Maryland Colony Facts

1632–1773

Maryland Colony facts about the history, geography, and people of Colonial Maryland, which was one of the 13 Colonies that declared independence from Great Britain. Maryland was founded in 1632 and implemented one of the first laws requiring religious tolerance in America, the Act of Toleration.

Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, Portrait, Soest

Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore by Gerard Soest. Image Source: Digital Maryland.

Essential Facts About Colonial Maryland

Maryland was founded in April 1632 when King Charles I agreed to grant a charter to George Calvert, the 1st Lord Baltimore, in order to establish a colony in the New World where Catholics could live without the threat of religious persecution from Protestants. Calvert died and the charter was given to his son, Cecilius Calvert, who is commonly referred to as Cecil. 

In May 1634, two ships, the Ark and Dove, arrived, carrying the first 140 Maryland colonists. Religious tolerance allowed Protestants to settle in Maryland. In fact, only 17 of the first colonists were Catholic. The others were Protestants who were Indentured Servants. 

Soon after landing on St. Clement’s Island, they established a settlement, St. Mary’s City. Maryland was the first Proprietary Colony, because it was given to a family, not a business, and was not established by the Crown.

Maryland has also been known as Maryland Colony, Colony of Maryland, and the Province of Mayland.

Maryland Colony Facts, Planting, Painting, Mayer
The Planting of the Colony of Maryland, Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1893. Image Source: Maryland State House.

Growth and Expansion of Maryland Colony

In 1631, William Claiborne of Virginia established a trading post and farm on Kent Island. Two years later, he opened a second trading post on present-day Watson’s Island, close to the mouth of the Susquehanna River.

After the first colonists arrived, they bought land from the Yaocomaco Tribe, and built the “Fort at St. Mary’s City.”  St. Mary’s was officially established on March 27, 1634.

St. Mary’s County was organized but was first mentioned in provincial records in 1637.

On August 12, 1641, Leonard Calvert patented a 100-acre lot, known as “Governor’s Field,” for a tobacco plantation.

Leonard Calvert, Governor of Maryland, Illustration
This illustration depicts Leonard Calvert, the first Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Image Source: Digital Maryland.

By 1642, Kent County had been organized. On August 2, 1642, commissioners were appointed for the Isle and County of Kent.

The Town of Providence, which became Annapolis, was founded in 1649. In April 1650, it became Annarundell County, which is present-day Anne Arundel County.

Charles County was established on April 13, 1658, by an Order in Council.

Baltimore County was established prior to January 12, 1660. On that date, a writ was issued to the Sheriff of the county.

Talbot County was first mentioned in the provincial records on February 18, 1662, when a writ was issued to the Sheriff.

In October 1665, a reservation was established for the Mattawomen Tribe.

Somerset County was established in 1666 by an Order in Council.

By 1669, Dorchester County had been established. A writ was issued to the Sheriff on February 16, 1669.

Cecil County was established in 1674. It was carved out of Baltimore County and Kent County, by a Proclamation from the Governor.

A church was established at St. Michaels in Talbot County in 1677.

In 1677, William Tomkins started a plantation known as Burley Plantation. It is the site of present-day Berlin.

Easton was founded by a group of Quakers in 1682.

London Town was established as a trade port in 1783.

In 1684, Cambridge was established.

Baltimore City was founded on July 30, 1729. It was formally established by charter on August 8. It was named after Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore.

Prince George’s County was established in 1695. It was carved out of Calvert County and Charles County.

Queen Anne’s County was established in 1706.

The town of Chestertown was established in 1706.

Port Tobacco was established in 1727.

Emittsburg was established in 1733.

In 1741, Oldtown was established as a trading post.

Worcester County was established in 1742, by dividing Somerset County.

The town of Frederick was established by German and English settlers in 1745.

Frederick County was established in 1748. It was carved out of Baltimore County and Prince George’s County.

The town of Thurmont was established in 1751.

Baltimore, Maryland, 1752, Illustration
This illustration depicts Baltimore in 1752. Image Source: Leading Events of Maryland History, John M. Gambrill, 1903, Archive.org.

In 1765, Log Town was established as a farming community. Later, it became known as Gaithersburg.

In 1772, a group of Quakers founded Ellicott City.

Caroline County was established in 1773. It was carved out of Dorchester County and Queen Anne’s County.

Hartford County was established in 1773, by splitting Baltimore County.

1632 Charter of Maryland

Date Granted — King Charles I granted the charter for the Maryland Colony on June 20, 1632.

Recipients of the Charter — The charter was granted to Cecil Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, Kingdom of Ireland, and his heirs.

First Government — The charter granted Calvert, the “Proprietor” of the colony, the right to make laws, appoint judges, establish towns, and raise militia forces. Laws had to be approved by the freemen of the colony. However, the Proprietor was also given the authority to create laws in emergency situations, which did not have to be approved by freemen.

  • Governor — Cecil Calvert was the first Governor of the Colony.
  • Lieutenant Governor — Leonard Calvert was appointed Lieutenant Governor and served as Acting Governor when he arrived with the first colonists in 1634.
  • Council — Jerome Hawley, Thomas Cornwaleys, and John Lewger were appointed by Lord Baltimore as advisors to the Acting Governor.

