Charles Cty Md

Charles County has a Unique and Early History

Several Maddox lines settled here   

By Diana Bara

Located southeast of present day Washington DC, Charles County is just northwest of St. Mary's county which was the Maryland Colony's first settlement.  More than a few Maddox familes migrated the short distance into what would become Charles County in 1659.  Most of  the population of St. Mary’s County was on the east side of the Wicomico River.

As early as 1638, Maryland’s original settlers were granted land on the west side of the Wicomico.  The proprietary manor of St. Thomas, owned by Thomas Copley, a Jesuit Priest, was granted in 1638.   It was located on east side of Port Tobacco Creek, deep in the wilderness and many miles away from the City of St. Mary’s

In 1651, 1,600 acres around Newport, was made into the Manor of Westwood and owned by Thomas Gerrard.  Numerous other Proprietary Manors, such as Zachia Manor, Pangiah and Calverton were created prior to 1658.  More on Maryland and its Manors...

In a 1794 map, Charles County Maryland bordered on the south by the Potomac River.  Virginia is shown south of the Potomac at the bottom.   St, Marys county is to the east on the peninsula of southern Maryland.

Need for a new County Government

With the growth of this area called St. Mary’s,  on the west side of the Wicomico, came complaints that the distance to St. Mary’s City and the courthouse, was too far and made it difficult to transact business.  On April 13, 1658, the Governor’s Council ordered the creation of a new county, which would take care of these more distant settlers.  On May 10, 1658, Governor Josias Fendall, issued a proclamation to John Hatch, James Lindsey, Henry Adams, Edward Parks, James Walker and Robert Hunley, Gentlemen. 
“..All the tract of Land of this our Province of Maryland, bownded with west Wicocomoco Ryver up to the head therof and Sowth with Patowmeck Ryver from the mouth of Wicocomoco up as high as any Plantaon (Plantation) under our gorvermt. is now seated and thence with a right line drawne from such Plantaon as afores’d to the head of the Wicocomoco Ryver, up (is erected ) into a county” to be named “in honour of our only son and heir apparent, Charles Calvert, Esquire...”

Charles, Calvert, and Prince Georges Counties

        The wording of the proclamation was vague about the exact location of the new county’s North eastern boundary, because the exact location of the highest plantation was not noted.   The boundary remained vague until 1695, when a General Act of Assembly created Prince Georges County.  Prince Georges County was created in 1696 from  Charles and also Calvert County.  The county seat today is Upper Marlboro.  Charles County was to begin on the upper side of the Indian and Bird (now Budd’s) Creeks where the upper bounds of St. Mary’s County ended and it extended upward as far as Mattawoman Creek and branch.  It was bounded on the branch by a straight line drawn from the head of Swanson’s Creek in the Patuxent River.  It included all the land lying on the upper part of Bird’s Creek and Indian Creek and their Branches,  where St. Mary's County ends.  Then to the lower side of Mattawoman Creek and Branch and Swanson Creek and Branch between the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers.

       All the land west of the Patuxent River was intended to be part of Charles County from the beginning.  Due to the original vague boundary, and the convenience of water transportation, the settlers living in the water shed area of  Patuxent River, probably transacted their business in Calvert County.

This section should have been originally part of Charles County, and now lies in Prince Georges.  This is something one needs to keep in mind when locating ancestors who were later found to be in Prince Georges County, that they might be found among the records of Charles or Calvert.  The same can be said for St. Mary’s and Charles counties,  that the records found in the counties of Prince Georges and Calvert, should be included in any search.

Private, then Public Court Houses

        Prior to 1675, the Charles County court seems to have met in inns or in private homes.  The listings of the County Levies show payments to innkeepers for this purpose.  In 1671, Edmund Lindsey, a planter and innkeeper in Port Tobacco was paid 1,000 pounds of tobacco for his trouble of keeping court in his home.  In 1672, Benjamin Rozer, the sheriff, received 450 pounds of tobacco for also keeping court in his home.  In fact, the term “Court House,” was used to refer to this practice. 

        The first courthouse of Charles County, was built in 1697 and was not in the town of Port Tobacco according  to the original deed.  It was located on a parcel of land owned by Thomas Hussey, called Moores Lodge, which was four miles from the head of Port Tobacco River.  It was probably on one of the branches of Zekiah Swamp, called Clarkes run which is about three miles south of La Plata.   In 1727, an Act of Assembly authorized a new courthouse to be built at Port Tobacco, because the location of the current court house was too remote and too far from water access, which was a primary means of transportation.   The erection of  the Courthouse and prison would be on the East side of Port Tobacco Creek, in Charlestown, which was called Port Tobacco.  Court proceedings and many papers were lost in a 1746 fire at the clerk’s house, where they were stored.  The records have been partly reconstituted. 

     In 1815, a supplementary act of the legislature provided for the erection of another new court house.  It was ready in 1821 and is the courthouse most well known as the Port Tobacco Courthouse, because it is the one remembered by the oldest generations of Charles County.  This courthouse burned on August 3, 1892.  Even though many records were saved, there were heavy losses of loose papers and of administrative and financial records. Near the site where it stood is the Catslide House  which was built in 1720.  To replaced the burned courthouse, a new court house building was built in 1896 in La Plata, where the county seat is located today. 

Port Tobacco, Charles County

 The town of Port Tobacco from 1727 until the end of the 19th century was the center of political and social life.  It was larger then the other towns in the area and was also the center of commerce for the entire area.  A spot called Warehouse landing which was down Port Tobacco Creek a short distance from Port Tobacco Town was the Naval Port of Entry, where goods were weighed and ships unloaded goods for the colonists that were necessities and sometimes luxuries.  It is where the colonists loaded their hogsheads of tobacco for trade that was sent to England. 


Klapthor, Margaret Brown and Paul Dennis Brown. (1958) . The History of Charles County, Maryland, Written in its Tercentenary Year of 1958.  La Plata: Charles County Tercentenary, Inc..

Hammett, Regina Combs. ( 1994). History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland 1634-1990. Ridge: Regina Combs Hammett.

Schweitzer, George K.. (1991). Maryland Genealogical Research. 

Photo: Catslide House (1720) Chapel Point Road Port Tobacco, MD 20677 
Site of the Charles County Courthouse (1819) Off Rte 6 on Chapel Point Road Port Tobacco, MD 20677

Links to notable Charles County Families and Places

Thomas Gerrard, Lord of the Manor
St. Mary's County, an overview
Notley Maddoxes of St. Mary's and Charles Counties
Kings, Calverts, and Gerards, more on Lord Baltimore and the First Colonists
Notley Maddox and Nancy Ann - a disputed placement from Roberta Wiley
Religious Freedom in Maryland
Cornelius Maddox, Charles Co land owner
The Thomas Gerrard link to Maddox
The Warren Family of Charles and St. Mary's Counties
Diana Bara's Research - Notley Maddocke of Pt Tobacco