MARYLAND CATHOLICS ON
Maryland was founded as the third English colony
in the New World, and it was
distinctive for the policy of its founder, Lord Baltimore,
This freedom of religion was denied Englishmen during the
lifetime of George
Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, whose dream it was to found
such a colony.
Born about 1580 in Yorkshire, Northern England, he was the son of
and Alicia Crossland Calvert, a family of wealth and social
position in that
area, and probably a Catholic family.
In spite of his religion, or perhaps because the family had
abandoned Catholicism in the face of rampant Protestant
persecution, he rose
to a position of political influence in the court of King James
I. He was
knighted in 1617 and in 1619 became principal Secretary of State.
In 1624, George Calvert resigned his position and announced that
become a Roman Catholic. King James rewarded Calvert for past
making him Baron of Baltimore. Long interested in the
America, the new Lord Baltimore now turned his talent, energy and
considerable fortune to the establishment of a new colony in
His first venture was Avalon, a settlement at Ferryland, a harbor
located on the southeastern coast of Newfoundland. He equipped a
colonists and sent them to the settlement about 1622, and he
received a royal
charter to the province of Avalon on April 7, 1623.
Because of the severe winter climate, the colony did not prosper
spite of Calvert investing a large portion of his fortune in the
failed. He visited the colony in 1628 and abandoned it the next
favor of Virginia. The Avalon colonists were not welcomed in
however, where the colony's laws provided for strict Protestant
Calvert refused to take the required oath of supremacy at
planned to return to England. Before he went, however, he
Chesapeake Bay and saw unsettled land where the climate was
farming. Upon his return to England, he petitioned King Charles I
grant of land north of the Virginia colony.
George Calvert never returned to America. Physically and
weakened by the Avalon experience, and saddened by the loss at
sea of his
second wife and children--they had remained behind in Virginia
after he left
and were returning to England on another ship--the first Lord
on April 15, 1632.
Cecelius Calvert inherited his father's title--and his dream. Two
after his father died, he received the charter from King Charles,
the second Lord Baltimore almost regal powers and ownership of
all the land
of the colony which he had named Maryland, in honor of the Mother
This land was used to attract settlers to the new colony.
Those who would pay their own way to Maryland were granted 100
acres of land,
and if they transported servants--men and women who agreed to
service for seven years to pay for their passage--they could
obtain 100 more
acres. Later, that amount was reduced to 50 acres of land, and
after their term of servitude was over, would also be granted 50
After months of preparation and delays, the first colonists
Cowes, Isle of Wight, England on Nov. 22, 1633, on two ships, the
Ark and the
Dove. After a frightful, stormy voyage of more than three months,
finally landed on St. Clement's Island about March 10, 1634.
Cecelius Calvert named his brother, Leonard, as governor of the
he stayed in England to administer the colony's affairs there.
Calvert was an able administrator, serving the colony for 13
until his death in 1647. He was especially adept in dealing with
who inhabited the area, the Piscataway and Yaocomico tribes of
Indians. It was the Yaocomico village on the banks of the St.
which the governor purchased in 1634 and renamed St. Mary's City.
The colony prospered, in spite of political and religious
England, there was continued political upheaval and religious
and that condition was reflected in Maryland. There were repeated
wrest the government from Lord Baltimore. In 1649, the Maryland
Assembly passed an Act of Religious Toleration, which was
it was passed at a time when there was rampant religious
in England and in the other American colonies.
After several abortive attempts at overthrowing the Proprietary
Maryland, the Protestant revolution of 1689 was successful. It
largely by the non-Catholic colonists of Maryland--about
two-thirds of the
population of Maryland at that time--who had benefited by the
toleration policies of Lord Baltimore.
Almost immediately after the take-over occurred, the subjugation
Catholics began in Maryland. Justices and other public officials,
sheriffs and clerks, were replaced if they were Catholics. Arms
ammunition of most Catholics were confiscated. The very presence
Catholic in St. Mary's City during the session of the Protestant
Associators--the group which was to constitute the ruling body of
for the next two years--was forbidden.
In 1692, an Act was passed which established the Anglican Church
official church of the colony, and all residents were taxed to
church. Catholics were excluded from public office, from voting,
In 1704, the "Act to prevent the Growth of Popery within
this Province" not
only forbade all works of conversion but also closed all Catholic
and schools in the province. Most of them still clung to their
however, and practiced their religion privately, in their own
baptisms and marriages were recorded in the Anglican churches,
usually with a
notation that they were known Catholics
These restrictions on public worship and other persecution of
continued through the colonial period, which extended to the
Revolution and the Bill of Rights.
Marylanders, both Catholic and Protestant, fought valiantly in
Revolution, and the newly-independent United States used the vast
domain which the English had won in the French and Indian War and
the new American nation at the end of the Revolution, to reward
served in the Continental Army and Navy. These western lands were
available to persons other than veterans, and between 1789 and
500,000 acres of undeveloped western land, most of it in what is
States of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, was
offered as a
means to promote settlement of the country's frontier.
Many of these western migrants were Maryland Catholics. Burdened
by a century
of anti-Catholic bias in Maryland, they sought not only new land
again, religious freedom. Even before the greatest migration
began in 1789,
Maryland Catholics were on the move.
In 1785, a group of southern Maryland residents formed a
"Catholic League of
Families" and agreed to move to Kentucky as soon as they
could settle their
affairs in Maryland. John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore,
promised to send
a parish priest if the emigrants settled together.
Another reason for the exodus of people from the Chesapeake Bay
Kentucky was the depredation suffered by the citizens at the
hands of the
British during the Revolution. The British fleet, almost
in the Bay, confiscated slaves and stock, sacked homes and
off the supplies plundered from the Maryland residents.
Economic reasons also figured in the exodus to Kentucky. Many
ruined by the Revolution and lost their lands because they could
their debts. They saw migration to Kentucky as a way out of their
St. Mary's County, alone, lost nearly 3,000 persons to the
between 1790 and 1810. Most of these people went to that area of
north-central Kentucky which now comprises Washington, Nelson,
Because most of these people were Catholics, this area of
Kentucky is known,
even today, as the Kentucky Holy Lands.