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Chapter 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Annapolis: Its Colonial and Naval Story

Walter B. Norris

published by
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 3
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p10  Chapter II

A Puritan Settlement in a Catholic Colony

The origin of Annapolis as a settlement is interestingly bound up with the interplay of Royalist and Roundhead politics in England and with the delicate position in which Lord Baltimore, Royalist and Catholic friend and supporter of Charles I, was placed by his politics and his religion when Parliament espoused the cause of the Puritans in the fifth decade of the seventeenth century. The founding of Annapolis was perhaps chiefly due to Lord Baltimore's efforts to save his colony of Maryland from being taken away from him because of his loyalty to Charles I.

Already in 1634 Leonard Calvert, his brother, had established the colony on a branch of the Potomac at St. Mary's in southern Maryland, but the settlement had not prospered. Upon the execution of Charles I in 1649, Lord Baltimore  p11 renewed his efforts to secure settlers, and especially Protestants. Although in the very beginning of the colony Lord Baltimore had proclaimed religious freedom — he could do little else if he wished the Catholics protected — in 1649 he caused the Assembly of the colony to pass the famous Toleration Act, which read:

"No person or persons whatsoever within this province or the islands, ports, harbors, creeks, or havens thereunto belonging, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be anyways troubled, molested, or discountenanced, for or in respect of his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof within this province or the islands thereunto belonging."

This not only assured Protestants that they would be welcome in the colony, but also strengthened the security of the Catholics already there, who much needed it when the Puritans came into power in the mother country.

Even before this, in 1648, Lord Baltimore had appointed a Protestant Governor, made three Protestants members of the Council of the colony, and appointed another Protestant the Provincial Secretary. William Stone, the new  p12 Governor, was a Virginian who had apparently offered to bring with him into the Chesapeake country a large number of new settlers. These he found already in America, and not far away, in Virginia about what is now Norfolk. The group chiefly consisted of a number of Puritan families who had, in 1642, been brought over by Richard Bennett, nephew of one of the Governors of the Virginia Company. Members of an Independent church in England, they had emigrated to secure the same privileges in religious worship and community life that had sent the Scrooby Pilgrims to Plymouth only a few years before them. Even as early as 1638 Puritans had settled about Sewell's Point near where the Jamestown Exposition was later held.

But soon they found themselves persecuted even in the New World. The Virginia colony was Royalist and anxious that the supremacy of the established Church should be maintained in Virginia as well as in England. Accordingly, several Puritan ministers whom Bennett had secured from Boston were expelled, some of the chief members of the settlement summoned to court for refusing to hear common  p13 prayer, and the free exercise of Puritan ideas of worship generally interfered with.1

To these people William Stone offered an asylum in Maryland, even promising that the oath of fidelity to Lord Baltimore would be changed so that these Roundheads would not be obliged to swear allegiance to a Royalist and Catholic. Some had probably already come.

In 1648, William Durand, one of the leaders of the group, had come to the Severn to examination the opportunity offered, and in the two years that followed the whole body apparently migrated to Maryland and settled at the mouth of the Severn and along the shore of the Chesapeake down to the Patuxent. At the former place the town, called Providence, was laid out on the northern side at the very mouth of the river, near where Greenberry Point Light House now stands. Here considerable land has been gradually washed away by the action of the waves.

The triumphs of the Parliamentary party in England and the coming of Cromwell to power  p14 soon inspired the Puritans with hopes for the triumph of their cause politically and religiously in Maryland. They at once became openly antagonistic to the government of the province. First, they refused to take the oath of fidelity in spite of the fact that this was required to gain title to the land which every settler was given for coming into the colony. In consequence much litigation later took place. But soon the expectations to Puritans were fulfilled. In 1651 Parliament appointed commissioners to reduce and reorganize the Virginia colony, and although Lord Baltimore managed to have the word Maryland omitted from their instructions, enough was said about the lands on the Chesapeake to furnish a pretext for the two commissioners who actually undertook the enterprise to go ahead and interfere in the affairs of Maryland. For these two men were no other than the Richard Bennett who had brought the Severn settlers to Virginia, and William Claiborne, a Virginian who had clashed with Lord Baltimore several years before by establishing a trading post on Kent Island just opposite the mouth of the Severn and had refused to acknowledge the  p15 authority of the Catholic Proprietary. He had been finally ejected only by the armed forces of Lord Baltimore in the first naval conflict in Maryland waters.

