Soon, Maryland's birthplace will get its due recognition

Posted on June 12, 1999 at 16:41:17:

A "floating newsroom" is about to "discover" St. Mary's County. The local affiliate of ABC news (WJLA) plans to spend seven days on the Chesapeake Bay sometime later this summer with a final stop in St. Mary's County.

It is my hope that they will not bypass one of my favorite locations in the entire world -- historic St. Clement Island. I've been to Colton's Point in St. Mary's County countless times over the years. Yet every time I go there, I still get a rush of adrenaline when I look out a half mile into the Potomac River and see St. Clement Island. It is on that small island that Maryland was born 365 years ago. The Ark and the Dove landed just off the shores of St. Clement Island and its passengers went ashore and erected a large cross to give thanks to God for a safe journey.

These brave passengers came to what was to be called Maryland to escape religious persecution in England. From St. Clement Island, the passengers ventured toward Colton's Point and on to St. Mary's City which was Maryland's first capital.

Today, St. Clement Island is a peaceful state park with a single large white cross -- a duplicate of the one placed there by the early settlers of Maryland who arrived on March 25, 1634. It is a safe haven for wildlife, trees, plants and flowers.

On land in Colton's Point is a museum celebrating St. Clement Island as well as the men and women who set about making Maryland a thriving colony that later became the greatest state in the Union. The museum opened in 1975 and is one of the real jewels of Southern Maryland. I've been pleased to be affiliated with the museum since its inception. Now, I'm proud to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the St. Clement Island Potomac River Museum. It's a volunteer activity that has given me great satisfaction ever since joining the board.

The paid and volunteer staff at the museum have created a first-class museum. Unfortunately, I fear few people in Maryland -- especially in Southern Maryland -- know it exists. We're doing a lot to change that. I think it's imperative that everyone interested in the history of Maryland make a stop at the museum. Too many people are under the mistaken impression that Maryland's history began in St. Mary's City or in Annapolis, the current state capital.

Now, through some agressive marketing strategies and the addition of a brand new water taxi, St. Clement Island is going to get its fair share of recognition.

I have made a request to the State Highway Administration to post historical directional signs to St. Clement Island throughout Southern Maryland. This will give the island higher visibility among tourists who may not know how to get to St. Clement Island. So far, there are too few signs indicating where the island is and how important it is to Maryland's history.

So far, SHA Secretary John Porcari and District Engineer Paul Armstrong have expressed their support for installing more directional/informational sign which will lead visitors to this magnificent historic island.

I mentioned earlier about a new water taxi named, appropriately, Tolerance. Now, visitors will be able to take this water taxi at a low cost out to the island where they can enjoy this state park that is still very much the same way it was when Maryland's first settlers arrived off the Ark and the Dove.

Tolerance leaves for St. Clement Island at 12:30 p.m. (weather permitting) and returns at 2:15 p.m. It will leave the museum again at 2:30 p.m. and return at 3:45 p.m. The museum hours are from noon to 5 p.m. during the summer months. Tickets can be purchased in the museum lobby. Call the museum at (301) 769-2222 for more information.

I encourage every history buff in the Southern Maryland area to make this special trip to this extraordinary piece of our state's heritage. Once you stand on the shores of St. Clement, you won't help but recall that this was the very piece of land where Leonard Calvert and Father Andrew White -- two of the most important figures in Maryland history -- stood and ordered that historic cross to be hoisted. It was also here that they named our great state after Queen Henrieta Maria, wife of King Charles I. Leonard Calvert named the new land Terra Maria or Mary's land after Queen Henrieta Maria.

I look forward to seeing you first tour the museum filled with fascinating history then boarding Tolerance to enjoy a unique piece of Maryland history. It's well worth your time.

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