Two ships, the 400-ton Ark and the 50-ton Dove landed almost 150 English settlers here in March of 1634. After a stormy passage from England, the 28-year-old Governor Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore, looked for a safe place to plant his colony. They found a haven on this island, with "infinite swarms Herons," while the governor searched for a permanent place for settlement.
The Piscataway Nation, frightened by the Ark, a "Canoe as big as an island," built "great fires over all the country" and "drew together 500 bowmen." Governor Calvert sailed upriver and met with a friendly emperor of the Piscataway who "gave leave to us to set down where we pleased." When the governor returned he and other Catholics set aside March 25 to erect a cross and celebrate mass. Within a few days, the settlers sailed down the Potomac River and planted "our town we call St. Maries."
[image of Cecil Calvert] The Man who Founded Maryland
When the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, died in 1632, his 27-year-old son, Cecil Calvert, ably carried out his plan to settle Maryland. The second Lord Baltimore stayed in England and protected his Maryland interests for over 40 years. He proudly holds a map of Maryland as his grandson and namesake points to the colony.
How Did the Island Look When the First Settlers Arrived?
"The ground is heare, as in very many places, covered with pokiberries, (a little wilde walnut hard of shell, but with a sweet kernel) with ackhornes, black walnut, cedar, saxafras, vines, salad-herbes, and such like. It is above 400 acres, and therefore too little to seat upon for us; therefore they have designed it for a fort to Command the [Potomac] river, meaneing to raise another on the maine land against it, and soe to keep the river from forraigne trade, here being the narrowest of the river." - Account of Ark passanger and Jesuit missionary Father Andrew White in Voyage to Maryland.
[map image] The Oldest Map of Maryland
This map, created to publicize the new maryland Colony, includes the Potomac River and St. Clement's Island, here called Heron's Island, as well as St. Mary's City.