This tour takes visitors to the island where English colonists first landed in
what is now Maryland, and then to a living history museum at the site of the first
First Landing in Maryland
St. Clement’s Island-Potomac River Museum,
Colton’s Point, MD.
Religious tolerance is a hallmark of American history. For Catholics, it began
here, the site of the first English landing in Maryland. In England, Catholics
could not worship in public or hold public office. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore,
wanted to create a place in the New World that would tolerate all religious
beliefs. In 1633 his son Leonard Calvert and a group of 128 colonists boarded
the ships Ark and Dove and sailed for the Chesapeake. They stopped briefly in
Jamestown, then headed north up the Potomac River. They stopped at St. Clement’s
Island, and on March 25, 1634, celebrated the first Roman Catholic Mass in the
colonies. The Potomac River Museum documents this story. A water taxi takes
visitors to the island, where a 40-foot cross was erected in 1934 in tribute
to these first Maryland settlers.
Maryland’s First Capital
Historic St. Mary’s City, St. Mary’s
Leonard Calvert and his colonists did not tarry on St. Clement’s Island.
Close by they found suitable land on the St. Mary’s River, naming their
settlement “Saint Maries” in honor of the Virgin Mary. With taverns,
a print shop, stores and homes, this became Maryland’s first capital,
and the site of its first statehouse. In 1695, the seat of Maryland government
was moved to Annapolis, and St. Mary’s City almost vanished. Today, this
National Historic Landmark, about an hour-long drive from St. Clement’s
Island, is a living history museum. Come here and tour a replica of the Dove
and watch re-enactors tending to a working tobacco farm. You can also watch
archaeologists continue to unearth Maryland’s past. More than 300 archaeological
sites have been documented here, including the foundation of the Brick Chapel
of 1667, and three lead coffins found within it.