Sunday, June 28, 2015

St. Clement's Island Prehistory - Part 2 - American Colonial History


Why did two ships of colonists risk a dangerous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1633 to flee England for America and why did they bring their hopes for religious freedom to St. Clement's Island Maryland? To understand the history of St. Clements one needs to understand there is another part of the story, the history of events in the 16th Century which a few years later would cause the colonists to leave England for America.

Let's call it the European pre-history of St. Clements and quite frankly you might be a bit surprised by what you learn. This prehistory includes a series of international events involving the most powerful monarchies, legendary family dynasties, and mighty empires in Europe beginning with the infamous King Henry VIII of England.

St. Clements Island was the site of the first declaration of religious freedom to be guaranteed anywhere in the world, a freedom that in time would become embedded in our US Constitution. A little over 100 years earlier Henry VIII set in motion the series of events that would result in this charter.

Events in Europe during the 16th century led to the fall from favor of the Catholics and Puritans in England and the subsequent journey to settle the colony of Mary Land in 1634 where religious freedom would be guaranteed. Monarchies in England, Scotland, France, Spain and Italy and the Vatican in Rome were all to play a role in this decision to settle in the new world.

A web of intrigue led to a mosaic of treachery, murder, assassination, torture, arranged marriages and more in the alliances and enemies that came and went beginning with the reign of Henry VIII in England who was born in 1491, the year before Columbus discovered America, and was King from 1509 to 1547. Here are more of the people who made the landing at St. Clements possible.

Captain John Smith - 1st Governor of Jamestown

A leader of the first English attempt to colonize the new world at Jamestown, Captain John Smith was such a colorful character that when the boats arrived in America the officials in charge of the settlement wanted to prosecute Smith for mutiny because of his actions on the way to America. But when they opened the official charter for Jamestown the sponsors had designated that Smith would be one of the leaders and the first governor.

Smith was best known for being saved by the Indian Princess Pocahontas when her father the Chief was going to put him to death. A couple of years later Pocahontas again saved Smith from being killed in an ambush. But contrary to efforts by Walt Disney to change history, Pocahontas and Smith had no romantic involvement.

In 1609 Smith was injured during the Indian wars and returned to England for treatment. He never made it back to Jamestown but did explore New England in 1614 and 1615. During the latter expedition he was captured by French pirates but escaped several weeks later and made his way to England. It was the last time he was in the New World though his books on America inspired many English to become part of the colonization of America.

Pocahontas - Indian Princess

I mentioned that Pocahontas twice saved John Smith who later advised Calvert to secure the Mary Land territory. Though she had no romantic involvement with Smith like the Disney movie, she did marry an English settler who lost his wife soon after he arrived. John Rolfe fell in love with Pocahontas when she was being held captive by settlers afraid of an Indian uprising. They married and he took her to England to meet King James, with the help of John Smith.

As they were preparing to leave England and return home she came down with a disease and died at the age of 22. When he returned to America Rolfe went on to develop the tobacco crop that was more valuable than gold in trade with Europe. Because Mary Land was much better suited for raising tobacco it became the primary source of the valuable commodity for Europe.

Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore

If a father has to trust a son to finish his work there could be no better son than Cecil who spent the rest of his life after his father's death making sure the colony of Mary Land lived up to the dreams of his father. Just five weeks after his father died the long awaited charter came through but not until it had survived challenges from the Virginia colonists and from the Protestants in Parliament.

Since his father had already planned the mission and his two boats from the Newfoundland adventure were available, the Ark and the Dove, Cecil, the new Lord Baltimore set about finishing the work. Father White and others had been hard at work securing the gentlemen whose investment was crucial to make the journey. A total of 17 eventually invested in the effort and over 300 people sailed on the ships.

Well aware of the efforts in Parliament to strip the Calverts from their land in America because they claimed the right of religious freedom, Cecil decided to remain in England and defend against their enemies and it was a good thing he did. He sent two younger brothers, Leonard and George with the boats along with Father White while the passengers were about evenly split between the Catholics and Protestants.

The landing in March of 1634 was the culmination of his father's dream while the establishment of Mary Land as a palatinate gave Lord Baltimore and his descendants rights nearly equal to an independent state including the right to wage war, collect taxes and establish a colonial nobility. Such rights had never been granted before.

Sir George and Cecil Calvert were extraordinary visionaries dedicated to provide a safe haven where all religions could be practiced. The Calvert's ability to overcome the opposition from the Church of England and parliament and maintain the cooperation of the Protestant King while developing a colony with religious freedom was a major step toward the guarantee of religious freedom in the US Constitution some 153 years later.

