St. Mary's County Historic Background
The NESEA facility, including the Puma Site, is located just a few miles south of St. Mary's City, site of the first settlement in Maryland and the first seat of colonial government. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) established one of the earliest manors in the new colony at St. Inigoes soon after St. Mary's City was founded. The NESEA facility is situated within the manor's original 2,000-acre land grant. In many regards, the early history of the colony is the history of St. Mary's County, and the Jesuit Manor played a prominent role in that history.[ Last Updated: 09-Jun-2003 | Reader Comments Report Problem
The NESEA facility, including the Puma Site, is located just a few miles south of St. Mary's City, site of the first settlement in Maryland and the first seat of colonial government. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) established one of the earliest manors in the new colony at St. Inigoes soon after St. Mary's City was founded. The NESEA facility is situated within the manor's original 2,000-acre land grant. In many regards, the early history of the colony is the history of St. Mary's County, and the Jesuit Manor played a prominent role in that history.
In 1632, the first Lord Baltimore, Sir George Calvert , began procedures to acquire a charter for lands in the Chesapeake Bay region. He died before King Charles I and the privy council had completed the arrangements, and it fell to Sir George's son, Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, to complete the negotiations and obtain the charter. After obtaining the charter, Calvert went about finding financial backers to help support his attempt to start an overseas colony. In order to attract wealthy immigrants and financial backers, Lord Baltimore offered a variety of inducements that included large land grants, government offices, and noble titles for those who would transport sufficient numbers of settlers to the province. Central to Calvert's plan was a reward of 2,000 acres of land (later 1,000) to investors for every 5 men between the ages of 16 and 50 that they brought into the province (Menard and Carr 1982:177,189). Anyone transporting enough people to receive a grant of at least 1,000 acres (later 3,000) could have his tract designated a manor, complete with the right to hold court and other privileges. Lord Baltimore envisioned the manorial lords as forming a new nobility with similar powers and responsibilities as the established landed gentry in England. The formation of manors was to be an important step in the growth of the colony, and the manors would serve as a central institution in the life of the province, serving as an instrument of social control and as a focal point for community loyalties (Menard and Carr 1982:177-178). Generally, the manorial system, as envisioned by Lord Baltimore, was a failure, although in many ways the Jesuit manor at St. Inigoes fulfilled Calvert's vision. St. Inigoes Manor was owned by the Jesuits for over 300 years and served as a stabilizing force in the local area.
Lord Baltimore was largely unsuccessful in his attempts to attract wealthy immigrants, and the next year, when the ships Ark and Dove were sent off to colonize his landholding in the New World, they carried only 17 gentlemen investors. These men were among the group of 140 to 200 settlers that also included two or three Jesuits and their servants. Most of the remaining passengers were Protestant indentured servants employed by the Catholic investors. The venture was under the directorship of Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore's younger brother, who had been assigned governor of the settlement before leaving England (Menard and Carr 1982:168).
In March 1634, the settlers, after exploring the area and meeting with the Piscataway Indians, landed at a Yacomoco Indian village six miles up the Potomac on St. George's River (later called St. Mary's River). After negotiating terms, the Indians agreed to leave their village and their fields; at this place, St. Mary's City was founded (Menard and Carr 1982:185-187).
One of the first activities at the new settlement was the erection of a fort. However, within three years, the settlers had dispersed to various plantations and the fort was abandoned. The settlers soon turned to tobacco as the primary cash crop. High tobacco prices during the mid-1630s, coupled with friendly relations with the Indians, fertile soil, and abundant natural resources provided an adequate foundation for the colony's early survival. Population increased mainly by the arrival of new settlers, and, by 1637, when St. Mary's County was formed, the population totaled between 340 to 390 (Menard and Carr 1982:187).