With such support it was not long before the Puritans controlled the colony. But Lord Baltimore's previous strategy in appointing a Protestant governor and bringing in Protestant settlers was not in vain, for Cromwell did not take the colony away from him, and Parliament by denying the petitions of the most extreme Puritans enabled him to assert in 1655 that his authority had been confirmed. He thereupon ordered Governor Stone to proclaim the fact and to require the Severn Puritans to acknowledge his sovereignty. At the head of 200 men with eleven boats to assist in crossing the rivers Stone marched from St. Mary's toward the Severn to bring the recalcitrant Puritans to terms. This led to the so‑called Battle of the Severn in 1655, the first important event in the history of Annapolis.

The engagement took place on March 25th on the southern side of what is now Spa Creek, which stretches along the southern side of the  p16 town. Stone and his forces had sailed into the Severn, passed by the site of Annapolis, and landed on the lower side of the creek. The Puritans had assembled on the opposite side of the Severn, and had impressed a ship anchored in the river for the purpose of blockading Stone's forces in the creek. This ship, the Golden Lion, commanded by Roger Heamans, was also assisted by a small New England vessel armed with two guns. Meanwhile the Puritan forces crossed the river to a point from which they could swing around to the south and attack Lord Baltimore's men from the rear. In the rather sharp conflict which followed the Puritan commander, Captain Fuller, with his one hundred and twenty men completely routed the Proprietary's forces. Practically all of these were captured, including Stone himself. The number of killed and wounded on both sides was about fifty. Ten of the leaders of the defeated force were condemned to death but only four were actually shot. Stone was not among these.

The intensity of feeling on both sides is well shown by the numerous printed accounts and  p17 discussions of the affair that still exist. Heamans, the captain of the Golden Lion, published in London the year of the engagement "Narrative of a Late Bloody Design Against the Protestants of Anne Arundel County,"2 in which he tells the story of the battle and charges that the chief men of the Catholic party tried to persuade a former seaman of the Golden Lion to fire on the ship and blow her up. His story runs:

"Suddenly or within two hours after at the most, in the very shutting up of the day's light, the ship's (Golden Lion's) company descried off a company of sloops and boats working toward the ship; whereupon the Council on board and the ship's company would have made shot at them, but the relator (Heamans) commanded them to forbear and went himself upon the poop on the stern of his ship and hailed them several times and no answer was made."

Finally fired on twice, the boats of Stone's force rowed off, "calling the ship's company rogues, Roundheads — rogues and dogs, and  p18 with many execrations and railings threatening to fire upon them in the morning."

Even more colorful is the account of the affair written to Lord Baltimore by the wife of Governor Stone while her husband was still a captive in the hands of the Puritans. She writes:

"I am sorry at present for to let your honor understand of our sad condition in your province. Sort is, that my husband with the rest of your Council went about a month agone with a party of men up to Anne Arundel County, to bring those factious people to obedience under your government. My husband sent Dr. Barber with one Mr. Coursey with a message to them, but they never returned again before the fight began. Also he sent over one Mr. Packer the day after, with a message, and he likewise never returned, as I heard: but so it was, that upon Sunday the 25th of March they did engage with the people of Anne Arundel, and lost the field, not above five of our men escaped; which I did conceive ran away before the fight was ended; the rest all taken, some killed and wounded; my husband hath received  p19 a wound in his shoulder, but I hear it is upon the mending.

"My husband, I am confident, did not think that they would have engaged, but it did prove too true to all our great damages; they, as I hear, being better provided than my husband did expect; for they hired the captain of the Golden Lion, a great ship of burden, the captain's name is Roger Heamans, a young man, and his brother, who have been great sticklers in the business, as I hear. Captain Heamans was one of their council of war, and by his consent would have had all the prisoners hanged; but after quarter given, they tried all your Councillors by a council of war, and sentence was passed upon my husband to be shot to death, but was after saved by the enemy's own soldiers, and so the rest of the Councillors were saved by the petitions of the women, with some other friends which they found there; only Master William Eltonhead was shot to death, whose death I much lament, being shot in cold blood; and also Lieutenant William Lewis, with one Mr. Leggat and a German, which did live with Mr. Eltonhead, which by all relations that  p20 ever did hear of, the like barbarous act was never done among Christians.

"They have sequestered my husband's estate, only they say they will allow a maintenance for me and my children, which I do believe will be but small. They keep my husband, with the rest of the Council, and all other officers, still prisoners; I am very suddenly, God willing, bound up to see my husband. They will not so much as suffer him to write a letter unto me, but they will have the perusal of what he writes.

