Southern Maryland’s history is the country’s history. One of the original 13 colonies, settlers were in Maryland as far back as the 1630s. Historic sites throughout the region allow visitors and locals alike to step back in time and experience Southern Maryland’s history.
For the very earliest in local history, start at St. Clement’s Island Museum and Historic St. Mary’s City. At St. Clement’s Island, you can learn more about the first settlers to land in Maryland and their desire for religious freedom. The island was the site of the first Roman Catholic Mass in North America.
At Historic St. Mary’s City, you can interact with the English settlers and Native Americans who called the location home. Built on the location of Maryland’s first capital city, Historic St. Mary’s City is a living history museum that allows visitors to learn from the settlers and natives who once lived on this land.
To go back even further in time, visit the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard. Archaeology digs there have documented human occupation at the site for more than 9,000 years. The park is also home to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Museum and hosts several events throughout the year to showcase its history.
A Nation is Born
Charles County landowner and lawyer Thomas Stone was one of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. A reluctant revolutionary – he preferred diplomacy over war – Stone owned 400 acres of land near Port Tobacco. His estate, Haberdeventure, is a National Historic Site where you can learn more about his life and place in history.
Part of the American Story
Throughout history, Southern Maryland has played a part in America’s story. At Sotterley Plantation, you can learn about a tidewater plantation and the owners and slaves who lived and worked there. Located on 95 acres on the Patuxent River, the plantation offers programs and events that shine a light on its residents and the time during which the plantation operated.
During the Civil War, Point Lookout, which is at the southernmost tip of St. Mary’s County, served as a busy port. A large Union Army hospital was there as well as a prison camp that held more than 52,000 Confederate soldiers. Today, Point Lookout State Park includes a museum documenting this history as well as a lighthouse and recreational activities.
Then, in April 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC. Booth broke his leg as he fled the scene, and he received care the next morning at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s home on the outskirts of what is now Waldorf. You can tour the home to learn more about Dr. Mudd, who was a Charles County native, his family, and the home’s place in history.
Chesapeake Bay History
No exploration of Southern Maryland history would be complete without learning about the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that feed into it. At the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, visitors can learn the Bay’s story through fossils, the natural environment, and maritime history. The museum explores the area’s prehistoric past, its current natural resources, and the history of the waterways from the Pawtuxunt Indians who originally lived here through English settlement, slavery, war, and beyond. The J.C. Lore Oyster house explores the oyster process, and you can tour the Drum Point Light or take a cruise on the historic boat Wm. B. Tennison.
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