St. Mary's County, Maryland

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St. Mary's County
Reconstructed Blakistone Island Light in 2009
Reconstructed Blakistone Island Light in 2009
Flag of St. Mary's County
Official seal of St. Mary's County
Map of Maryland highlighting St. Mary's County
Location within the U.S. state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 38°15′08″N 76°33′49″W / 38.252222222222°N 76.563611111111°W / 38.252222222222; -76.563611111111
Country United States
State Maryland
FoundedJanuary 24, 1637
Named forMary the mother of Jesus
Largest communityCalifornia
 • Total764 sq mi (1,980 km2)
 • Land357 sq mi (920 km2)
 • Water407 sq mi (1,050 km2)  53%%
 • Total105,151
 • Estimate 
 • Density140/sq mi (53/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district5th

St. Mary's County, established in 1637, is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 105,151.[1] Its county seat is Leonardtown.[2] The name is in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus.[3]

St. Mary's County comprises the California-Lexington Park, Maryland Metropolitan Statistical Area, which also is included in the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area. It is part of the Southern Maryland region. The county was the home to the first Maryland Colony, and the first capitol of the Colony of Maryland. Settled by English Catholics, it is considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in North America, at a time when the British colonies were settled primarily by Protestants.[4]

The county is home to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Traditionally, St. Mary's County has been known for its unique and historic culture of Chesapeake Bay tidewater farming, fishing, and crabbing communities. But with the advent of the military bases, growth of an extensive defense contractor presence, and the growth of St. Mary's College of Maryland, as well as increasing numbers of long-distance Washington, D.C. commuters, it has been undergoing a decades-long transformation which has seen the county's population double since 1970.[5]



The settlement of Lord Baltimore's Maryland began with the arrival of passengers from England at St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River in what is now southwestern St. Mary's County on March 25, 1634 and the annual anniversary of this landing is celebrated as Maryland Day. The passengers arrived in two vessels, the Ark and the Dove that had set sail from the Isle of Wight on November 22, 1633. The county is the site of the first Catholic Mass celebrated in one of the original thirteen colonies (after they had become English colonies). Earlier dates of masses being said were during 1526–1527 at San Miguel de Gualdape.[6]

Due to the small size of the island and its lack of resources, there was no intention to make a permanent settlement on the island. Instead St. Clement's was used as a base for the settlers while scouting for a more suitable site. This was how a bluff overlooking the nearby St. Mary's River was chosen for numerous reasons, and became the site of the first permanent settlement. It would soon be named, "St. Mary's City".

St. Mary's City, Maryland is the site of the first Maryland Capitol and remained so for more than 50 years, until 1695, when the state capital was moved to Annapolis.

Today Historic St. Mary's City is a major attraction in Maryland with four museums, a reconstructed colonial village, and the reconstructed Maryland Dove settlers ship. It also has become one of the top archeological research sites in North America.

St. Mary's County was the first county established in Maryland, in 1637, probably by an order of the governor.

In 1649, Lord Baltimore, with the Maryland General Assembly, passed the Maryland Toleration Act, which provided religious freedom for any (Christian) sect and which was the first law of its kind in the New World.[7] There is a statue in St. Mary's City commemorating this event, along with extensive museums, a reconstructed Colonial town, living history actors, and a replica of the Maryland Dove.

Miscellaneous historical data[edit]

St. Mary's County is where Maryland's leading war ace, (WWII) Capt. Walter Duke, and the professional wrestler, Scott Hall, grew up. St. Mary's County was the birthplace of Dashiell Hammett, and Orlando "Tubby" Smith, head basketball coach at High Point University. The largest employer is Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its related aerospace contract firms. There are both Amish and Mennonite communities in the county who follow traditional ways. Tobacco, once dominant crop, has declined in recent years. The Maryland International Raceway,[8] at Budd's Creek attracts many automobile racing enthusiasts.