Leonard Calvert - 1st Governor of Mary Land

Brother of Cecil Calvert, Leonard had accompanied his father Sir George on a voyage to Newfoundland so he was experienced in the demands of colonization and the need for food, safety and cooperation with the Native Americans. When Cecil had the expedition to Mary Land organized, with the help of Father Andrew White, it was his brother Leonard that Cecil chose to be the first governor of the new colony.

Upon arriving in Mary Land at St. Clements Island Leonard read the charter that had been prepared by Sir George Calvert and Father White guaranteeing religious freedom in Mary Land. Somehow his father and brother had negotiated a grant with the king that gave the colony nearly the same status as an independent state thus the Charter they drafted was the first one to guarantee religious freedom anywhere in the world. It was to be a major influence for freedom of religion in our Constitution.

Leonard had a fort built on St. Clements Island and went to meet the Emperor of the Algonquin tribes in Mary Land to assure them the settlers came in peace and to get their approval to develop a colony in Mary Land. No other European settlements did this and it is why the others were plagued with hostilities from the Native Americans while Mary Land was the only place where peace existed from the first day. About a month later he moved the colonists to the site of St. Mary's City.

The planning and management of the colony by the Calverts was exceptional as the first summer they were already shipping corn and fish to New England settlements. The history of colonial America does not do justice to the role played in settling the colonies by the Calverts or Father White nor to the model of Mary Land as the most successful colony in America. From 1634 to 1776 there were 37 governors in Maryland, of which 23 were appointed by Lord Baltimore, the Calvert family. Calvert family members served 8 of the 23 terms.

Father Andrew White - 1st Jesuit In English Speaking Colonies

Born in London, White entered a Spanish seminary, studied in Douai, France, and was ordained a priest in 1605. He risked a cruel death during a period of renewed Catholic persecution by becoming a missionary to Protestant England. In 1606, he was captured and banished from England following the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt by radical Catholics to kill the new King of England, James I and the entire English parliament. It was discovered just before the explosion was to take place.

The conspirators were put to death and many other priests were banished from England because of their Catholic sympathies. Father While was sent to Europe and joined the Society of Jesus the next year. Beginning in 1628 he began helping Sir George Calvert and later Cecil Calvert plan for the colonization of America.

He is principally known to American history for his writings and labors in connection with colonizing Maryland which earned him the title of "Apostle of Maryland". Sir George Calvert, first Lord of Baltimore, corresponded with him from Avalon in Newfoundland; Father Vitelleschi, General of the Jesuits, makes mention of him for the first time regarding a mission to English America in a letter dated Rome, 3 March, 1629.

In preparation for the founding of the Maryland Colony he composed the "Declaratio Coloniae Domini Baronis de Baltimore", to attract settlers and co-operators in the enterprise. The expedition set sail on 22 Nov., 1633, from Cowes, Isle of Wight. He is the author of the "Relatio itineris", which constitutes the classical authority in regard to colonizing early Maryland. His writings are the best surviving testimony to the colonization of America while his translations of various documents into the Native American language were the first in the new world.

The Ark and the Dove landed in early March and after several weeks were spent building the fort and meeting with Indian leaders on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, 1634, the "Pilgrims" of Maryland held a formal ceremony on St. Clement's Island, where Mass was celebrated for the first time in English speaking America. "Maryland Day" on March 25 has been declared in remembrance of the amazing achievements of the St. Clements colonists.

When they arrived Father White was given a cabin by the Indians on a creek just north of St. Clements where he could meet with them and teach them about the Catholic religion. It was the 1st Catholic chapel in English speaking America and hundreds and maybe thousands of Native Americans were converted by Father White and the Jesuits. For ten years Father White devoted himself with apostolic humility, patience, and zeal to missionary labours amongst the settlers and the Native Americans.

The "Annual Letters" narrate his successful labors amongst the tribes of the Patuxent and Potomac; he carried the Gospel to the Anacostans in the neighborhood of our current nation's capital; he converted and baptized with solemn ceremonies on 5 July, 1640, with Governor Calvert and other civil dignitaries being present, Chitomachon, the Tayac or "Emperor of Piscataway". He composed a grammar, dictionary, and catechism in the native idiom, being the first Englishman to reduce an Indian language to grammatical form.

The Puritan party in England began to openly challenge the efforts by Queen Henrietta to rally the Catholics to help King Charles and the growing tension was felt with disastrous effects on Catholic interests in Maryland where a band of protestant marauders from Virginia plundered the Jesuit establishments in Mary Land. Three Jesuit priests in the Inigoes settlement were chased across the river to Virginia then hunted down and murdered becoming the first martyrs in Colonial America.

