St. Mary's City in St. Mary's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Snapshots of St. John's
Archaeologists found that Chesapeake Indians used the St. John's site over thousands of years. Its freshwater spring, well drained land, and easy access to the river made it an attractive location. Pottery dated to the late 1500s and early 1600s indicates that one or more houses stood nearby in the years before the English arrived. These houses were most likely part of the Yaocomaco village where later St. Mary's City would be located. Previous Chesapeake Indian habitation along with good soil and a fine spring influenced John Lewger's selection of this area for his plantation and the first English house built on this site.
Sometime in late 1637, newly arrived settler John Lewger chose this place to build his house and plantation, naming the tract St. John's. He was sent by Lord Baltimore to be Maryland's first secretary of state and assist Governor Leonard Calvert. In 1638, Lewger built an English-style house here—one of the finest homes in the colony at the time. Some of the first meetings of Maryland's legislature were held here during which procedures and laws were developed that helped shape Maryland's new government.
A Dutch merchant named Simon Overzee moved into St. John's ca. 1654. Overzee was from Rotterdam and had lived in Virginia before coming to Maryland. He renovated Lewger's house, built several outbuildings, and re-fenced the yards. As a trans-Atlantic merchant, Overzee traded with the Netherlands, England, the Caribbean colonies, and New England. He was very ambitious and had rapidly become one of the major merchants in the early Chesapeake when he suddenly died in 1660. His widow remained at St. John's for another year until she remarried.
Charles Calvert arrived in Maryland in late 1661. Due to Simon Overzee's death, St. John's was available and Calvert acquired it for his home. Sent by his father, the Lord Baltimore, to be governor, the 24-year old Charles made a few improvements to St. John's including the addition of a nursery. In a letter to his father, Calvert noted that his household was very large, containing over 30 people. Calvert lived at St. John's until 1667 when he moved to a plantation on the Patuxent River. He then began leasing St. John's to various innkeepers.
After Charles Calvert moved out, St. John's served as a public inn or ordinary for the next 20 years. The first innkeeper was a Frenchman named Mark Cordea. A second Frenchman, Charles de La Roche, also ran an inn here. The last known ordinary operator was Englishman Henry Exon. In 1678, Exon negotiated a lease with Lord Baltimore and carried out extensive repairs to St. John's including the installation of a Dutch pantile roof, remodeling the kitchen, and rebuilding the house and kitchen chimneys.
Abandoned to Agriculture
St. John's served as a records office for a few years and then as a farm house during its last decades. Archaeology indicates the house was abandoned around 1715. Planters demolished the ruins and plowed up the site for crops. Over the next two centuries, farmers grew fields of wheat, corn, and tobacco on the St. John's site. Around the time of World War I, farming stopped and trees began growing over the old house site. All traces of this ancient building were hidden underground until its rediscovery in 1962.
Erected by Historic St. Mary's City.
Location. 38° 11.391′ N, 76° 25.735′ W. Marker is in St. Mary's City, Maryland, in St. Mary's County. Marker can be reached from Margeret Brent Way west of Mathias De Sousa Drive, on the left when traveling west. Marker is inside the open air structure at the entrance of the museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 47645 Margeret Brent Way, Saint Marys City MD 20686, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. St. John's and the Wider World (here, next to this marker); Entrance to St. John's Museum (here, next to this marker); Exploring St. John's (here, next to this marker); Relax Awhile! (here, next to this marker); The Quarter Building (a few steps from this marker); Welcome to St. John's (within shouting distance of this marker); St. Mary's College of Maryland (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named St. Mary's College of Maryland (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Mary's City.
Categories. • Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce • Native Americans • Settlements & Settlers •
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Credits. This page was last revised on October 6, 2019. This page originally submitted on October 6, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 49 times since then and 3 times this year. Photo 1. submitted on October 6, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.