Historic buildings[edit]

St. Mary's County has some of the oldest extant buildings in English North America. Many of these of properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9] These buildings range through many historical periods, from the 1600s to the 1800s. There are notable buildings of the early twentieth century, as well.[9]


The United States Colored Troops Memorial Statue is a memorial to the more than 700 African-American soldiers and sailors from St. Mary's County who served among the Union forces during the American Civil War. The memorial site includes an educational display and special celebrations are held there each year.

Politics and government[edit]

St. Mary's County Courthouse, July 2009

In presidential elections, St. Mary's County leans strongly toward the Republican Party. No Democrat has won the county since Jimmy Carter did so in 1976.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment of St. Mary's County[10]
Party Total Percentage
Democratic 26,061 35.89%
Republican 30,105 41.46%
Independents, unaffiliated, and other 16,442 22.65%
Total 72,608 100.00%
Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[11][12]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 55.4% 30,826 41.6% 23,138 3.1% 1,701
2016 57.5% 28,663 35.2% 17,534 7.3% 3,645
2012 56.0% 26,797 41.2% 19,711 2.8% 1,316
2008 55.6% 24,705 42.8% 19,023 1.5% 681
2004 62.6% 23,725 36.3% 13,776 1.1% 415
2000 57.1% 16,856 40.4% 11,912 2.5% 733
1996 49.7% 11,835 42.0% 9,988 8.3% 1,985
1992 45.8% 11,485 35.6% 8,931 18.6% 4,669
1988 62.9% 12,767 36.6% 7,434 0.4% 89
1984 63.4% 11,201 36.3% 6,420 0.3% 49
1980 51.5% 8,267 42.2% 6,773 6.3% 1,016
1976 43.8% 5,640 56.2% 7,227
1972 67.6% 7,689 31.4% 3,571 1.1% 122
1968 36.5% 3,348 35.8% 3,280 27.8% 2,547
1964 33.1% 2,878 67.0% 5,831
1960 34.9% 3,080 65.1% 5,752
1956 55.7% 4,336 44.3% 3,443
1952 54.1% 4,270 45.5% 3,588 0.4% 33
1948 48.8% 2,247 49.8% 2,293 1.4% 66
1944 58.6% 2,673 41.4% 1,891
1940 44.2% 2,301 55.0% 2,860 0.9% 44
1936 43.6% 2,286 54.0% 2,829 2.4% 124
1932 30.7% 1,322 67.1% 2,885 2.2% 93
1928 34.0% 1,609 63.5% 3,006 2.5% 118
1924 44.6% 1,653 52.6% 1,949 2.7% 101
1920 53.1% 2,175 45.5% 1,861 1.4% 58
1916 40.8% 1,064 55.3% 1,443 4.0% 104
1912 43.0% 1,528 45.5% 1,617 11.5% 408
1908 54.5% 1,333 41.3% 1,011 4.2% 103
1904 48.0% 1,174 51.0% 1,247 1.0% 25
1900 56.5% 2,089 42.9% 1,584 0.6% 23
1896 57.6% 2,044 41.4% 1,471 1.0% 36
1892 52.6% 1,693 46.0% 1,482 1.4% 45

St. Mary's County is governed by county commissioners, the traditional form of county government in Maryland.

Board of commissioners[edit]

Position Name Affiliation District
  President James R. Guy Republican At-Large
  Commissioner Eric Colvin Republican District 1
  Commissioner Michael L. Hewitt Republican District 2
  Commissioner John E. O'Connor Republican District 3
  Commissioner Todd B. Morgan Republican District 4

County executive[edit]

The county commissioners exercise such executive powers as exist in the government of the county.

Circuit court judges[edit]

  • Hon. David Densford,
  • Hon. Michael J. Stamm, administrative judge
  • Hon. Joseph Stanalonis

Law enforcement[edit]

St. Mary's County has the oldest documented sheriff's office in Maryland and one of the oldest in the United States.[13] In 1637, James Baldridge was appointed sheriff. Since 1776, sheriffs in St. Mary's County have been determined by election. Tim Cameron is the current sheriff.[14]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 764 square miles (1,980 km2), of which 357 square miles (920 km2) is land and 407 square miles (1,050 km2) (%) is water.[15] It is the second-largest county in Maryland by total area.

