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Who put the Mary in Maryland?

By Travis Childs
Pioneer Sentinel

Over the past few months I took a break from writing about the founding of the English Colonies, to focus on what we know or think we know about Christmas.  So far I have written about Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  New Hampshire was settled similarly to Rhode Island and Connecticut by religious dissidents leaving Massachusetts to live and worship freely.  Unlike the other colonies settled by those leaving persecution, New Hampshire remained part of Massachusetts until 1679, when it became separate as part of the fallout after the Glorious Revolution in England.

Colonization happened in two waves.  The first wave beginning with Virginia, included the colonies of New England, and also included another colony along the Chesapeake Bay: Maryland.  Maryland was the dream of George Calvert, the 1st Lord Baltimore.  Calvert was a wealthy nobleman who had dual purposes in founding a colony.  Like all owners of colonies, be they individuals or companies, Calvert wanted to make money.  He chose the land just north of Virginia in hopes of creating another prosperous colony with a tobacco based economy.

Unlike most of the other people in England, Calvert was a Catholic.  Catholics were no longer the dominant religious group in England and persecutions occurred.  Calvert wanted to create a colony were Catholics could be free from Anglican abuse, and make him money growing tobacco.

Officially Maryland is named after Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I.  The queen was French and Catholic and a polarizing figure in England.  Anglicans despised her for her beliefs and Catholics revered her.  It is unique in history that a colony is named after someone’s middle name, which has led to scholarly speculation.  It is often argued, that Maryland was named secretly after the Virgin Mary, which makes sense for a Catholic colony, whose first capital was St. Mary’s.

Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.


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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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