St. Mary's County, Maryland

Saint Mary's County, Maryland

Map of Maryland highlighting Saint Mary's County
Location in the U.S. state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location in the U.S.
Founded January 24, 1637
Named for Mary the mother of Jesus
Seat Leonardtown
Largest community California
  Total 764 sq mi (1,979 km2)
  Land 357 sq mi (925 km2)
  Water 407 sq mi (1,054 km2), 53%
Population (est.)
  (2015) 111,413
  Density 146/sq mi (56/km²)
Congressional district 5th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Saint Mary's County (often abbreviated as 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 the Catholic saint Mary, the mother of Jesus as told in the Bible.[3]

St. Mary's County comprises the California-Lexington Park, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also 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]

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

St. Mary's County has been traditionally 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 doubled 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 (the anniversary of this landing being annually celebrated as Maryland Day). The passengers arrived in two vessels, the Ark and the Dove, which had set sail from the Isle of Wight on November 22, 1633. The county is also home to the first Catholic Mass celebrated in one of the original thirteen colonies -after they'd become English colonies (masses were said in 1526-7 at San Miguel de Gualdape).[6]

Due to the small size of the Island, and its lack of resources, the intention was never to make a permanent settlement there. Instead it was used as a base for the settlers while scouting for a more suitable site. This was how a bluff overlooking the nearby St. Marys River was chosen for numerous reasons, and became the site of the first permanent settlement. It would soon be named "St. Marys City".

St. Mary's City, Maryland is the site of the first Maryland Capitol and remained so for over 50 years until 1695, when the capitol 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 is also now 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.

War of 1812

St. Mary's County is where Francis Scott Key, the author of a poem which became The Star Spangled Banner, and professional wrestler Scott Hall grew up. St. Mary's County was the birthplace of Dashiell Hammett, and Orlando "Tubby" Smith, head basketball coach at Texas Tech. The largest employer is Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its related aerospace contract firms. There are both Amish and Mennonite communities who follow traditional ways. Tobacco, once dominant crop, has declined in recent years. The Maryland International Raceway (Budd's Creek) attracts many auto racing enthusiasts.

Historic buildings

St. Marys County has some of the oldest still-standing buildings in English North America. Many of these of properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[8] These buildings range through many historical periods, starting from the 1600s and running through the 1700s, 1800s and also notable buildings of the early 20th century.[8]


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 in the Union forces during the American Civil War. It includes an educational display. Special celebrations are also held there each year.

Law and government

St. Mary's County Courthouse, July 2009

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

Board of Commissioners

Position Name Affiliation District
  President James R. Guy Republican At-Large
  Commissioner Tom Jarboe 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

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

Circuit Court judges

Law enforcement

St. Mary's County has the oldest documented sheriff's office in Maryland and one of the oldest in the United States.[9] 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.[10]


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.[11] 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 also 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 also low-lying coastal areas with coarse sand or gravel beaches or tidal marshlands.

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

Adjacent counties

St. Mary's County borders Virginia across the Potomac River,[12] St. Mary's County waters are also bordered by Virginia's territorial waters in Potomac tributary mouths on the Virginia side,[12] tidal interface zones[12] and the Chesapeake Bay[13] (water rights in all of these areas are still sometimes disputed).[12][14]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2015111,413[15]6.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[16]
1790-1960[17] 1900-1990[18]
1990-2000[19] 2010-2015[1]

2000 census

As of 2010, there were 105,000 people in St. Marys County,[20] up from 84,000 in the year 2000.[21] 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%[21] were of American, 13.9%[21] German, 13.3%[21] English and 12.1%[21] Irish ancestry.

There were 30,642 households out of which 25.90%[21] had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.10%[21] were married couples living together, 15.10%[21] have a woman whose husband does not live with her, and 34.90%[21] were non-families. 29.40%[21] of all households were made up of individuals and 12.90%[21] 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%[21] from 18 to 24, 29.50%[21] from 25 to 44, 22.20%[21] 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[21] 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[21] versus $23,035[21] 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%[21] are under the age of 18 and 19.10%[21] are 65 or older.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 105,151 people, 37,604 households, and 27,084 families residing in the county.[22] 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).[23] 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.[22] 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.[24]

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.[22]

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.[25]


Military bases

The county has three military bases:


Limited local buses are provided through St. Mary's Transit , and commuter bus service to Washington, D.C. is provided by MTA .

The nearest commercial airlines are Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. and Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) in suburban Baltimore.

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



Census-designated places

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

Unincorporated communities

Notable sites

Notable residents

Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote a song about St. Mary's County, called "Down in Mary's Land", in 1989.[28] She is known for having great affection for St. Mary's County.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to St. Mary's County, Maryland.


  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  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. 1 2 National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  9. "St. Mary's County Sheriff".
  10. "Saint Mary's County Maryland, Government, Executive Branch". Maryland State Archives. November 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
  11. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 4 "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,"
  13. "Virginia-Maryland Boundary for Chesapeake Bay/Eastern Shore",,
  14. "Modern Maryland-Virginia Boundary Disputes",
  15. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  16. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  17. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  18. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  19. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  20. "U.S. Decennial Census". Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 This is incorrect. It is the data for Somerset County.
  22. 1 2 3 "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  23. "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  24. "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  25. "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  26. "National Liberal Arts Colleges Summary: St. Mary's College of Maryland" U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges and Universities Ranking, 2014
  27. "Louise Daniel Hutchinson Interviews". Record Unit 9558. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  28. Metro Lyrics, "Mary Chapin Carpenter Lyrics: Down In Mary's Land Lyrics",

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

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