Do You Know the History of Southern Maryland’s County Names?

Kimberly Bean
Kimberly Bean
Published on October 20, 2017

Cecil Calvert

Spend even a little bit of time digging into Maryland’s history, and you’ll come across some very familiar names.

Baltimore? Named for Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. Maryland was his father George’s dream; he wanted a place where all religions could practice freely.

Anne Arundel County? Named for Cecil Calvert’s wife, Anne Arundell. The couple had nine children, one of whom you’ll meet later.

As the birthplace of Maryland, Southern Maryland is full of historic names. Leonardtown, for example, is named for Gov. Benedict Leonard Calvert, who was governor of Maryland in the early 1700s. Prince Frederick is believed to have been named in honor of Frederick, who was one of King George II’s sons. At the time, he was Prince of Wales.

Maryland’s earliest history begins in St. Mary’s County – on St. Clement’s Island, specifically – when settlers from England arrived on the ships the Ark and Dove in 1634. Maryland was settled by English Catholics, which made it unique because most of the other colonies in North America were settled by Protestants.

The county, which hosted the first Catholic Mass in North America in 1634, is named for the Catholic saint Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her name was also given to St. Mary’s City, the site of Maryland’s first colony and its first capitol city. Established in 1637, St. Mary’s County is the first county in Maryland.

The Calvert family played a central role in the founding of Maryland. George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore, died before his dream of a colony that celebrated religious freedom could be established, so his son Cecil took up the cause. He sent his brothers George and Leonard on the Ark and Dove to what is now St. Clement’s Island.

Calvert County, then, is named for the Calvert family in honor of their pivitol place in Maryland history, but it wasn’t always the county’s name. Originally, some of Calvert County was part of Charles County. It became its own county in 1654, but it was called Patuxent County. Four years later, it was renamed Calvert County.

Charles Calvert

As we noted above, Cecil Calvert and Anne Arundell had nine children. Many of them died young, but one, Charles, moved to Maryland in 1661, becoming his father’s deputy governor. When his father died in 1675, Charles inherited Maryland and became the colony’s governor. Charles was the 3rd Baron Baltimore, and it is for him that Charles County is named. Charles County was established in 1658.

Fascinated by local history and Southern Maryland’s unique place in America’s birth? Check out the historical society in each county:

(Cover image via Historic St. Mary’s City on Facebook. Cecil Calvert and Charles Calvert photos via Wikipedia.)

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