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Maryland: The Old Line State

George Washington called the Maryland troops his Old Line, giving the state its nickname.

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Maryland became the seventh state to join the Union on April 28, 1788. Although there were some early explorations of the land by explorers such as Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and John Smith in 1608, it wasn’t until 1631 that Europeans first started settling the area.

The English King Charles I gave George Calvert a charter for the colony in 1632 but he died before he could venture to the new land. Instead, his son Cecil inherited the royal charter and he, along with his uncle Leonard, led hopeful settlers across the waters in 1634. A little over two hundred passengers traveled on two ships: the Ark and the Dove. Among them were 17 gentlemen and their wives. There were also about 200 others, most of whom were indentured servants who would work off their passage debt in the new land. They landed at St. Clement’s Island in southern Maryland on March 25, 1634.

Leonard wanted a place where religion could be practiced freely and the new territory represented that dream. The landing site was the place of the first Catholic mass in the Colonies and it is still celebrated each year in Maryland.

Times were tough in the region; there were diseases such as smallpox and battles with the Native American tribes. It was also a time of clashes between religious groups settling in the area, mostly between the Catholics and Puritans. The arguments led to attempts to figure out which religious sect should be settling specific parts of the new colony. Settlers could not agree on a boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

So, to settle the dispute, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the land from 1763 to 1767 and came up with a definite border which became known as the Mason-Dixon Line.

A decade later, tired of English rule, the settlers in Maryland joined with other territories and colonies to declare their independence and the American Revolution began. The soldiers were nicknamed the “Maryland Line,” and George Washington referred to them as his “Old Line,” providing the state with the nickname “The Old Line State.”

St. Michaels’ townsfolk got word that the British were planning an invasion and went to great lengths to detour them. On August 10, 1813, the residents turned off all their lights and placed lit lanterns on the tops of trees and even on the masts of ships. When the British fired their cannons at what they thought was the town of St. Michaels, they instead overshot the town and only one house was damaged in the attack; the “Cannonball House.” St. Michaels then became known as “The town that fooled the British.”

In 1814, the British tried to capture Baltimore. Francis Scott Key witnessed the attempt at Fort McHenry and was inspired to write the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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