Type of Charter and Colony — Because the charter was granted to a family, it was a Proprietary Charter, which made Maryland a Proprietary Colony. Under the charter, Maryland was free to govern itself, as long as its laws were based on English law at the time.

The charter did not lay out the organization of the government. That was left to the Proprietor, who did not issue a plan for the government on April 15, 1637.

Prior to that, the Acting Governor and the Council — often referred to as the Proprietary — and the freemen met in a General Assembly on February 26, 1635. Very little is known about the meeting, but the Proprietary did not propose any laws, while the freemen did.

When Lord Baltimore issued the plan for the government in 1637, he indicated his opposition to the freemen’s proposals and announced he intended to create his own set of laws for Maryland.

George Calvert with King Charles I, Maryland Charter, Illustration
This illustration depicts George Calvert discussing the Maryland Charter with King Charles I. Image Source: Digital Maryland.

Facts About Nature in Maryland Colony

Geography — Maryland Colony was located in the Chesapeake — or Mid-Atlantic – Region, the northernmost area of the Southern Colonies. Maryland ran along the East Coast, with Pennsylvania and Delaware to the North, and Virginia to the South. The Chesapeake Bay cut into Maryland from the South, nearly dividing the colony. Virginia bordered Maryland to the East.

Terrain — The terrain of Maryland was dominated by the Atlantic Coast, the Piedmont Plateau, and the Appalachian Mountains. Along the coast, tributaries and bays created swamps and marshes. At the Fall Line, the coastal region flattened into a plateau. The Piedmont Plateau was dominated by the Susquehanna River and the Monocacy River, creating rolling hills and fertile farmland. The western region of Maryland was dominated by the Appalachian Mountains, which included the Blue Ridge Mountains, and thick forests.

Climate — The Mid-Atlantic and Southern Regions of Colonial America were the warmest of the three regions. Because it was located in the northernmost portion of the Southern Colonies, the climate was more balanced than it was further to the South. The summers were mild and the winters were not nearly as cold as in New England. The mild temperatures created a long growing season for cash crops like tobacco and corn.

Natural Resources — Access to the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and rivers, made shipbuilding popular and shipping popular. In the Piedmont Region, there were quarries that produced iron ore, which was used to make various forms of iron, leading to the establishment of furnaces to purify the ore so it could be used for metalworking. The fertile farmland and balanced climate made it easy to grow crops.

Facts About the Society in Maryland Colony

Religion — Although Maryland was founded as a haven for English Catholics, it did allow Protestants to settle within its borders. However, conflicts between Catholics and Protestants took place. Following the Glorious Revolution in 1688, Catholicism was outlawed and Puritans controlled the government. Freedom of religion was restored in the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War.

Industry — Maryland’s industries were agriculture, ironworks, shipyards, and shipping operations. Agriculture was diverse. There were large tobacco plantations and farms that grew corn, wheat, fruits, and vegetables. Maryland farmers were also known to raise and breed livestock.

Economy — The economy of the colony was dependent on the Triangular Trade System and the Transatlantic Slave Trade because plantation owners needed to acquire a workforce. Maryland’s economy was also dependent on trading goods and natural resources with other colonies, including Virginia.

Slavery — The practice of slavery was not widespread in Maryland until the 1690s. In 1689, Maryland’s wealthy planters took control of the government and turned to expanding their workforce through the acquisition of captive Africans. It is estimated that 100,000 Africans arrived in Maryland in the years from 1698 to 1775. Various ports in Maryland served as destinations for ships that crossed the Middle Passage, including Leonardtown, London Towne, Oxford, Port Tobacco, Selby’s Landing, and Sotterly. The Headright System was used in Maryland to encourage settlement.

Important People in Maryland

Cecil Calvert — Calvert was 26 years old when his father died and he inherited the title Lord Baltimore. Calvert was also the recipient of the charter his father had agreed to with King Charles I. Although the colony was intended to be a Catholic refuge, he invited both Catholics and Protestants to colonize Maryland. He chose to stay in England and sent his brother, Leonard, to serve as Acting Governor, giving him a document called “Instructions to the Colonists by Lord Baltimore,” which was the basis for the colony’s laws. Despite losing control of the colony to Protestants twice, Calvert worked to keep the peace, appointing a Protestant as Governor and introducing the Act of Toleration. Calvert died in 1675.

Margaret Brent — Brent was a Catholic who moved to Maryland with her family around 1638. She was the head of the household, which was uncommon for the time. When Leonard Calvert died in 1647, Maryland’s military forces were on the verge of mutiny, because Calvert had not paid them. On his deathbed, Calvert named Brent as the executor of his will. The actions she took likely prevented further conflict in Maryland. 

Margaret Brent, Maryland Assembly, Illustration
This illustration depicts Margaret Brent appearing before the Maryland Assembly. Image Source: Digital Maryland.

