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The Founding of Maryland
by John T. Marck

On March 25th, each year, Maryland celebrates the anniversary of its founding. Here you can learn all about how the great state began, the Calvert family, and the famous voyage on the Ark and the Dove.



 

 
 

The Founding of Maryland

After Columbus made his voyage in 1492, further exploration of this New World began. John Cabot, in 1498 sailed down the east coast to Maryland, and in 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano landed on the coast of the Delmarva Peninsula. During this time, explorers who sailed to the New World, upon finding land would claim this land for their king. Cabot claimed the land he found for King Henry VII of England, and Verrazano for the King of France. England claimed Maryland; however, this was disputed, as Spain claimed that the explorer Pedro Menendez Marques, first saw the Chesapeake Bay and as a result Maryland was Spanish territory.

In attempts to colonize the New World, Spain was quite active, but England moved slowly. In 1580, the English settled in Roanoke, Virginia, but getting supplies was difficult due to the war with Spain. After years of trying to obtain supplies, in 1607 the first successful English colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia. Colony life in these early days was very hard, and killings by Indians and death by disease took a heavy toll. Soon, a leader by the name of Captain John Smith, arrived at Jamestown. He had learned to deal with the Indians and organized the colonists, bringing them through the first cold, very difficult winter. John Smith believed that the Chesapeake Bay extended to the Pacific Ocean. Being curious, he explored the Bay, mapping it as he went. These maps were in use for years to come.

Upon returning to England, John Smith spoke with a young man by the name of William Claiborne, and told him of the land area that later would become Maryland. Claiborne first went to Virginia and mapped the entire state, becoming wealthy as a result. In 1628, Claiborne explored and found Palmer's Island and Kent Island. Liking these islands, he bought them from the Indians and set up trading posts. Having great success, Claiborne was granted a license from King Charles I, to trade in all areas of America not previously given to others. This gave Claiborne great power and status, making him similar in authority to a king.

The Ark and the Dove

On June 30, 1632, the charter of Maryland had been confirmed and published. So, on July 12, 1632, the King directed the Governor of Virginia to assist Lord Baltimore who planned to transport many people to Maryland. In October 1633, the Ark and the Dove departed London, England for Maryland, but were recalled to Gravesend on October 19, because the passengers had not been given the "Oath." About two weeks later in late October, the two ships again departed, stopping at Cowes on the Isle of Wright for roughly a month.

The leaders of this expedition were: Leonard Calvert, lieutenant-governor, who traveled on the Ark, who was representing his brother, Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. With Leonard was George Calvert, the youngest brother of Leonard and Cecil; Thomas Cornwallis, Esq., and Commissioner; and Jerome Hawley, another Commissioner.

The crew of the Ark, of which there were about forty persons, included Captain Richard Lowe, as Master; John Bowlter, as Purser; and Richard Edwards, a Chirurgeon. The crew of the Dove included: Captain Wintour, its commander; Richard Orchard, its master; Samuel Lawson, the first mate; John Games, its gunner; Richard Kenton, the boatswain; and crew members John Curke, and Nicholas Perrie.

The passengers on the voyage, based on records of Leonard Calvert include the following. Also, in a letter from Leonard Calvert to his brother Cecil, he advised that they had made a stop in Virginia and landed some passengers there, but these are probably from the original passenger list. Furthermore, in a letter from Leonard that described the Christmas celebration aboard the Ark, he mentioned that there were thirty persons who were sick from fever, of whom about twelve died. The passenger list indicated 99 persons, but other records mention maids or household servants, that the passengers brought along, who probably were not counted. The number of passengers varies from the London Searcher report of 128, to about 320 from other sources.

On November 22, 1633, Leonard Calvert set out on the "Ark" and the "Dove" from Cowes Isle, England, on a voyage to Maryland to set up a colony. The Ark, the larger of the two ships had a weight capacity of roughly 350 to 400 tons, while the Dove, being a much smaller ship, had a capacity of only about 50 tons. Historians say that approximately 140 people founded the first Maryland colony, although this number may be between 99 and 140. Many people chosen for this voyage on the Ark and the Dove, such as farmers, carpenters and brick makers, were picked for their particular skills. Equally important to skillful people was having the proper equipment, which had to be transported with them. Both winter and summer clothes had to be taken, also cannons, knives and rifles for protection. Food aboard the ships had to be stored very carefully so as not to spoil. Drinking water and beer were stored in large casks. Great care was taken to also store away plants and seeds needed to grow food in their farms and gardens. Planning this voyage was well-thought-out. They left on the journey in winter, so they would arrive in spring, in time to plant and grow the necessary foods for the forthcoming winter.

As the Ark and Dove started their voyage, they encountered many problems. After leaving Cowes, England, they came upon large masses of rocks at the Isle of Wight and rough breaking waves, making maneuvering difficult. Due to high winds, they entered the harbor at Yarmouth, about ten miles from Cowes. That evening, the wind caused a French Bark to drag its anchor, which struck the Dove, breaking her free from the harbor. Now, due to the high winds, they were forced to set sail for the open sea. The Ark, observing what happened set sail as well, so as not to be separated from the Dove. Now, on the morning of November 23, they were finally underway.

