History of Maryland
The first Marylanders were Paleo-Indians who arrived more than 10,000 years ago from other parts of North America to hunt mammoth, great bison and caribou. By 1000 B.C., Maryland was home to more than 8,000 Native Americans representing nearly 40 different tribes.
The first European to visit the area was Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer who traveled the Chesapeake Bay in the 1500s. In 1608, Captain John Smith arrived from England, and in 1631 William Claiborne established a fur trading post on Kent Island, the first English settlement in the upper Chesapeake.
But Maryland’s roots as a recognized colony date to the days of King Charles I, who promised George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, a colony north of Virginia. Before he set eyes on the land, George Calvert died; his son, Cecilus, became the second Lord Baltimore and spearheaded efforts to settle the colony.
He named the land “Terra Maria,” or “Maryland,” in honor of Charles’ wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, and sent his younger brother Leonard to lead 140 colonists to the area and serve as their first governor. The group arrived at St. Clement’s Island on March 25, 1634, and established the state’s first capital at St. Mary’s City. There it remained until 1695, when it was moved to Annapolis.
Since those early days, Maryland has played important roles in every aspect of American history. For example:
Annapolis served not only as the state’s capital, but also as the capital of the 13 original colonies from November 1783 to August 1784.
In 1788, Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore and was inspired to pen the words to a poem entitled “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which eventually became the national anthem.
On September 17, 1862, Antietam National Battlefield in the western reaches of Maryland was the site of the bloodiest single day of battle during the Civil War.