Local Flavor: Historic St. Mary’s City

One of the things I’ve longed to do with this blog is to talk about my local history. I’m not an expert, despite having lived here my whole life, but I’m fascinated by it none the less. This weekend, I needed to get out and relax a bit and my mother felt the same way. It had been a long time since either of us went somewhere just for the heck of it, without a shopping list in hand or goal in mind. So we just got in the car and drove around. It reminded me of the age of a lot of the historic sites around me. I know Jamestown and Williamsburg are very popular historic cities, but I wonder if many people realize St. Mary’s City is one of the first established cities in America. In fact, it’s easy for the citizens, like myself, to even forget the magnitude of history we’re sitting on in our county.

Maryland's First State House (1676), reconstructed

St. Mary’s City was established in 1634! I still remember our elementary school field trips to visit. Even today, there are amazing things happening. There is an active archaeology program that makes amazing discoveries. You can visit many, many reconstructed buildings and even ships there! The Ark and The Dove were the ships that brought the first settlers to St. Mary’s City. At the time I didn’t realize what I was seeing, but I definitely appreciate it more now.

Reconstructed buildings

I’ve always wanted to know what this place might have looked like back when it was being settled. St. Mary’s City gives you a piece of that. Almost all (if not all) of the buildings are actually reconstructed on original foundations. All the buildings are open to go inside where they have authentic furnishings and equipment. If you go during the “season”, you will be led on tours where college students and volunteers are dressed in costume and they play the roles of settlers. Further up the hill there is even an Indian camp to show that the Indians and settlers originally tried to get along. The Indians had actually already settled the town but gave the land to the settlers as a gesture of good faith.

Trinity Church Cemetery, viewed from behind the State House

It’s really quite interesting to walk around the whole town and get a sense of the history. The cemetery is a great example of the past and present living in harmony. It has very early graves and very new ones too.

Lone grave on the cliff

This memorial/grave is by itself on the very edge of the cemetery and overlooking the water. There is nothing around it but a tree and bench. I spent a few quite moments there looking out over the water taking it all in… Okay so I was trying to get a peek of the ship down at the docks, but I didn’t have a ticket for those areas, so I didn’t try and sneak down there.

In Memory of Thomas Allen Semor. A passenger of the Ark and Dove expedition. Member of Assembly of Maryland, 1648. Justice of the Peace of Isle of Kent. Found shot on the sands of Point Lookout, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. August 11, 1648. Placed by his descendant in the eleventh generation, Marguerite Dupont deVilliers Boden, 1972.

This was my first time seeing this. It looks much older then 1972, but it tells a very tragic tale. It won’t be  the first tragic tale that involves Point Lookout though, I’ll have to get some more information about it for you.

Peaceful view

Reconstruction in Progress

St. Mary’s City is actually the current site of St. Mary’s College of Maryland too. The college plays a huge part in all the projects going on around the historic sections. As you drive through the college, you see these framework houses all along the road. They are in the process of being reconstructed. This is actually huge progress. When I was in elementary school, I don’t think any of these had even been found yet. I remember doing community service hours at the college and they had us learning to dig for artifacts on these sites.

Reconstructed Catholic Church

The newest finished reconstruction is the Catholic Church. This was actually big news when I was in the fourth grade. They were already mapping out the foundation for the church, when they made a huge discovery. They had found three lead coffins inside the foundation of the church. The remains were identified as Philip Calvert, his first wife, and a child of Philip’s from his second wife.

I personally can’t wait to see what else the students and professors at St. Mary’s College uncover. It was after visiting this weekend, that I started to think about going back to school for History.

Visit St. Mary’s City website

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