The invaders seized Father White with two companions and sent him in irons to London in 1645. After two years in prison he was finally tried on the charge of treason of being a Catholic priest in England which violated English law. Conviction would result in being put to death.

White was acquitted on the manifest pleas that he had entered the country (England) under force and much against his will but he still had been held at Newgate prison until January of 1648 before he was released and then never allowed to return to America again. Newgate was a 700 year old prison in London notorious for inhumane conditions, disease, torture and being a holding prison for those sentenced to death. Though he longed to return to his dear Marilandians" his earnest petitions would not be granted and he died in England in 1656.

During the journey to America twice the ships were caught in devastating storms and no one thought they would survive. Father White used a sacred relic, a piece of the True Cross of Jesus he brought with him to pray for help and credited it with saving the ships from the hurricanes. Again he used the piece of the True Cross to heal the son of the Native American Emperor who seemed to be dying. As a result the Emperor and his family converted to Catholicism.

His work to establish the Jesuits in America resulted in Father White being declared the founder of the Jesuits in America and forefather of Georgetown University, the most famous Jesuit university. Other firsts included erecting the first Catholic Cross on St. Clements Island, holding the first Roman Catholic Mass in English speaking colonies and establishing the first Catholic chapels and churches in the original colonies. Like the Calverts, Father White is largely ignored in history books and his contributions to religious freedom as well as the contributions of many others pointed out deserve a much more prominent place in American colonial history.

Dr. Thomas Gerard - Owner of St. Clements Manor

Gerard was from a prominent family in England whose direct descendants were Prince Charles and Lady Diana of the royal family. He was a Catholic and came from a noble lineage of Catholics who were activists against the Protestant royalty in England. Thomas Gerard's uncle, Rev. John Gerard, S. J., was convicted of conspiracy in the infamous Gunpowder Plot in 1605, and was tortured in the Tower of London.

Dr. Thomas Gerard's father, Sir Thomas Gerard, Lord Baron of Byrne, was one of the Catholic gentry who financed Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, for the initial colonization of Maryland in 1634. On that expedition of the ships the Ark and the Dove were Richard Gerard, Knight-Baronet who was brother of Dr. Thomas Gerard, and a sister, Ann Gerard Cox.

Sir Thomas Gerard was held in such high esteem in England that he was given a grant for any land he so desired in Mary Land before the expedition ever set sail and it was granted by Cecil Calvert and King Charles I, a rare action by a King. Dr. Thomas Gerard was named Lord of St. Clements Manor in 1634. It was the most powerful and one of the largest Manors in the colonies growing to nearly 20,000 acres.

Interestingly, Dr. Thomas Gerard from a noble Catholic lineage married a Protestant, Susannah Snowe and raised their eight children as Protestants. When the Manor House and accompanying chapel were built Dr. Gerard moved the rest of his family to America in 1638 where the Manor House at Coltons Point became one of the oldest homes continually lived in at the same location in America. The house was burnt down by the Puritans in 1645 and rebuilt. It was burnt down by British troops in 1814 and rebuilt. Finally it was severely damaged in a hurricane in 1933.

There you have it, some of the colorful characters from history who played a role in European developments that would eventually bring about the landing of the colonists here, at St. Clements Island, 375 years ago.

Those who know the story recognize that St. Clements Island and Manor rank among the most sacred and significant historic sites in America. They understand that the Calvert family and Father Andrew White have not been rightfully recognized as they were among the most successful visionaries to colonize America. The Mary Land colony was the most successful in the New World while the St. Clements Manor (now called Coltons Point) is the oldest continually lived in location in the original colonies.

St. Clement's Island Prehistory - Part 1. - American Colonial History


Why did two ships of colonists risk a dangerous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1633 to flee England for America and why did they bring their hopes for religious freedom to St. Clement's Island Maryland? To understand the history of St. Clements one needs to understand there is another part of the story, the history of events in the 16th Century which a few years later would cause the colonists to leave England for America.

Let's call it the European prehistory of St. Clements and quite frankly you might be a bit surprised by what you learn. This prehistory includes a series of international events involving the most powerful monarchies, legendary family dynasties, and mighty empires in Europe beginning with the infamous King Henry VIII of England.

St. Clements Island was the sight of the first declaration of religious freedom to be guaranteed anywhere in the world, a freedom that in time would become embedded in our US Constitution. A little over 100 years earlier Henry VIII set in motion the series of events that would result in this charter.

