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Origins of Maryland


Capitol of Maryland
Capitol of Maryland

Pottery, axheads, and burial sites indicate that Native Americans lived on the upper Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding lands for many centuries. At the beginning of historic times in the early 17th century, various peoples were present who spoke languages of the Algonquian group: the Conoy and Patuxent lived on the Western Shore of the bay; and the Choptank, Nanticoke, Assateague, and Pocomoke maintained villages on the Eastern Shore. The Susquehannock, a people who spoke an Iroquoian language, lived near the mouth of the Susquehanna River. They hunted and raided to the south along Chesapeake Bay. Eventually nearly all of these peoples moved away to escape the pressure of white settlement. Those who remained were scattered or much reduced in population, either as a result of conflicts with white settlers or with other Native Americans or as a result of European diseases, to which they had little resistance. By the end of the 18th century almost no Native Americans remained in Maryland.

European Exploration and Settlement


Spanish explorers sailed along the Maryland coast in the 16th century. In the early 17th century, fur traders from Virginia colony traded with Native Americans in the area. Under a commercial license issued by Virginia, William Claiborne built the first white settlement in the area in 1631. It was a fur trading post on Kent Island, east of modern-day Annapolis. In 1632, George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, induced King Charles I of England to grant him the land north of the Potomac River, which had been part of the grant to Virginia colony.

Calvert, a former high adviser to the king and recent convert to Roman Catholicism, wanted to establish a community where fellow Catholics, who were persecuted in England, could worship freely. In addition, he anticipated a financial profit from his colonial enterprise. Calvert died before Charles completed the charter, and the grant went to his son Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore.

It included the land from the south bank of the Potomac north to the 40th parallel, as well as all but the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula. Maryland’s western boundary ran from the “fountain” (source) of the Potomac northward until it met the 40th parallel. Cecilius Calvert proceeded to organize an expedition of about 200 settlers under the leadership of his younger brother Leonard Calvert, who was to serve as provincial governor. The settlers reached the province in March 1634, first setting foot on Maryland soil at Saint Clements Island. They established Saint Marys (later Saint Marys City) on the site of a former Native American village—which they bought from its inhabitants—near the mouth of the Saint George’s River (now Saint Marys River).

The settlers cultivated the land previously cleared by the Native Americans, planting corn and tobacco. Their first harvests were good, and they remained at peace with the Native Americans. But they had difficulties of other sorts. Claiborne refused to recognize Lord Baltimore’s jurisdiction over Kent Island, which he claimed was part of Virginia. As a result, petty warfare broke out in 1635 between Claiborne’s and Baltimore’s forces. In 1638 the English Commissioners for Foreign Plantations ruled that Kent Island came under the jurisdiction of Maryland.

Another early conflict occurred between Lord Baltimore and the provincial legislature. Under the terms of the charter, the legislature was restricted to approving legislation proposed by Baltimore. The legislature soon demanded the power to initiate legislation. After resisting its demand, Baltimore yielded on this important point in 1638, when he agreed that laws enacted by the legislature and approved by the governor should be temporarily valid pending his own approval. "Maryland" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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