William MurdockMurdock represented Maryland at the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. His father was Reverend George Murdock, who was appointed Rector of Prince George County, Maryland, in 1726 by Lord Baltimore. Murdock signed his name to the petitions that were sent to the King and Parliament.

Thomas RinggoldRinggold was one of Maryland’s delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Ringgold signed his name to the petitions that were sent to the King and Parliament.

Edward TilghmanTilghman was one of Maryland’s delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Tilghman signed his name to the petitions that were sent to the King and Parliament.

Charles Carroll of CarrolltonCarroll was a Founding Father, and the only Catholic that signed the Declaration of Independence. He was also involved in the “Annapolis Tea Party,” a Maryland protest against the Tea Act. Carroll played a key role in writing the Maryland Constitution. After the war, Carroll helped found the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. He was also involved with the First Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States.

Samuel ChaseChase was a Founding Father and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He helped found the Sons of Liberty in Annapolis and was closely associated with the Patriot Cause. After the war, Chase supported the Constitution and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Washington. A vocal opponent of President Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, Chase was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1804. He was cleared of charges by the Senate and served on the court until his death in 1811.

Samuel Chase, Founding Father, Illustration
Samuel Chase. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

William Paca — Paca was a Founding Father and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Paca was closely aligned with Chase and the Sons of Liberty. He was elected Governor of Maryland in 1782 and served three one-year terms. Paca opposed the Constitution and some of his objections were addressed by the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments. In 1789, President Washington appointed him as a Judge for the Federal District Court of Maryland. Paca died in 1799.

Thomas Stone — Stone was a Founding Father and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Although he preferred reconciliation with Britain, he voted in favor of independence and signed the Declaration. Stone was a member of the Committee of Thirteen that prepared the Articles of Confederation. He died in 1787.

Maryland Colony Interesting Facts

Annual Tribute Paid to the King

Per the 1632 charter, the Calverts were required to send the King two arrows from Native American Indians every year, along with one-fifth of the gold and silver they found. They never found any gold or silver, so the tribute was two arrows.

Maryland is Named After a Queen

Maryland was named after Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I. According to some accounts, it was required by the King.

Location of the First Landing in Maryland

The Ark and Dove landed at St. Clement’s Island in Southern Maryland on March 25, 1634.

First Catholic Mass in Mayland Colony

On March 25, 1634, the same day the first colonists landed, the first Catholic Mass was held. It took place on St. Clement’s Island and was led by Father Andrew White.

Leonard Calvert, Father White, Maryland Landing, Illustration
This illustration depicts Leonard Calvert and Father White meeting an Indian on St. Clement’s Island. Image Source: History of Maryland, James McSherry, 1849, Archive.org.

The Plundering Time in Maryland

The Plundering Time — also known as Claiborne and Ingle’s Rebellion — was an uprising of Protestants against the Calvert family that took place from 1644–1646. The dispute started when Leonard Calvert seized William Claiborne’s trading post on Kent Island in 1638. In 1644, Claiborne and Richard Ingle led a Protestant uprising that temporarily took control of St. Mary’s City and deposed the Calverts. More violence followed as Maryland forces clashed with the Protestants. Order was restored in 1647, and contributed to the passage of the Maryland Act of Toleration in 1649.

Maryland Act of Toleration

The Act of Toleration was passed in 1649, and provided for the “free exercise” of those “professing to believe in Jesus Christ. It identified Christianity as an important part of good government, made it a crime to blaspheme against God, and levied fines on anyone who failed to observe the Sabbath.

Battle of the Severn (1655)

In 1655, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector and a Puritan, required English subjects to submit to the Commissioners of Parliament. Governor Willliam Stone, a Catholic, refused and planned to attack Puritans living in Providence, Maryland, who were led by William Fuller. Stone gathered his forces and attacked on March 25 at Horn Point. The Puritans won the battle and took control of Maryland until 1657 when control was restored to the Calverts.

Coode’s Rebellion was a Protestant Revolution

Coode’s Rebellion — also known as the Protestant Revolution of 1689 — was a revolt against the Calverts led by John Coode. The uprising took place in the wake of the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the Protestant monarchs William and Mary being placed on the English throne. Coode organized a Puritan army called the “Protestant Associators” and fought with Maryland’s provincial forces, which were led by Catholic planter Henry Darnall. Coode and the Puritans won and took control of the colony. In the aftermath, Maryland became a Royal Colony. Coode remained in control until 1691 when the new Royal Governor, Nehemiah Blakiston, arrived. Soon after, restrictions were applied to Catholics, and the Church of England was established as the official church of Maryland.

Maryland Participated in the Albany Congress

Maryland sent two delegates to Albany, New York for the Albany Congress. The purpose of the Congress was to discuss a unified defense against the French and restore the Covenant Chain with the Iroquois. The Albany Congress is most famous for the Albany Plan of Union, which was the first attempt to organize a unified colonial government.

A Maryland Colony Border Dispute Led to the Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon Line was established by a survey conducted by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon from 1763 to 1767. The survey was necessary to resolve a border dispute between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. The line served as the northern border of Maryland and is generally viewed as the line of demarcation between the North and the South.