Events in Europe during the 16th century led to the fall from favor of the Catholics and Puritans in England and the subsequent journey to settle the colony of Mary Land in 1634 where religious freedom would be guaranteed. Monarchies in England, Scotland, France, Spain and Italy and the Vatican in Rome were all to play a role in this decision to settle in the new world.

A web of intrigue led to a mosaic of treachery, murder, assassination, torture, arranged marriages and more in the alliances and enemies that came and went beginning with the reign of Henry VIII in England who was born in 1491, the year before Columbus discovered America, and was King from 1509 to 1547. Let me see if I can't make some sense of the historic actions that led to the landing at St. Clements.

Henry VIII - King of England (r. 1509 - 1547)

First let's talk about the reign of Henry VIII. He was famous for having six wives, two were executed.  Early in his career he was given the title Defender of the Faith by the Pope for defending the Catholic Church against Martin Luther. Later he was to turn his nation against the very church he defended. When Henry's first wife was unable to give him a male heir he requested an annulment from the Pope.

He needed the annulment so he could marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope refused and Henry was enraged and threw the Catholic Church out of England, creating a Church of England with the King as Divine Leader. When his second wife Anne failed to give him a male heir she was beheaded. His first three wives each gave him one heir, but only the third wife gave him a male. All three children served as King or Queen of England in the span of just one decade, although the last, Elizabeth, continued serving for 45 glorious years.

Henry's battle with the Vatican became the Reformation Movement against the church and by his death England was a thoroughly Protestant and Reformed nation. During his rein more than 72,000 people were put to death.

Charles V - Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1515- -1556)

Charles was King of Spain and heir to four of Europe's leading dynasties, making him Holy Roman Emperor. His empire included Central, Western and Southern Europe and the Spanish colonies in America. Henry's 1st wife, Catherine of Aragon was Charles' Aunt. Charles grandmother was Queen Isabella I who sent Columbus to discover America.

It was Charles who sent the conquistadors to America and they wiped out the Aztec and Inca Empires, sending tons of gold back to Spain and helping Spain become the most powerful nation in the world. The Spanish Armada was considered invincible on the seven seas.

When his Aunt Catherine asked him to help stop Henry VIII from annulling her wedding Charles sent his army to Italy and took the Pope hostage and preventing him from approving Henry's annulment. This act triggered the Reformation against the Catholic Church and the loss of power by the Catholics in England.

Pope Clement VII (r. 1523 - 1534)

This pope was a member of the powerful Florentine "Medici" family, a dynasty that produced three popes. The Medici family was also responsible for the Italian Renaissance in art and architecture. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Galileo were among the most famous family patrons.

Still the Pope was no match for the power of King Charles and when he was unable to grant Henry the annulment it enraged Henry VIII who undertook a campaign against the Catholic Church to drive them from power in England and to confiscate all churches, shrines and monasteries throughout England and the UK and give them to the new Church of England under the King.

Catherine of Aragon - Henry's 1st Wife

As noted, Catherine was aunt to King Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. She refused to agree to an annulment with Henry which caused the English split from Catholic influence. Her daughter, Mary I became Queen of England.

Anne Boleyn - Henry's 2nd Wife

It was Boleyn who demanded of Henry an annulment from his 1st wife in order to marry him. Her daughter, Elizabeth I became Queen but her only son and heir to the throne was stillborn. Henry had her beheaded for treason against the King.

Mary Queen of Scots

The daughter of King James V of Scotland (nephew to Henry VIII of England) and Marie of Guise from France, her father died when she was six days old. Henry VIII immediately sought to arrange a marriage between the infant Mary and his son Edward, Henry's only male heir by his 3rd wife Jane Seymour and future King of England, but the Queen Mother Marie of Scotland stopped him, earning her the wrath of King Henry.

At nine months Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland but was kept in hiding by her mother. At age six her mother had arranged for a marriage in France to Dauphin Francois, heir to the French throne, and Mary went to live with her future father-in-law, Henri II in France. When she was 16 in 1558 she married Francois who became King Francis II of France when his father died the next year.

One year later, in 1560, her young husband the King died. Her mother-in-law, Catherine Medici of the Italian family became Regent and another son, the King's brother Charles IX, inherited the throne leaving Mary an 18 year old widow and former Queen of France. Mary returned to Scotland.

After her return Mary, who was a devote Catholic, defied Elizabeth and married Lord Darnley, her 1st cousin, who was then murdered. Her next marriage was to the alleged murderer of Lord Darnley. During this time Mary tried on many occasions to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and claim the throne. Elizabeth refused to have her cousin put to death but eventually her advisors did have Mary executed for treason.

Ironically, direct descendants of Mary were Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France who were also put to death for treason during the French Revolution.

