Lighthouses, parks, and history in St. Mary’s County, Md.

Michelle Teel

The Blackistone Lighthouse at St. Clement’s Island State Park was reconstructed to preserve the lighthouse heritage of the Potomac River.

Southern Maryland’s St. Mary’s County is home to a treasure trove of attractions.

Check out St. Clement’s Island Museum, located on the Potomac River overlooking the place where Lord Baltimore’s first settlers landed in the New World on March 25, 1634. The museum concentrates on Maryland’s earliest history, the region’s watermen, and Potomac River heritage.

Visitors to the museum learn the story of Maryland’s founding and trace the route of the first brave colonists who made the risky crossing of the ocean in two tiny wooden ships — The Ark, a 360-ton ship, and The Dove, a mere 60 tons. Learn about the political landscape of the 16th and 17th centuries. George Calvert wanted to found a colony based on religious tolerance, not just for Catholics, but all religions.

The Blackistone Lighthouse at St. Clement’s Island State Park was reconstructed to preserve the lighthouse heritage of the Potomac River.
The Blackistone Lighthouse at St. Clement’s Island State Park was reconstructed to preserve the lighthouse heritage of the Potomac River.

On arrival, these new Colonists would each receive 100 acres of land per adult, and 50 acres for each child. On board were 17 Catholic men, three Jesuit priests, one Jew, just a small number of women, and about 140 others who were mostly Protestant.

On Nov. 23, 1633, the two ships sailed from England. Almost four months later they landed on an island they named for St. Clement, the patron saint of sailors. The Catholics had celebrated the feast of St. Clement on the day of their departure from England.

St. Clement’s Island, now a Maryland state park, is open to the public for hiking, picnicking (with public picnic tables), and bird watching. A 40-foot-tall cross on the island serves as a memorial to the first Colonists who sought religious tolerance.

Also at the location are The Blackistone Lighthouse, a dory boat exhibit, and an authentic one-room Charlotte Hall schoolhouse from about 1820. All areas are handicapped-accessible and there are many special events and programs throughout the year.

During boating season, a water taxi shuttles visitors back and forth, and for those with their own craft, docking is available as well.

Insider tip: Don’t miss the Potomac Jazz and Seafood Festival on July 11. Only 800 seats are available and they sell out every year.

Also in the area is the Piney Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1836 and is now one of only four lighthouses remaining on the Potomac River. Visit the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Historic Park and learn about the history of the lighthouse, as well as the U-1105 Black Panther Shipwreck Preserve and the Potomac River’s maritime history. Enjoy a guided tour of the lighthouse and the keeper’s quarters.

View the collection of four historic wooden vessels including a 67-foot skipjack, an 84-foot bugeye, a period-specific log canoe, and a genuine Potomac River dory boat. The exhibits help you to understand a waterman’s life of working the waters of the Potomac for crabs, fish, and oysters.

For more information:

St. Mary’s Co. Tourism: visitstmarysmd.com

16-06St MArys Blackistone

 

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