Proprietary Colonies

Proprietary Manors of Maryland - Maddox Family Website 
by Diana Bara

The Province of Maryland was the vision of George Calvert, who was given the title of Baron of Baltimore, by King James I,  for his faithful service as Secretary of State. He had a financial interest in overseas enterprise from investments he made in joint stock companies.  In 1620, he purchased an interest in a patent from a syndicate, “for the Colony and Plantation of Newfoundland.” Two years later he obtained a patent from the crown, to the whole southeast coast of the island calling his grant “Avalon.”

He soon found the climate of Newfoundland unbearably cold.  About 1629, Lord Baltimore asked for a precinct of land in the colony of Virginia.  However, as a Catholic he found the attitude of the Virginia Colonists threatening.  He eventually fixed his sites on the upper bay north of the Potomac and drew up a charter leaving the name blank, which the king supplied as, Terra Maria, Latin for Mary Land - to honor the queen. 

        George Calvert died before his vision of  his new Avalon, Terra Maria, was realized.   However, his son continued his father’s legacy and on June 20, 1632, a charter was issued to Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore.  He became the first proprietor of Maryland.   Each land grant issued in the province of Maryland  began by addressing him in the following manner, “ Cecilius, absolute Lord and proprietary  of Maryland and Avalon Lord Baron of Baltimore.” 

Maryland is Settled - 1634

        Cecilius never set foot in the Province, because he had to deal with too many issues in England.  Instead he sent his brother Leonard whom he appointed as governor of the colony.  In November 1633, two ships, the Ark and the Dove,  left England.  Passengers on the ships  included Leonard Calvert, Father White, a Catholic Priest,  and 200 settlers.  The settlers were mostly men, Protestant and indentured servants.  In early, March 1634,  the group arrived in the Chesapeake and after peaceful agreements with the Indians settled on a site.  On March 25, 1634, Father White celebrated Mass and a wooden cross was erected on St. Clements Island to mark Maryland’s first Founders’ Day.   The location for the permanent settlement was chosen on the mainland on a site where the river makes two excellent bays, one called St.Georges Bay and the other St. Maries Bay.  The town was called St. Maries.   St. Mary’s County, which was created in 1637, was the first county established in the Province of Maryland. 

        Just off  the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake is an Island called Kent, which was occupied by Virginians who resisted Lord Baltimore’s rule.  In 1638, after continual acts of aggression between Maryland and these Virginian’s,  Maryland took over the Island.  As a result the county called Kent was formed.  Chestertown is the current county seat for Kent County.   In 1650 a third original county was created, called Anne Arundel, Annapolis is currently the county seat.  In 1654, the county of Calvert, became the fourth original county, having it’s county seat in Prince Frederick.  The counties of Anne Arundel, and Calvert, had split the original territory of St. Mary’s County, which ran north to the harbors of Baltimore.  Baltimore is another original county which was formed in 1659, the county seat is Towson

Proprietary Manors

        In 1633, before the first colonists departed England, the Lord Baltimore published a document, called “Conditions of Plantation”, which used a system called “Head rights,” for the purposes of populating his colony. This system of  head rights was also used in Virginia, and we find that most of our ancestors came to the mid-Atlantic colonies in this manner.  For every five men transported, 1,000 acres was granted.  Each 1,000 acres would form a Manor.  As a result the Province was divided into Proprietary manors. 

Under the system of “Conditions of Plantation”, any individual who pays for the transportation of able bodied men between the ages of 16 and 50, was given 20 pounds a man.  For  “every five men a proportion of good land was granted, within the province , containing in quantity 1000 Acres of English measure, and be conveyed to him, his heirs, and assignes for ever, with all such royalties and privileges, as are usually belonging to the Mannors of England, 1636.  (Archives of Maryland Vol. III, pages 47-49)

        The owner or proprietor of the manor, sometimes called “Lord of the Manor,” was responsible for paying taxes to Lord Baltimore and for maintaining order by holding court.  Thomas Gerrard’s first acquisition was 1,030 Acres called St. Clements Manor.  It was resurveyed in 1642 growing to 6,000 acres, from property inherited by Capt. Justinian Gerrard (Tom’s oldest son).  It was again resurveyed in 1678 growing to 11,400 acres. This Manor system did not last long, however, it did give a boost to the population.  The manors eventually evolved into plantations, and disputes or problems were taken to the courthouses. 


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. 

Map, Historic Map by cartographer John Oglesby
Maryland State Archives (link)

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