Elizabeth I - Queen of the Golden Age (r. 1558 - 1603)

Three children of Henry VIII ruled England beginning with Edward VI (1547-1553), Mary I (1553-1558) and Elizabeth (1558-1603). Because none had heirs Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudor dynasty which became extinct upon her death in 1603. The crown of England then passed to Henry VIII's Paternal Great-grandson, James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots, and he became James I of England.

After her predecessor Mary I had restored power to the Catholics and began a campaign to burn the Protestants at the stake Elizabeth then restored power to the Church of England. Her difficulties with her cousin Mary in Scotland led to the Pope excommunicating Elizabeth from the Catholic church. When Mary was put to death the King of Spain, still the most powerful empire in the world, attacked England with the dreaded Spanish Armada of over 100 ships.

Elizabeth sent her small navy to meet the armada while she rallied the British troops on the shore and somehow Elizabeth won the battle ending forever the Spanish dominance of the world. William Shakespeare rose to fame during the Golden Age of Elizabeth's reign and she was one of the most beloved Queens of England.

Her closest advisor who helped save her before she became Queen and served throughout her reign was Sir William Cecil. William groomed his son Robert Cecil to take over for him when he died and Robert stepped in to serve the Queen, coordinate arrangements at her death, the end of the Tudor dynasty, and manage the transition to James I as the first Stuart king.

Robert Cecil - Advisor to Kings and Queens

Robert succeeded his father William in Queen Elizabeth's court and after her death he arranged for the transfer of the throne to King James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots, and thus united England and Scotland under the new Stuart King. It was Robert who encouraged his friend George Calvert to work for King James I. With Cecil's influence Calvert became involved in politics rising in the King's court to the position of Secretary of State, one of the top advisors to the King.

James I - King of England and Scotland (1603 - 1625)

James I was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Paternal Grand Son of Henry VIII and was the first Stuart king after the end of the Tudor dynasty, the first King of England and Scotland. Because his mother spent so many years in prison while trying to overthrow Elizabeth before being put to death, James had not seen her since he was 14 months old.

Quite odd by English standards, James managed to alienate both the Protestants and Catholics by persecuting Catholics and writing about the Divine Right of Kings along with a book on witchcraft. James had been raised a Calvinist in Scotland.

It was James who made George Calvert his Secretary of State and gave him the title Lord Baltimore for helping settle unrest in Ireland. James also was unable to adjust to the English parliament and his feuds laid the seeds for the Protestant overthrow of the next monarch, his son Charles I. Finally, it was James who granted Calvert rights to the Avalon settlement in Newfoundland and rights to all of Newfoundland after a colony was established.

Charles I - King of England and Scotland (1625 - 1649)

Charles was the first monarch to get a special dispensation from the Pope so he could marry Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henry IV of France and his Italian wife Marie de Medici of the Medici family dynasty. Henrietta was the first Catholic princess to marry a Protestant prince in Europe. It was a tenuous position for Charles to be head of the Church of England when his wife was Catholic, daughter of the French King and a member of the Italian Medici family.

His authoritarian Protestantism surprised both Protestants and Catholics alike as he rigidly enforced his right to raise his children outside the Catholic faith and was aggressively responding to challenges against the Church of England, thus causing both Puritans and Catholics to seek colonies in the new world.

English colonies already existed in Jamestown (1607), Plymouth (1620) and Avalon in Newfoundland (1621) before he became King while Mary Land (1634) would be settled during his reign but Charles had very little interest in the new world. However, he did demonstrate his loyalty to his father's advisors by continuing the grants to the Calvert family for Newfoundland, and when that was not successful he allowed Calvert to try again in Mary Land. In time his feud with Parliament would result in Oliver Cromwell leading a revolt that captured London taking Charles prisoner and he was beheaded in 1649.

Henrietta Marie, Queen of England

As noted, the complexity of Henrietta's position required a special dispensation from the Pope and seemed to calm friction between England and France. However, her devotion to being Catholic was unsettling to the English and a source of conflict with the Church of England. The Mary Land colony was named after her and she encouraged Charles to incorporate religious toleration in the new colony to assure those being persecuted in England would be free in America.

She even is reported to have given a piece of the True Cross of Jesus to the colonists to protect them on their trip, a relic still in Southern Maryland and brought to the Blessing of the Fleet. Her Medici family in Italy was responsible for saving and protecting many of the ancient relics, manuscripts and art work of the early period of Christianity.