In 1642, most of the settlers were still located within a few miles of the original landing site and were divided into three administrative units known as "hundreds": St. Michaels, from Point Lookout to St. Inigoes Creek; St. Mary's, on the east bank of St. Mary's River, north of St. Michaels; and St. George's, on the west bank of St. Mary's River. Others had moved farther away, near the Patuxent and Wicomico rivers and were organized into St. Clement's Hundred, between St. Mary's Hundred and the Wicomico River and Mattapanie Hundred on the Patuxent River (Pogue 1983). Of the five "hundreds" in the county, St. Michaels, which included St. Inigoes Neck, was the most populous with 120 occupants; however, St. Mary's Hundred, which included the fledgling town of St. Mary's, was the most densely settled. By 1642, 13 tracts of land had been surveyed in the town and 12 households were settled in the general area (Menard and Carr 1982:193).
Sixteen manors were in existence by 1642, which together contained 31,000 acres and represented over 80 percent of all of the patented land in the province. An estimated 90 percent of this land remained unimproved as of1642. Throughout the early years of the settlement there was a chronic labor shortage and manor owners found it difficult to improve their grants. Few servants desired to remain at the manor after completing the term of indenture, which was usually four or five years. Upon completion of this term, the former servant could collect "freedom dues," which consisted of a suit of clothing, an axe and hoe, three barrels of corn from the former master, and (until 1681) a SO- acre land warrant obtainable on demand from the proprietor (Carr and Menard 1979:207). As a consequence, many small owner operated plantations, not manors, became the dominant agriculture unit (Menard and Carr 1982:193).
The next twenty years proved difficult for the colony. In 1645, Richard Ingle and a group of rebels raided St. Mary's, looted, sacked, and burned many of the outlying plantations, captured several Jesuit priests and Catholic leaders, and seized control of the government. Governor Calvert fled to Virginia, as did many settlers. Late in 1646, Calvert returned with an armed force and restored order, but the county had lost many of its inhabitants. Between 1646 and 1652, the county experienced a short period of economic expansion and general growth; however, in 1652 Lord Baltimore lost his charter when a commission from the new English Commonwealth seized control of the provincial government. The proprietorship was restored to Lord Baltimore in 1658. After 1660 and the restoration of King Charles II, the province, now consisting of six counties, began a period of sustained growth (Menard and Carr 1982:210).
In 1667, St. Mary's was established as the first official city of the province, which formalized its position as the seat of government in the province. Thereafter, a period of significant expansion began which reached its peak in the 1680s. During this period, public buildings were constructed, and inns and stables were opened to tend to the needs of those coming into the city. All this came to an end in 1689, when a group calling themselves the Protestant Associators seized the government and named one of their members, Nehemiah Blackstone, as governor. As a result, the seat of government was moved to Annapolis in 1695. Without the business of government, St. Mary's City lacked an economic base, and most of the settlement was abandoned. By the 1720s, little trace of the first settlement remained (Menard and Carr 1982:213).
During the first 30 or 40 years after the founding of the colony, real opportunity existed for freed servants to achieve considerable property and status, and many went on to distinguish themselves in government and as planters. Beginning around 1675, however, the highly mobile, predominantly small planter society that had evolved since 1640 changed significantly. In 1680, a thirty-year period of economic depression began that would be broken only by two short periods of prosperity (1685-86 and 1698- 1702). Indentured servants, when they completed their terms, found themselves free but with no capital and little credit in a depressed economy that offered little chance of advancement (Carr and Menard 1979:234). Society became less mobile during this period, and those with inherited wealth and family position comprised an emerging native elite. By the early 1700s, this elite constituted a rigid oligarchy that held power within the county well into the nineteenth century (Ridgeway 1979:129).
The population of St. Mary's County increased slowly during the seventeenth century while the county's share of the population of the colony decreased. In 1675, the population of St. Mary's County was 2,218, only third highest in the colony, although for the first time population growth was a result of native births rather than immigration. By 1712, population had only increased to 4,090, which represented less than 10 percent of the colony's total population. The population of St. Mary's County continued to grow at a slow pace until 1775 when it reached a peak of 16,950. After 1775, the population decreased significantly, and it would not be until a hundred years later (1880) that the population would approach pre-Revolutionary War numbers. To the end of the eighteenth century and for much of the nineteenth century, the population remained between 12,000 and 13,000. Between 1860 and 1930, there were modest increases, and the population of the county grew to between 15,000 and 17,000 (Wesler et al. 1981:162- 164). Population growth began to accelerate after 1940, and in 1970 there were about 48,000 people living in the county (Dozer 1976:7; Gibson 1978:1).
