Saint Mary's County (often abbreviated as St. Mary's County), established in 1637, is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 105,151. Its county seat is Leonardtown. The name is in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
St. Mary's County comprises the California-Lexington Park, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area. It is part of the Southern Maryland region. The county was the home to the first Maryland Colony, the first capitol of the Colony of Maryland and is considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in North America.
St. Mary's County has been traditionally known for its unique and historic culture of Chesapeake Bay tidewater farming, fishing and crabbing communities. But with the advent of the military bases, growth of an extensive defense contractor presence and the growth of St. Mary's College of Maryland, as well as increasing numbers of long-distance Washington D.C. commuters, it has been undergoing a decades-long transformation. The county's population has doubled since 1970.
The settlement of Lord Baltimore's Maryland began with the arrival of passengers from England at St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River in what is now southwestern St. Mary's County on March 25, 1634 (the anniversary of this landing being annually celebrated as Maryland Day). The passengers arrived in two vessels, the Ark and the Dove, which had set sail from the Isle of Wight on November 22, 1633. The county is also home to the first Catholic Mass celebrated in one of the original thirteen colonies -after they'd become English colonies (masses were said in 1526-7 at San Miguel de Gualdape).
Due to the small size of the Island, and its lack of resources, the intention was never to make a permanent settlement there. Instead it was used as a base for the settlers while scouting for a more suitable site. This was how a bluff overlooking the nearby St. Marys River was chosen for numerous reasons, and became the site of the first permanent settlement. It would soon be named "St. Marys City".
St. Mary's City, Maryland is the site of the first Maryland Capitol and remained so for over 50 years until 1695, when the capitol was moved to Annapolis.
Today Historic St. Mary's City is a major attraction in Maryland with four museums, a reconstructed colonial village and the reconstructed Maryland Dove settlers ship. It is also now one of the top archeological research sites in North America.
St. Mary's County was the first county established in Maryland, in 1637, probably by an order of the Governor.
In 1649, Lord Baltimore, with the Maryland General Assembly, passed the Maryland Toleration Act, which provided religious freedom for any (Christian) sect, and which was the first law of its kind in the New World. There is a statue in St. Mary's City commemorating this event, along with extensive museums, a reconstructed Colonial town, living history actors, and a replica of the Maryland Dove
War of 1812
St. Mary's County is where Francis Scott Key, the author of a poem which became The Star Spangled Banner, and professional wrestler Scott Hall grew up. St. Mary's County was the birthplace of Dashiell Hammett, and Orlando "Tubby" Smith, head basketball coach at the University of Minnesota. The largest employer is Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its related aerospace contract firms. There are both Amish and Mennonite communities who follow traditional ways. Tobacco, once dominant crop, has declined in recent years. The Maryland International Raceway (Budd's Creek) attracts many auto racing enthusiasts.
St. Marys County has some of the oldest still-standing buildings in English North America. Many of these of properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These buildings range through many historical periods, starting from the 1600s and running through the 1700s, 1800s and also notable buildings of the early 20th century.
The United States Colored Troops Memorial Statue is a memorial to the more than 700 African-American soldiers and sailors from St. Mary's County who served in the Union forces during the American Civil War. It includes an educational display. Special celebrations are also held there each year.
Saint Mary's County Families by Linda Reno Davis and Marcella Jehl Dawson is extremely helpful to researchers of early Saint Mary's county. It features abstracts of wills from 1638-1800, marriages from 1638-1820, and numerous other articles and projects.
The Saint Mary's County Genealogical Society offers memberships and publishes a newsletter called The Generator four times a year.