Southern Maryland is a geographical, cultural and historic region in Maryland composed of the state's southernmost counties on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. According to the state of Maryland, the region includes all of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's counties and the southern portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. It is largely coterminous with the region of Maryland that is part of the Washington metropolitan area.
Southern Maryland is considered by historians to be the birthplace of religious freedom in North America.
The region's northern boundary passes through Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County, east of Washington. Its eastern boundary is the Chesapeake Bay and its southern and western boundary is the Potomac River, Maryland's boundary with Virginia (and through it, the Northern Neck).
Southern Maryland was originally inhabited by the indigenous Piscataway people. Captain John Smith explored the area in 1608 and 1609.
The colony originally focused on tobacco farming and was very successful although disease was a problem and many settlers died until immunities built up in the population. Religious tensions and also periods of open conflict also continued to be a major challenge.
St. Mary's City is widely considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in North America. The colony there started under a mandate of religious tolerance in a time when England was anything but religiously tolerant. There was still much religious strife in St. Mary's City that led to the passage of one of the earliest laws requiring religious tolerance which was written and passed there by the Maryland colonial assembly.
After 61 years as Maryland's capital an uprising of Protestants put an end to religious tolerance, overthrowing the old Catholic leadership and putting an end to colonial St. Mary's City itself, moving the colonial capital to Annapolis.
St. Mary's City was abandoned as a capitol but was slowly consolidated from smaller farms into a large, single slave plantation by the late 1600s. Tobacco and (later) also wheat plantations expanded there and in Southern Maryland as a whole during the slavery era.
During the American Civil War, wartime sympathies were divided in Maryland and Southern Maryland was sympathetic to the Confederates next to Maryland's Eastern Shore. From the war's beginning, however, large numbers of Union occupying troops and patrolling river gunboats prevented the state's secession, although frequent nighttime smuggling across the Potomac River with Virginia took place, including of Maryland men volunteering for Confederate service. John Wilkes Booth was helped by several people in his escape through the area and in crossing the river after killing President Abraham Lincoln. Thousands of captured Confederate troops were confined in harsh conditions at Point Lookout prison camp at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Southern Maryland was traditionally a rural, agricultural, oyster fishing and crabbing region; linked by passenger and freight steamboat routes. These steamboat routes operated on the Chesapeake Bay and major rivers until the 1930s before the building of highways and the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on U.S. Highway 301. (The latter highway was named after Robert Crain, an attorney who owned the state's largest farm, Mount Victoria, and who campaigned for the road's construction). Weekend excursion boats also carried Washingtonians to small amusement parks and amusement pavilions at numerous Potomac shore locations. From 1949 (1943 in some places) to 1968, the region was known for its poverty and its slot machine gambling.
There was a lot of rural poverty at the time, and the gambling came to be seen as a blight and was finally outlawed by Governor J. Millard Tawes and the state legislature. A local political figure, St. Mary's County politician J. Frank Raley Jr. organized a slate of local candidates with the platform of challenging the old political machine and lifting the region out of its generations long poverty.
The region's isolation was ended by having a series of bridges built and roads expanded into highways. These developments are credited for enabling the development of modern St. Mary's County.
Riley was falsely accused of working to end gambling outright in the region, which ended in his defeat and his official political career. In fact he had supported a referendum on gambling which would have put the decision directly in the hands of voters. He continued nevertheless lobbying on behalf of the Southern Maryland region and sitting on development boards and so continued to have a major influence in favor of economic development in the region for the rest of his life.
During recent times, the region experienced suburban development as the Washington suburbs expanded southward. This expansion took place primarily in Prince George's County, and around Waldorf (a regional shopping hub) and St. Charles (a planned community in Charles County), Lexington Park (St. Mary's County) and Prince Frederick (Calvert County). However, as noted, land-use maps show that the area is still primarily low-density.
Many southern Marylanders work at Andrews Air Force Base, the U.S. Census Bureau or at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its related industries. Other smaller industries include a nuclear power plant and a liquified natural gas terminal (both in Lusby), a Naval ordnance test ground (at Indian Head), electric power plants (at Aquasco and Morgantown) and an oil terminal (at Piney Point). The beautiful towns of Solomons Island and Chesapeake Beach are favorite weekend tourist resorts. Maryland International Raceway and Budds Creek Raceway near Chaptico attract many auto and motocross racing enthusiasts.
While the steamboats are long gone, more than three-quarters of the land area is still rural, a mixture of forest and farmland.
Southern Maryland has seven military bases.
Northern areas of Southern Maryland also have many Pentagon, Crystal City, Virginia and US Naval Academy related commuters.
The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area was established in the National Heritage Area Act in 2022. The National Heritage Area will help preserve and promote destinations in four counties.
Oysters are still widely available although they were once fished from the bay and its tidal tributaries in greater numbers, and are served either fried, raw, or stuffed. "Rockfish", the Maryland word for striped bass, is considered the most prized fish dish in Southern Maryland.
Perhaps the most notable food dish originating from Southern Maryland is stuffed ham, which includes cabbage, kale, onions, spices and seasonings that are chopped and mixed, then stuffed into deep slits slashed in a whole, corned ham.
|Southern Maryland Blue Crabs||ALPB, Baseball||Regency Furniture Stadium||2008||0|
Many residents also identify with national sports teams in Washington DC or Baltimore.
Colleges in Southern Maryland include:
Southern Maryland: Calvert, Charles & St. Mary's Counties & parts of Anne Arundel & Prince George's Counties
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