By 1725, social and economic trends that would continue into the twentieth century had been established in the county. From the time of initial settlement, tobacco had been the main agricultural staple and economic activity. Tobacco production and shipment did not encourage the development of towns because ships continued to land at tobacco plantations into the mid-nineteenth century. This practice also slowed the establishment of a road network in the county. Social and economic development in the county was behind that of other counties that diversified their agricultural base and developed industries. Tobacco agriculture also influenced the demographic development of the county. While indentured servants continued to make up most of the work force until the early part of the eighteenth century, the number of slaves in the county increased rapidly after that time. Initially, slaves were introduced due to the difficulty of obtaining white servants, but by 1712 slaves made up over 10 percent of the county's population. The percentage increased throughout the eighteenth century, and from the 1780s to emancipation, slaves would comprise over 40 percent of the county's population (Wesler et al. 1981:162-164). During the second half of the nineteenth century, there was some attempt to diversify the economic base of the county. Oyster- shucking and canning and crab-packing industries were started in the last quarter of the century. A commercial fishing industry also began and reached a peak in the early twentieth century. However, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were marked by the persistence of small agricultural towns. The county has retained its rural character and tobacco production remains the major economic pursuit. Over the past 40 years, the addition of government services, mixed commercial enterprises, construction, and forestry have provided the county with a more varied economic base (Dozer 1976:70; Gibson 1978:1).
St. Inigoes Manor
The Jesuits played an important role in early Maryland history. They were financial supporters of Lord Baltimore's overseas colony, and all of the gentry on board the Ark and Dove were from families that were associated with the Jesuits (Bossy 1982:162). Two Jesuit priests, Andrew White and John Altham, were among the first settlers, and they brought enough servants to qualify for a grant of 6,000 acres of land. There is no record that the grant was ever acted upon, and it seems that the first Jesuit landholding in Maryland was St. Inigoes Manor, located on St. Inigoes Neck. The manor was purchased from Richard Gerard in 1637, an original investor in Lord Baltimore's colonization effort, by Father Thomas Copley acting as agent for the Society of Jesus. The manor was the site of the first English Catholic mission in the New World which functioned as the headquarters of the Jesuit mission effort in Maryland. Father Copley's purchase included the roughly triangular 2,000-acre tract on St. Inigoes Neck as well as 1,000 additional acres of land on St. George's Island across St. Mary's River from the manor (King and Pogue 1985:3; Smolek et al. 1983:7). St. Inigoes Manor was comprised of three types of farms. The first type of farm established was the church (or home) farm. This was the location of the priests' residence and supplied most of the food and material goods for the priests and servants. The home farm was established sometime prior to 1638, for in that year the home was reported to be producing large crops of tobacco and grain (Beitzell 1976:20). The home farm consisted of an orchard, garden, and nearby fields with stables, barns, a store, structures for fowl, a gristmill, and a blacksmith shop. It lay in an area today referred to as the Old Chapel Field (see Figure 4) (Pogue and Leeper 1984:7). There was also a servants "plantation" located on the manor that is thought to have been located in the southeastern part of the landholding near Smith Creek (Figure 7). The Jesuits transported more than 60 servants during the 1630s (Bossy 1982:162; Menard and Carr 1982:180), and the plantation operated to provide the servants with employment and, at the same time, generated income to support the Jesuit missionary efforts in Maryland (Beitzell 1976:19; Smolek et al 1983:11). Tenant farms were established on the manor perhaps as early as 1639. and rent paid by tenants supported the priests' residence and the mission. Tenants apparently were a regular fixture and are known to have been on the manor into the twentieth century, although little is known historically of the tenants before the 1870s (Beitzell 1976:20). A wooden fort was also located on the manor. The fort, possibly built as early as 1637, was located at the mouth of St. Mary's River and remained in operation until ca. 1650. During the 1640s, St. Inigoes Manor suffered the same disruptions as did the rest of the colony when Richard Ingle and his followers raided St. Mary's and the surrounding farms and plantations. Property was stolen from the home farm and cattle were dispersed. Several Jesuit priests stationed at the manor fled to Virginia, and Fathers Copley and White were captured, taken to England, and tried for treason. During this period, the fort at St. Inigoes was pressed into service, and for two years Governor Calvert, after returning from Virginia, conducted the business of government from the fort (Smolek et al).