When King Charles abolished Parliament it was Queen Henrietta that raised money and troops for the King from the Catholics of England and Europe, an action that alarmed the king's court over the growing influence of Catholics in the English monarchy. The Queen was safely moved to France during the revolt and beheading of Charles and she spent the rest of her life working out of a convent helping to protect the rights of Catholics and trying to influence her sons who became king.

Sir George Calvert - 1st Baron of Baltimore

This friend of Robert Cecil and loyalist to Queen Elizabeth and King James I worked his way up through the court to become Secretary of State under James. With his family long devoted to protecting religious freedom in England Sir George had a deep belief that the colonies offered the best opportunity to establish a haven for religious toleration where it was free of the Church of England and the religious battles raging throughout Europe. Shortly before King James died Calvert resigned from the court to settle the colonies and declared he was a Catholic, a surprise to all those who worked with him over the years.

Sir George had been an investor in the East India Tea Company approved by Elizabeth 1600 and in the Jamestown venture of 1607 so when James granted him a colony in Newfoundland named after the legendary Avalon of King Arthur days Sir George devoted his life and resources to making it successful. The ancient Avalon was the community where the new Christianity was first incorporated into the Druid and Celtic ways in the 4th century.

Calvert purchased two boats, the Ark and the Dove and in 1621 sent the first settlers to the new world. He hired a famous English pirate John Nutt to defend the new colony from the French raiders. Some time earlier he had saved Nutt from being put to death for piracy.

Calvert personally made two trips on his ships the Ark and the Dove to Newfoundland but by 1628 realized the climate was too harsh. He returned to England and consulted with Cecil and others before requesting from King Charles I a charter for the area north of the Potomac River extending to the 40th parallel, just above the future location of Philadelphia. During plans he consulted with Captain John Smith, the first Governor of Jamestown, who had explored the territory north of Jamestown after establishing the Virginia colony.

Calvert also recruited a Jesuit Priest, Father Andrew White, in 1628 to help organize the new settlement even though Father White had been banished from England for conducting Catholic services. Father White secretly helped Calvert draft many of the charter documents he wanted including the guarantee of religious freedom, the first colony in the world to offer such freedom.

After successful negotiations with the King aided by the support of the Queen Henrietta Marie, Sir George Calvert died just five weeks before the grant was approved. It would be up to his son Cecilius, named after Robert Cecil, to fulfill the dream of his father.

(Part 2. to follow)

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?

381 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.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

George Washington and Coltons Point - George and his Great Great Grandfather Slept here!!!



Happy 283rd Birthday President Washington

I was sitting here on my front porch last February 22 in Coltons PointMaryland looking out on the vast Potomac River flowing past on it's way to the Chesapeake Bay.  Imagine that right here 381 years ago a couple of ships full of English pilgrims arrived to settle the area.

It is late February and the temperature is 60 degrees.

Within eyesight across the river in Virginia you can see the birthplace of our most beloved President and Father of the Country, George Washington.  He was born there 283 years ago today.

Perhaps our most least understood president, against all odds he led the nation into declaring freedom in 1776 and fighting the powerful English during the Revolution.  Then this advocate of freedom and commander in chief of our military promptly retired.  He fought for the creation of a republic, not a parliament and a king like many wanted.

So he quit the military.  Then the people drafted him to be president and he presided over the birth of the strongest democracy in history.  After serving two terms, he again retired. There was no term limit and with his popularity George could have been president until his death but that wasn't the republic he sought.

One final act by the mysterious Founding Father was in his will of 1799 when he died.  It freed all the slaves on his plantation.  This was 64 years before our next most beloved President Abraham Lincoln enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all slaves.

Long before George was born two of the daughters of Dr. Thomas Gerrard, the patriarch of St. Clements Manor (located in what is now Coltons Point), the original territory given by King Charles I to Lord Baltimore, were married to George Washington's great grandfather, John Washington, who lived just across the river.

In the old days if a married woman died and she had an unmarried sister, the sister married the widower.  Thus when George's great grandpa's first wife, Anne Pope died, he married Anne Gerrard. The second Anne also died before him so he married her unmarried sister Frances Gerrard.

Because George grew up across the river and the Washington and Gerrard families were on both sides of the river it is only logical to say George Washington Slept Here and mean it.

Happy birthday Mr.President.

Histories Mysteries - St. Clements Island -.Coltons Point - and the mysterious 7th District in Maryland


For those of you not familiar with the 7th District in Southern Maryland I thought I would offer a little primer in the highly unlikely event you ever fall off the edge of the world and find yourself in the 7th District. First of all it is one of the oldest landing points for the colonization of the original thirteen colonies way back in the early 1600's.