Located on the St. Mary's Peninsula, St. Mary's County is largely bordered by water: the Patuxent River (northeast), the Chesapeake Bay (east), the Potomac River (southwest), and the Wicomico River (west). Its coastline has many coves, tidal creeks, bays, and inlets. Many coastal areas are made up of mixed clay-and-sand cliffs and bluffs, which protect many parts of the county from storm surges, however, there are low-lying coastal areas with coarse sand or gravel beaches or tidal marshlands, as well.

The interior of much of the county is hilly to varying degrees, with forests and agricultural fields. There also are coastal plain areas, much of which are under agriculture or under new development. Residential development has been increasing steadily for decades.

The county's very extensive waters are mostly brackish, ranging from significant degrees of saltwater in tidal areas that are on or near the Chesapeake Bay, to a greater predominance of freshwater and lower-salt-concentrations in its interior tidal waterways and also further up its bordering rivers.


According to the Köppen climate classification, the county has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa.) According to the Trewartha climate classification, the climate is Cf or oceanic (Do) depending on whether eight or seven months average above 50° F (10° C,) respectively. Average monthly temperatures in Leonardtown range from 36.3° F in January to 78.1° F in July. [3]

Adjacent counties[edit]

St. Mary's County borders Virginia, across the Potomac River.[16] St. Mary's County waters also are bordered by Virginia's territorial waters in Potomac tributary mouths on the Virginia side,[16] tidal interface zones,[16] and the Chesapeake Bay.[17] Sometimes, water rights in all of these areas are still disputed.[16][18]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)113,510[19]7.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[20]
1790-1960[21] 1900-1990[22]
1990-2000[23] 2010–2018[1]

2000 census[edit]

As of 2010, there were 105,000 people in St. Mary's County,[24] up from 84,000 in the year 2000.[25] families residing in the county. The population density was 238 people per square mile (92/km2). There were 34,081 housing units at an average density of 36 persons/km2 (94 persons/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 81.57% White, 13.92% African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.80% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.61% from other races, and 1.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.00% of the population. 14.8%[25] were of American, 13.9%[25] German, 13.3%[25] English and 12.1%[25] Irish ancestry.

There were 30,642 households, out of which 25.90%[25] had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.10%[25] were married couples living together, 15.10%[25] have a woman whose husband does not live with her, and 34.90%[25] were non-families. 29.40%[25] of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.90%[25] had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 27.90% under the age of 18, 15.70%[25] from 18 to 24, 29.50%[25] from 25 to 44, 22.20%[25] from 45 to 64, and 9.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 101.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 119.10[25] males.

The median income for a household in the county was $54,706, and the median income for a family was $61,397. Males had a median income of $27,496[25] versus $23,035[25] for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,662. 7.20% of the population and 5.20% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 28.40%[25] are under the age of 18 and 19.10%[25] are 65 or older.

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 105,151 people, 37,604 households, and 27,084 families residing in the county.[26] The population density was 294.4 inhabitants per square mile (113.7/km2). There were 41,282 housing units at an average density of 115.6 per square mile (44.6/km2).[27] The racial makeup of the county was 78.6% white, 14.3% black or African American, 2.5% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 1.0% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.8% of the population.[26] In terms of ancestry, 17.4% were Irish, 17.3% were German, 16.0% were English, 8.8% were American, and 5.2% were Italian.[28]

Of the 37,604 households, 38.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.5% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 28.0% were non-families, and 21.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.18. The median age was 36.0 years.[26]

The median income for a household in the county was $80,053 and the median income for a family was $89,385. Males had a median income of $61,971 versus $46,487 for females. The per capita income for the county was $34,000. About 4.7% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 7.3% of those age 65 or over.[29]

Amish and Old Order Mennonite community[edit]

