The Maryland settlement was authorized under the charter granted June 20, 1632, by Charles I of England to Cecil Calvert, Baron of Baltimore. Traveling on the Ark to the new colony, Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore's brother, led the Maryland settlers. The purpose of their voyage was not to discover new lands but to settle them. And, as it happened, they journeyed from island to island to find their new world.1
Departing on November 22, 1633, these travelers (about 140 in number) set off from Cowes on the English Isle of Wight. Three days later a severe storm tossed them relentlessly about at sea. The morning after, the Dove (the smaller ship) could not be seen. The Ark continued its journey, following the European coast south to the Fortunate (now Canary) Islands. From the Canaries, the Ark sailed due west across the Atlantic, touching land at the island of Barbadoes in the West Indies on January 3, 1633/4. There, the ship's weary travelers stayed three weeks replenishing provisions, and there the Dove reappeared, having weathered the Atlantic voyage alone. At other Caribbean isles they also landed, and then sailed north. They reached Virginia on February 27th, gathered more supplies, and navigated Chesapeake Bay north to the mouth of the Potomac by March 3rd.
As these voyagers approached southern Maryland shores in March 1634, their ships alarmed Native Americans, who sent alerts with huge signal fires. To meet the Conoy Indian chief and calm Indian fears, Leonard Calvert on the Dove sailed to Piscataway. There, they negotiated a peaceable accord, and then Calvert sailed back down the Potomac off present-day St. Mary's County. On March 25th, the English settlers climbed down from the Ark and the Dove and rowed to the island which they named St. Clement's. They held a day of thanksgiving for their safe voyage end, and we continue to commemorate it as Maryland Day.
The formal observance of Maryland Day began in 1903 when the State Board of Education chose one day in the school year to be devoted to Maryland history. March 25th was named Maryland Day by the Board. In 1916, the General Assembly authorized Maryland Day as a legal holiday (Chapter 633, Acts of 1916).
1 For more about the early Maryland settlement and the voyage from England, see Maryland . . . at the beginning, by Lois Green Carr, Russell R. Menard, and Louis Peddicord (1984).
April 1, 2001
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