St. Clements Island, the actual place where the English pilgrims landed, is just off Coltons Point where the pilgrims first saw the Indians and set foot in Maryland. These are the last two places on the map in the 7th District at the Potomac River.

Now I am not a pilgrim nor related to pilgrims but an awful lot of people here are and it seems that the older the family the more likely they inter-married with other families that have been around about 381 years, since 1634 and this is the anniversary year. That means when you meet a Dorsey, Bailey, Combs, McKay, and all the other names you see on signs down here you might just be meeting the relatives of all the prominent and aristocratic families.

The 7th District folks came here for religious and other freedom and for the last 381 years have been fighting anyone who tried to tame them. Long before the existence of New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC these folks had established rights to the 7th District. The early settlers were a combination of watermen, farmers, and tobacco farmers and starting in 1639 other people started trying to take this place away from them.

The local Native Americans never tried, I suspect they knew better, and this was about the only place in America where the settlers and Native Americans lived in harmony which tells you a lot about the people who settled as they respected the rights of the Natives.

Since it was the only place in the New World that promised religious freedom a lot of other people wanted to stop them. The Puritans and a few other groups seemed to think they had the only connection to God.

So the locals fought off the other white men for about a hundred years before they joined the fight against the Brits as the concept of freedom just kept spreading. In a couple of wars the British actually attacked this area which goes to show military intelligence hasn't much changed after all these years. The 7th District eventually became the last frontier in Maryland which it remains to this day.

Along the way the Civil War was fought and being we were well south of the Mason Dixon line but still in Union controlled territory, the 7th District became one of the primary smuggling points for getting supplies and arms to the Confederates since the Union had blockaded all the southern ports. One Union officer said at night the Potomac River was filled with black painted boats sailing supplies across the river to the Confederates in Virginia.

Upcoming scandals we will be reporting on include the English and French support for the Confederate army that was channeled through this area and the fact the English backed John Wilkes Booth and was to pick him up here after the killing of President Lincoln. Of course there is also the disappearance of Booth for almost a week during the manhunt in the area of the 7th District.

A lot of strange things seem to be seen down here on a regular basis, of course once upon a time there was a moonshine still every mile which might explain seeing strange things, like airplanes that are silver balls, strange sky circles, and the like.  People don't report much to local authorities because there are no authorities.  Some think up to 40% of the population are on witness protection which might explain why you see no one.

On the good side, the dead are as hard to find as the living since there are no schools, churches, and cemeteries.  That means no funeral homes.  It also means no hospitals, hospices, clinics, doctors, or dentists.  Why a traffic jam down here is two cars at a stop sign.

By the way, the entire original town of Coltons Point is named Coltons Point because the previous owner lost it in a Pocker game about a hundred years ago. Seems too many shots of moonshine were put away that night.

Fact is, there is no commerce, period, so no need for parking except at the museum where they quietly celebrate the 381 years people have been hiding out down here.  We have a museum that often finds it hard to be open for tourists since outsiders are not encouraged. Out on St. Clements Island, at least what is left of it, it shrank from over 600 acres nearly 400 years ago to about 60 today, the Lighthouse was restored and now is mostly closed to the public.

Now when it comes to politics, especially hard ball, survivors of the 7th District wrote the book. There was an entire moonshine industry devoted to helping people decide how to vote. Eventually the rest of Maryland got civilized and soon the election of governor in the state always seemed to be tied between the Baltimore Democrats and the Washington DC area Republicans, and it was the band of outcasts down in the 7th District that decided many an election throughout the 20th century.

I suspect this was the way the folks of the 7th District got even with the politicians. Many a person can recall seeing a candidate for governor from up north sneak into the District, spend a weekend sharing some moonshine with the old boys, and going home to win the election. In the 7th District the vote could be controlled as about everyone was a Catholic Democrat and they knew statewide elections were dependent on them for success.

We had our share of celebrities as well but they always seemed to live just across the water from the 7th District. From Coltons Point you could see where George Washington was born and where Robert E. Lee was born on the Virginia shore.

There is no local government nor local police in the entire 7th District as the people could never see the need for the bureaucrats. Most justice was handed out locally including disposal without the expense of trial or jail for anyone terrorizing the people. No crime wave lasted long.  Those guilty of minor offenses are routinely assigned community service out on St. Clements Island, possibly another reason tourists avoid the place.

Of course to this day there are no governments, street lights, stop lights, sidewalks, sewers, water pipes, gas lines or anything else found in most civilizations. The fire and emergency personnel are volunteers. About half of the roads planned for Coltons Point have never been built and you better check the goods in the local store for expiration dates before you buy anything.

