Island and the Manor that evolved under the guidance of the Gerard family remained a settlement and to this day remains the oldest continuously occupied chartered settlement in America.

By the end of March some of the colonists moved to the present site of St. Mary's City to establish permanent quarters while others remained at St. Clements and White Neck Creek. Soon additional settlements were at Inigoes downriver from St. Mary's City, and at a site along the Patuxent River. By 1637 another settlement was underway across St. Clements Bay in Newtown.

Also in 1637 the population of the Maryland colony was recorded as about 350 in Maryland with 90 in St. Mary's City, 60 in St. Clements Manor, and the balance throughout other Maryland plantations. The Manor grant to the Gerard family was promised before the expedition left England and was formally made in 1638 with the survey completed in 1639.

In terms of historical accuracy, the following should be used.

While the 1st Lord Baltimore died before the first expedition, he did visit Maryland in 1628 and traveled the Potomac River following the Captain John Smith explorations documented earlier by the Governor of Virginia.

The Ark and the Dove carried about 322 passengers and crew on the voyage including the loyalists who left from Gravesend, England and the Catholics who boarded at the Isle of Wight. Twelve people died crossing the ocean.

The expedition first landed at St. Clement's Island about March 5, 1634, not at St. Mary's City as often mentioned in speeches.

While Governor Leonard Calvert traveled the Potomac to meet with Indian leaders the remaining colonists built a fort on St. Clement's Island and on March 25 a ceremony on the Island, now celebrated as Maryland Day, was held.

During the ceremony the charter to the Calvert family was read and made Maryland the first colony in the world to guarantee religious freedom to all residents.

Around March 27, 1634 some of the colonists remained at St. Clements while others went to establish St. Mary's City.

While St. Clement's Manor was chartered in 1638 and the Manor House finished the same year St. Mary's City was not chartered until 1668 and ceased to exist in 1699. Both English settlements in Jamestown, VA and Plymouth, MA ceased to exist in the 1690's as well.

The St. Clement's Manor House under Lord Thomas Gerard was completed in 1638 on the mainland overlooking St. Clement's Island (currently Coltons Point).

If we just correct these errors in historical records we can begin the process of accurately documenting all the historical records of this most sacred and significant time in American history.

Other articles about the history of Maryland can be found at the following links.

Histories Mysteries - Next King of England (Prince William) Shares St. Clements Manor, Maryland bloodline

Histories Mysteries - The Voyage of the Ark and the Dove

St. Clements Pre-history Part 2

St. Clements Pre-history Part 1

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

Summer Comes To Coltons Point

Scenes from Coltons Point

The Miracle of St. Clements Island

The Pilgrim's Progress


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