But other problems faced the crews of the two ships. On the voyage, besides bad weather and rough seas, they also had to deal with pirates and raiders who were in the waters in which they had to sail. One ship they encountered at a distance was an Algerian vessel, which they assumed was hostile, but fortunately were not approached by it.

In planning the voyage, they set their course not directly west to Maryland, due to the Atlantic current, but to the southwest, because the winds were more favorable. Once they reached Barbados they would then have only a northern route.

In comparing the two ships, size was the major difference, and as a result the ships' capabilities differed greatly. The Ark, being a much larger ship traveled better through the rough seas, was better armed and equipped, and had more crew members, with which to fend off pirates and raiders. The Dove in comparison, being so much smaller, did not handle well in rough seas, and was not capable of defending itself well. It seemed that the Dove was destined for problems.

Later in the day on November 23, the Ark and Dove came across another ship, the "Dragon," which was a large, well-armed merchant vessel which was traveling their way. The Dragon therefore acted as a leader, a guide of sorts to follow, which pleased both crews of the Ark and Dove. Four days into the voyage, on November 25, a terrible storm began. The winds were so strong, and the waves so rough that the Dragon turned back toward England. The Captains of the Ark and Dove decided to go on. The Captain of the Dove advised the Ark that they would hang a lantern on the ship's mast so that they (the Ark) could keep them in view. The Captain of the Dove also advised that if they hung two lanterns this meant they were in trouble and needed help. As the night went on, the storm grew worse. Through the storm and strong winds, the crew of the Ark observed two lights coming from the Dove. The Ark, however could not reach the Dove to help her, as it was all they could do to keep themselves afloat. During the storm the Ark lost sight of the Dove. Throughout the night they tried in vain to sight her. Finally, as the storm subsided and morning came, they hoped to find her, but there was no trace of the Dove.

On November 26, with the fate of the Dove unknown, the Ark sailed alone for Barbados Island. Meanwhile, after finding refuge, once the weather had cleared, the Dove sighted the Dragon once again, and sailed in their company by way of the Canary Islands to Barbados.

The Ark, after passing the Canary Islands finally arrived in Barbados on January 5, 1634. There the crew rested and repaired their ship, damaged in the storm. One day as they were working in the harbor they looked out and saw something they could not believe. Sailing into the harbor was the Dove. Upon speaking with the crew of the Dove it seemed that because the storm was so great, they turned around and sought the shelter of an English port. After the storm they set sail again, crossed the ocean and by providence, in time to meet the Ark. After taking on supplies, the Ark and the Dove continued on their voyage, arriving at Point Comfort, Virginia on February 27, 1634. Here they dropped of some of the passengers as well as delivered some letters from the King.

In early March 1634, the Ark and Dove reached the Chesapeake Bay, bound for the Potomac River to Maryland. The Ark and Dove arrived at Maryland on March 3, 1634. On March 25, they came ashore to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, that today we celebrate as Maryland Day.

For several days the crews lived on the ships, while exploring parties looked for a suitable place to start their town. Searching the areas and rivers off the Potomac, they traveled a river called St. George's, which later became St. Mary's. They found an area inside St. Mary's River for the first settlement. This land was owned by the Yaocamicoe Indians. In this search for a suitable place to live, Governor Calvert used Captain Henry Fleet as a guide, because he knew the language of the Indians and was an experienced trader and interpreter. On March 27, 1634, Governor Calvert bought the land from the Yaocamicoes. Once the land was purchased, they sent word back to the crews of the Ark and Dove for them to move to this new town. As the settlers moved into the new town, a celebration began. Dressed in their finest clothes, the new settlers fired cannons and flags were flown. The new village name changed from Yaocamico to St. Mary's City. This name was given in honor of the Virgin Mary. The Ark eventually returned to England, but the Dove remained in Maryland.

The first black Marylander was Mathias de Sousa. Of African and Portuguese descent, he was one of nine indentured servants brought to Maryland by Jesuit missionaries and was on the Ark when Lord Baltimore's expedition arrived in the St. Mary's River in 1634. His indenture was finished by 1638 and he became a mariner and fur trader. In 1641, he commanded a trading voyage north to the Susquehannock Indians and, in 1642, sailed as master of a ketch belonging to the Provincial Secretary John Lewger. De Sousa departed and returned to the St. Mary's River many times. He anchored here (the location of the Maryland Dove today) and walked to Lewger's Manor House at St. John's. While living there he served in the 1642 legislative assembly of freemen. No record remains of de Sousa's activities after 1642, but his legacy of courage and success is regarded with great pride by all the citizens of St. Mary's County and Maryland. (A plaque dedicated in his honor is located today near the water's edge in the location of the Maryland Dove).

During this time, the Yaocamico and Susquehannock Indians were enemies. The Yaocamicoes, needing help defending themselves, found the settlers a welcome sight and learned many things from them. They received guns, steel knives and axes, which were used not only for protection but also enabled them to cut trees, farm and build homes. Some of the first homes the settlers built were cut wood with shingled roofs, and not log cabins as most believe. Soon thereafter many homes were made of brick. By the late 1670s, St. Mary's City, Maryland's first capital, had some houses and buildings of fine quality.

CopyrightŠ John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.