Amish horse and buggy in Mechanicsville

St. Mary's County is home to an Amish community in the Mechanicsville area in the northern part of the county that consists of eight church districts and about 1,000 people. The Amish first came to the area in 1940 after some members left the Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania over a conflict with schooling. The Amish in St. Mary's County maintain dairy and produce farms along with small Amish businesses. There is also an Old Order Mennonite community in the county that stretches as far south as Loveville. In recent years, increasing development has threatened the Amish community.[30]


Naval bases[edit]

The county has three naval bases:

  • "Pax River", officially called the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, is the largest of the naval bases in the county. It is in Lexington Park, Maryland, and includes the headquarters of the Naval Air Systems Command and the Naval Test Pilot School, both of which play a significant role in the local economy, and trained many test pilots who went on to become astronauts, such as Alan Shepard, the first American to reach space, and John Glenn, the first American to reach orbit.
  • "Webster Field" is a smaller naval annex and secondary airfield and it is located in Saint Inigoes. It used for avionics engineering testing and development.
  • Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes (also in Saint Inigoes), technically two bases because it comprises two separate areas, however, it is all under the same command.


Numerous state highways serve St. Mary's County, including:

Limited local buses are provided through St. Mary's Transit[32] and commuter bus service to Washington, D.C. is provided by MTA.[33] Southern Maryland Express shuttle services daily schedules to Baltimore (BWI), Dulles (IAD), and Ronald Reagan (DCA).[4]

The nearest commercial airports are Reagan National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia and Baltimore Washington International Airport in suburban Baltimore.

St. Mary's County also is served by a general aviation airport, Captain Walter Duke Regional Airport near California, Maryland



Census-designated places[edit]

The Census Bureau recognizes the following census-designated places in the county:

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Notable sites[edit]

Notable residents[edit]

  • Jerome Adams: currently serving as the twentieth surgeon general of the United States
  • Richard H. Alvey: chief justice of the Maryland Supreme Court, a federal judge in the 1870s and 1880s, born and raised in St. Marys County
  • William H. Barnes: Medal of Honor recipient for valor in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, was a free African American farmer from St. Mary's County
  • Margaret Brent: English immigrant to the first Colony of Maryland who lived in St. Mary's City, was an early (indirect) advocate for women's rights by asserting her own right to run an estate and vote, and was the first woman in the English North American colonies to appear before a court of the Common Law
  • Leonard Calvert: leader of the first English settlers in Maryland and first governor of the Maryland Colony, lived in St. Mary's City
  • Charles Calvert: 3rd Baron Baltimore (1637–1715), second long-term governor of the Maryland Colony (his Uncle Philip Calvert also governed before him, but only very briefly), lived in St. Mary's City
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter: Grammy winning folk, country, and rock singer and songwriter who composed a song about St. Mary's County and has lived in St. Mary's County at various times
  • Betty Currie: personal secretary to the president of the United States (Bill Clinton), personal secretary to the director of the Peace Corps
  • Norton Dodge: economist, collector of dissident Soviet era art, smuggled thousands of Soviet dissident paintings, prints and sculptures out of communist Russia over a series of visits and at great risk to his own life and amassed one of the largest collections of Soviet-era art outside the Soviet Union, taught at St. Mary's College in St. Mary's City
  • John Dorsey: also known as Johnny Dorsey, general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team, NCAA College Football winner, and professional football player whose pro football career was cut short due to injuries, born in Leonardtown
  • Benedict Joseph Fenwick: Catholic Bishop of Boston from 1825 until his death in 1846, born in Leonardtown
  • Henry Fowler: former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and of the Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Michael Glaser: poet, educator, literary editor, the Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland from 2004 through 2009, was awarded the Andrew White Medal for contributions to intellectual and artistic life in Maryland, taught at St. Mary's College, and lives in St. Mary's County
  • Alfred Gough: screenwriter and author of scripts for numerous Hollywood films, born and raised in Leonardtown
  • Scott Hall: professional wrestling star and professional wrestling entrepreneur, born and raised in St. Mary's County, Maryland
  • Dashiell Hammett: American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories, was born in St. Mary's County
  • James H. Harris: Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Battle of Chaffin's farm during the Civil War, an African American Union soldier who grew up as a free Black tenant farmer in Great Mills
  • Robert E. Hogaboom: four-star Marine Corps general, chair of the Historic St. Mary's City Commission and advocate for decades for the reconstruction and development of Historic St. Mary's City
  • Steny Hoyer: former State Senator and Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, currently the House Majority Leader
  • Louise Daniel Hutchinson: noted historian of African American history, was born in Ridge, Maryland[34]
  • Francis Scott Key: composer of the Star Spangled Banner, grew up in St. Mary's County
  • Ted Koppel: journalist and former host of the news show Nightline, lives in Southern St. Mary's County
  • William and Dinah Nuthead: established the first printing house in the Southern Colonies at St. Mary's City, Maryland
  • J. Frank Raley: State Senator and state representative, trustee of St. Marys College of Maryland, credited for helping to establish St. Mary's College as a four-year institution and playing key roles in its development into a nationally top-ranked public college, born and raised in St. Mary's County
  • Tubby Smith: college basketball coach, grew up in Scotland, Maryland
  • William C. Somerville: author, historian, diplomat, War of 1812 soldier, born and raised in St. Mary's County
  • Norwood Sothoron: athlete, soldier, commandant of Charlotte Hall Military Academy, inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1972, born and raised in Charlotte Hall, Maryland
  • Sylvester Stallone: award-winning actor and director who attended Charlotte Hall Military Academy and boarding school in St. Mary's County as a teenager
  • Father Andrew White: Jesuit priest and settler on first voyage to establish the new Maryland colony, one of the founders of the first Catholic mission and parish in North America, was instrumental in negotiating peace and territory deals with the Piscataway Indian tribes in St. Marys County, lived in St. Marys City, Maryland