Puritans, emulating their fellow English zealots, raided St. Inigoes Manor in 1655, forcing the Jesuits to again flee to Virginia. The Jesuits returned to St. Inigoes in 1660, after the restoration of the Calvert government, and found the manor plundered and in ruins (Smolek et al. 1983:9).
In 1668 the headquarters of the Jesuit mission moved to Newtown Manor. The shift, however, did not significantly affect the operations at St. Inigoes Manor; the mission remained active and the manor continued to function as a self-sufficient home farm with servant's plantation and tenant farms (Smolek et al. 1983:9- 10). In 1704, the Maryland provincial legislature passed an "Act to Prevent Popery," which prevented the public practice of Catholicism (Beitzell 1976:44). As a result, the Catholic chapel at St. Mary's City was closed and dismantled, and the bricks were removed to St. Inigoes Manor. The bricks were used to construct the second St. Inigoes manor house, ca. 1705. The structure was built in what is now known as the Old Chapel Field (see Figure 4) and has been identified archaeologically (Pogue and Leeper 1984:13). Archeological evidence indicates that the site was occupied until ca. 1755, when a third manor house was built at Priest Point (see Figure 4) (Smolek et al. 1983:50). During the Revolutionary War, the exposed position of that structure made it an easy target for the British who occupied St. George's Island across St. Mary's River from the point. During the war, the manor was repeatedly plundered, and once a cannonball was fired into the manor house and nearly struck one of the Jesuit fathers.
At the conclusion of the war in 1783, the Jesuits rebuilt the home farm. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, under the direction of Brother Joseph Mobberly, St. Inigoes Manor experienced a long period of sustained prosperity. During his tenure, a brick barn, a windmill, a miller's house, a weaver's house, a blacksmith's shop, a cow house, and a hen house were added to the existing barns, stables, storehouses, workshops, and slave quarters (Agonjto 1977:88). The farm was so successful during this period that the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus moved from Georgetown College to St. Inigoes Manor in 1812 (Smolek et al. 1983:11). The outbreak of the War of 1812, however forced the Novitiate back to Georgetown in April 1813. During the war, St. Inigoes again was repeatedly raided by British troops. Property was stolen or destroyed, the chapel was desecrated, and there were threats to burn the manor house. It is reported that the tenants suffered greatly from the raids, and there was concern that many would have to move as they were unable to pay their rents (Smolek et al. 1983:12-13). After the war, the manor residents once again began to rebuild their farms. A map prepared shortly after the war (1818) shows only a few structures on the manor (Figure 7). In addition to the home farm at Priest Point (called Friable Point on the map), structures are shown on St. Inigoes Creek to the north, and on Smith Creek and Kitts Point at the southern end of the manor. No structures appear in the project vicinity.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the St. Inigoes Manor had recovered from the war and was prospering. St. Inigoes Manor experienced only minor damage during the Civil War, but in 1872 a defective flue caused a fire that destroyed the house at Priest Point. The ruins of the east wing were soon rebuilt into a smaller house that served as a priests' residence. In 1876, the "Villa House" was constructed north of the rebuilt manor house to accommodate students. In 1919, the priests' residence was transferred to St. Michaels's at Ridge, and activity at St. Inigoes Manor decreased. The Navy acquired the northern 773 acres of the manor in 1942 and created Webster Field as an auxiliary landing field for the Patuxent Naval Air Station. Shortly after the Navy acquired the property, the Villa House was torn down and a new barracks (Building 10) was constructed in its place All the remaining Jesuit buildings were also removed. The ruins of the small priests' residence at Priest Point was modified by the Navy into the Bachelor Officers' Quarters. The remainder of the manor is still owned by the Jesuits.