History of Maryland's Eastern Shore
Giovanni da Verrazano is thought to have visited the Atlantic coast near
Chincoteague Bay in 1524. In 1526, Spanish explorers sailed into Chesapeake
Bay and called it Santa Maria, a name that appears on a 1556 map. In 1608,
Captain John Smith of Virginia became the first authenticated European visitor.
In late 1631, William Clairborne established a fur-trading post, which is
regarded as the first permanent European settlement, on Kent Island
(opposite Annapolis). At the time of early European settlement, the principal
Indian groups were three Algonquian tribes - the Piscataway on the Western Shore,
who left the area in 1697; and the Nanticoke and Pocomoke-Assateague on the
Eastern Shore, who migrated westward in the 1740s. The Susquehannock also inhabited
the area, but in 1675 they were carried into captivity by the Iroquois Nations.
In 1632, King Charles I of England granted George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore,
settlement rights to lands between the 40th parallel and
the south bank of the Potomac. Calvert died before the papers were complete,
and the charter passed to his son Cecilius (Cecil) Calvert, 2d Baron Baltimore.
In November 1633, 200 colonists set sail from England in the Ark and the Dove,
which landed on Mar. 24, 1634, at Saint Clement (now Blakistone) Island at the
mouth of the Potomac. They purchased the Indian village of Yaocomico, which
they renamed St. Mary's (now St. Mary's City) and used for 60 years as the
capital and center of the colony. Lord Baltimore, a Roman Catholic, sought
religious freedom for the colony, and in 1649 the Colonial Assembly passed the
Act Concerning Religion, the first statute in the colonies to provide freedom
of worship for all Christians.
From 1692 to 1715, Maryland was a crown colony, ruled by royal governors. During
this period the Church of England was the official religion, and in 1694 the
capital moved to Annapolis. The Baltimores regained control in 1715. At first
the colony had a diversified agriculture, but by the end of the 17th century
tobacco was the staple crop.
In the Revolutionary period, Maryland was one of the first colonies to repudiate
the Stamp Act (1765). Early in the colonial resistance to British rule,
Marylanders had their own "tea party," in 1774 in Chestertown when the tea-carrying
ship Peggy Stewart was burned in Annapolis harbor. On July 3, 1776, the state
disavowed its allegiance to the king, and 4 months later was the first of the
former colonies to adopt a state constitution. Marylanders were active in both
Continental Congresses and in the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
During the Revolutionary War, Maryland troops distinguished themselves in battles
outside the state, but no fighting took place in the state. In 1788, Maryland became
the 7th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and in 1791 it ceded to the nation
174 km2 (67 mi2)
along the Potomac for construction of the District of Columbia.
Maryland's early years of statehood were spent in developing the state's
resources. Shipping and trade expanded, and families abandoning the worn-out
tobacco farms of the Eastern Shore and southern Maryland migrated westward into
the Piedmont. Baltimore, incorporated in 1797, grew rapidly as a port, shipbuilding,
and industrial center, attaining a population of 26,500 (more than Boston) in 1800
and 169,000 in 1850. New transportation facilities integrated the growing trade
of lands west of the Appalachians into the region. Among the more important routes
were the National Road (1818); the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (1829) across the
Delmarva Peninsula; the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal along the Potomac River to
Cumberland and the coalfields of western Maryland; and the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad, the first U.S. passenger railroad, begun in 1828.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Maryland had almost equal numbers of slaves and
free blacks, and the state was sharply divided in its sympathies to North and South.
However, when neighboring Virginia seceded, Maryland's presence within the Union
became vital to the defense of Washington, D.C., and President Lincoln was forced
to prevent secession by imposing military rule. Fierce battles fought on Maryland
soil included the battles of South Mountain and Antietam (both in 1862) and Monocacy (1864).
After the Civil War, manufacturing expanded rapidly, except during the 12-year depression
following the Panic of 1873, and eventually emerged as the mainstay of the economy.
Thousands of Greek, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, and other immigrants, together
with blacks migrating from rural counties, flocked to take jobs in Baltimore's
textile and other factories.
From 1870 to 1895 transportation interests, led by Arthur P. Gorman and I. Freeman
Rasin, dominated state politics and kept Democrats in power. In 1895 the Gorman-Rasin
machine was overthrown, but Democrats continued to dominate state politics and have
since lost the governorship to Republicans only five times. In 1904, Baltimore was
devastated by fire but recovered to grow rapidly as World Wars I and II increased
demand for the city's industrial products. More recently, Washington-related research
and other industries have increased the state's prosperity.
Race relations in Maryland were severely strained by the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court
decision to end segregation, and widespread rioting occurred in the 1960s, mostly
in Baltimore. Spiro T. Agnew, Maryland's fifth Republican governor since 1895 (1967-69),
was elected U.S. vice-president in 1968 and 1972. In 1973, however, he resigned the
office during an investigation of charges of graft while he was a Maryland official.
Governor Marvin Mandel, Agnew's Democratic successor, was indicted on similar charges
in 1975, convicted in 1978 on charges of mail fraud and racketeering, and sentenced
to jail. Forced by Maryland law to resign, Mandel resumed office for the 45 hours of
his remaining term after the overturn on appeal (later reversed) of his conviction
in January 1979. Since then the Maryland governorship has remained
in the hands of the Democratic party.
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