In popular culture[edit]

Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote a song about St. Mary's County, entitled, "Down in Mary's Land", in 1989.[35] She is known for having great affection for St. Mary's County.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 21, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "St. Mary's County, Maryland - Government".
  4. ^ Cecilius Calvert, "Instructions to the Colonists by Lord Baltimore, (1633)" in Clayton Coleman Hall, ed., Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684 (NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 11-23.
  5. ^ "Bay Community in Flux: St. Mary's Peninsula Struggles to Cope with Growth", Christian Science Monitor, Adam Karlin, March 2005,7842571
  6. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Antonio Montesino".
  7. ^ Perry G. E. Miller, "Colonial Religious History," Church History, Vol. 4 No. 1 (March 1935), 45-48.
  8. ^ "..:: Maryland Int'l Raceway - Budds Creek, MD  ::." Retrieved 2017-09-25.
  9. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  10. ^ "Summary of Voter Activity Report" (PDF). Maryland State Board of Elections. August 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  11. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  12. ^ Burnham, Walter Dean. "Presidential ballots, 1836-1892". Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  13. ^ "St. Mary's County Sheriff".
  14. ^ "Saint Mary's County – Maryland, Government, Executive Branch". Maryland State Archives. November 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
  15. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on September 13, 2014. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d "Supreme Court Rules for Virginia in Potomac Conflict: Virginia v. Maryland, 124 S.Ct. 598," 2003 LEXIS 9192 (2003), The National Sea Grant Law Center,"
  17. ^ "Virginia-Maryland Boundary for Chesapeake Bay/Eastern Shore",,
  18. ^ "Modern Maryland-Virginia Boundary Disputes",
  19. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  20. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  21. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  22. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  23. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  24. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s This is incorrect. It is the data for Somerset County.
  26. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  27. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  28. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  29. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  30. ^ "Maryland Amish". Amish America. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  31. ^ "National Liberal Arts Colleges Summary: St. Mary's College of Maryland" U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges and Universities Ranking, 2014
  32. ^ [1]
  33. ^ [2]
  34. ^ "Louise Daniel Hutchinson Interviews". Record Unit 9558. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  35. ^ Metro Lyrics, "Mary Chapin Carpenter Lyrics: Down In Mary's Land Lyrics",

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°15′8″N 76°33′49″W / 38.25222°N 76.56361°W / 38.25222; -76.56361