"Captain Tilghman and his mate Master Cook are very honest men, and do stand up much for your Honor; they will inform you of more passages than I can remember at present; and I hope my brother will be down before Captain Tilghman goes away, and will write to you more at large; for he is bound up this day for to see his brother, if they do not detain him there as well as the rest; the occasion I conceive of their detainment there is, because they should not go home to inform your Honor of the truth of the business before they make their own tale in England, which let them do their worst, which I do not question  p21 but you will vindicate my husband's honor which hath ventured life and estate to keep your due here, which by force he hath lost.

"And they give out words that they have won the country by the sword, and by it they will keep the same, let my Lord Protector send in what writing he pleaseth. The Gunner's Mate of Heamans, since his coming down from Anne Arundel to Patuxent, hath boasted that he shot the first man that was shot of our party. All this I write is very true, which I thought good to inform your Lordship, because they will not suffer my husband for to write himself. I hope your Honor will be pleased for to look upon my son, and for to wish him for to be of good comfort, and not for to take our afflictions to heart.

And nothing else at present, I rest

Your Honor's most humble servant

Virlinda Stone.

"Post-Script: I hope your Honor will favor me so much that if my son wants twenty or thirty pounds you will let him have it, and it shall be paid your Honor again.

 p22  "Heamans, the master of the Golden Lion, is a very knave, and that will be made plainly for to appear to your Lordship, for he hath abused my husband most grossly."3

When Charles II came to the throne, the Puritans of the Severn quietly submitted to the rule of Lord Baltimore. This was largely due to his judicious methods of handling the situation, for he made no reprisals and admitted Protestants and rebels to the Governor's Council. The settlers of Providence thus lost none of the privileges which they had sought by their original migration from Virginia.

Already in 1650 the settlers had sent two burgesses to the provincial Assembly, and one of these had been elected Speaker. In 1650 Col. Edward Lloyd, Gentleman, one of their chief military men, had also been appointed commander of the armed forces of the Severn section, and he was later a member of the Governor's Council. To him is probably due the very name of the river, which like his name is obviously Welsh. Later when he moved to the  p23 Eastern Shore of Maryland he bestowed other Welsh names, Wye and Tred Avon, on rivers there.

In 1650 the section had also been made a county extending north and west almost indefinitely from the Severn. This had been named Anne Arundel in honor of the daughter of the Earl of Arundel, who became the wife of the second Lord Baltimore. The settlement on Greenberry Point, which had originally been known as Town Neck, was given the Puritan name of Providence. But this site never grew into a town, for the immigrants preferred to scatter about on plantations of considerable extent, and when traders and other townspeople came they preferred the present location of Annapolis. This was originally called Proctor's Landing from Richard Proctor, one of the earliest inhabitants. Later it was known as Anne Arundel Town or as either Severn or Proctor's until 1695, when it was formally named Annapolis in honor of Princess Anne, daughter of James II, but a Protestant, and later Queen.

Trading with the Indians was one of the  p24 early activities of the settlers. Richard Bennett, who had originally secured the land on Greenberry Point, sold it to Nathaniel Utie, an extensive trader and a member of the Governor's Council in 1654. As in Virginia, however, the chief product was tobacco. The records also show that there was very frequent intercourse between the Chesapeake Bay settlers and the Dutch on the Delaware and the Hudson. Adventurers from these settlements moved to Maryland, and runaway servants from one to the other were not uncommon and caused frequent disputes.

One can therefore imagine the new settlement as scattered along the Severn and not concentrated on any one spot. Indians were common and often troublesome. The Susquehannocks, who had been pushed south by the Senecas so that they were chiefly found on the western shore of the Chesapeake as far south as the Severn, were a powerful and warlike tribe, much in contrast to the peaceful Piscataways who had welcomed Calvert to southern Maryland. With the Susquehannocks, however, the Puritans concluded a treaty in 1652 which allowed  p25 the whites to settle around the head of Chesapeake and down both its shores, and this treaty seems to have prevented any serious trouble. Tradition testifies that it was concluded and signed under the huge tulip poplar tree that still stands on the campus of St. John's College.

The Author's Notes:

1 See D. R. Randall, "A Puritan Colony in Maryland," Johns Hopkins University Historical Studies, Fourth Series, No. 6.

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2 Printed in Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. IV, p140 ff.

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3 "Refutation of 'Babylon's Fall,' " by John Langford, Gentleman, London, 1655.

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Page updated: 7 May 13