People here still eat fish, oysters, crab, and clams harvested from the river although the politicians up north have done about everything possible to destroy the environment. More than nine Bald Eagles share year round residence in the Point along with many a strange specimen that can be seen wandering out of the swamps and wetlands on dark and foggy nights.

There is a distinct social structure that has evolved over the years including the Ancients, Aboriginals, Watermen, Yuppies, Yippies, Yappies, Come Downers and Come Backers. The Ancients are the descendents of the original boat people from 1634 on.

Since there are no Native Americans left the Aboriginals are the hillbillies, moon shiners, deinstitutionalized head cases, religious zealots, and of course Confederates who run around singing "Don't give a damn what the Yankees say the South's gonna rise again" in a strange pig Latin tongue.

The Watermen are the raucous survivors of the original fisher men, crab men, oyster men, clam men, eel men, (yes I said eels as in scary slithering things on the river bottom) and the people who supported them like the marinas, crab shacks, oyster and clam processing joints etc. There aren't many left and that is one of the enduring tragedies of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The Yuppies are the new rich who move here to get away from what they spent their lives working to get. Yippies are the younger generation now beyond youth but still trying to find their way through life with a soft spot for environmental issues, nature, birds and privacy. Yappies are Yuppies and Yippies with a big mouth who show up expecting to find all the laws of more civilized places like dog catchers, police and all the other conveniences of modern society.

Down here the Postmaster knows everyone on a first name basis. Well that is before we lost our postmaster.  Now we have to check the Post Office every day to find out what hours it might be open. Word is those bureaucraps in DC have already eliminated our Post Master from the budget and I guess we will have to pick up our own packages.  Seems we have had about ten temporary postmasters in the past six months and about half the houses do not even get home delivery.

If you worry a lot about all the stuff we do not have, do not look to the local bar for a shoulder to cry on because old George, the proprietor, doesn't want any more customers as that might put them in a higher tax bracket. There is no fast food, no place to eat period without driving about 10-20 miles, and little need to put on airs. It don't matter whether you are rich or poor, you all eat crabs, oysters, and clams the same.

Often a community is judged by the services that are available so do not expect Coltons Point to ever be on a list of places to live.  To a fellow Pointer, fat cat bankers rank down with the lowest of all creatures on earth.  As a result, there are no banks, not even ATMs, and stock brokers or financial advisers are banned.

Things others take for granted like public telephones or public restrooms were never allowed, they serve to encourage people to visit.  With the sole exception of television and computers with dial up modems, slow modems that is, technology is viewed with a great deal of suspicion   

The Come Downers are the city folk who discovered the quaint place along the river and made their way here to escape where they are from or to exploit the area for material gain which never seems to happen. Finally the Come Backers are the kids of the Ancient families who escaped long ago only to discover the rest of the world will never replace what they had here in the first place and eventually they find their way back home.

Now that is a little of what you find down here in the 7th District of Southern Maryland, ferocious defenders of individual freedom a lot of character from a lot of characters, a place steeped deep in history, a keen sense of fair play, a desire to help your neighbors no matter what their social status might be, a bit cynical when it comes to the promises of the government or elected officials, but people who will never turn their backs on people in need, unless, of course they deserve it.

One thing we do have for sure, water.  Clean, dirty, salt, fresh, the Potomac River, about 100 feet deep, is our southern border.  That river is also about seven miles wide where it turns around the point.  An island on the Virginia side is called shark island and is covered with shark bones and teeth and the like, though I have not seen a live shark in the waters, but seen plenty walking on land.                   .

A few miles downriver and you come to the Chesapeake Bay which is a rather large water hole and then the Atlantic Ocean which is about as big as it gets.  Everyone has a boat, ship, yacht, inner tube or something because at any moment you can be underwater being nearly at sea level. Hurricanes come about every third year, water spouts every couple,  and the water table could be in your kitchen in a matter of hours.

In summary, here in Coltons Point we had the first landing of Jesuits in colonial America and they are gone.  We had the first colony with religious freedom but we have no church.  It was the first landing of Catholics in America and no Catholic shrine.

The original owners gave away the land from our land grant from England for Washington, DC and Philadelphia which is a source of perpetual grief for the anti-government anti-bureaucrat locals.  That explains why we have no schools since children's minds are poisoned enough already.

By the way, if you run out of gas down here you won't leave as there is no gas station in miles but every house seems to have a John Deere riding mower, golf cart, and a boat for a fast getaway.  As for a news stand to find out what is going on in the world, forget about it.

Perhaps you now understand the love affair people have living in Coltons Point and the 7th District and why there are no "welcome signs" nor "come back again" signs to be found.  You all should give it a try.