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Maryland's cake has 380 candles
St. Mary's City, MD - 3/23/2014
By Dick Myers
Maryland’s 380th birthday celebration at St. Mary’s City featured a mathematical reminder from several speakers – it’s not too early to start planning for the big 400th. Burton Kummerow, recipient of this year’s Cross Bottony Award and former executive director of Historic St. Mary’s City, noted that Jamestown got a lot of publicity for its 400th. “It’s time for Maryland to get recognized,” he said.
It was on March 25th, 1634 that the intrepid explorers on the “Ark” and the “Dove” landed on what is now St. Clement’s Island to say a mass of thanksgiving for their safe voyage. Several days earlier, St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Jack Russell reminded the audience, the settlers sailed up the St. Mary’s River but were chased away by the ferocious sight of Indians on the shore.
Kummerow noted that Maryland Day was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1916 to commemorate Maryland’s founding and the state’s rich history and culture. That was long before the establishment on the state historic site at St. Mary’s City. Today, Maryland Day is celebrated on the Saturday closest to March 25th at St. Mary’s City and on March 25 (this coming Tuesday at 2 p.m.) at St. Clement’s Island, Potomac River Museum in Colton’s Point overlooking St. Clement’s Island.
The weather is predicted to be iffy for the ceremony on Tuesday but was mellow on Saturday after the harsh winter, a point also noted by several speakers.
The annual Cross Bottony Award is a tradition started in 1988 to recognize important contributions to the preservation of Historic St. Mary’s City and the interpretation of Maryland’s history. The award is a handcrafted silver pin styled after the Crossland Cross, an element of the Maryland state flag.
Kummerow worked at Historic St. Mary’s City for 17 years during its formative period and served as it executive director. He then went on to a distinguished career as a television producer and president of HistoryWorks, Inc. and is now president and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society.
St. Mary’s City Director of Research Dr. Henry Miller noted in introducing Kummerow that he was a pioneer in presenting Living History. Kummerow reminded everyone about the culture shock on both ends when he brought in New York actors to portray the colonists.
Kummerow described the St. Mary’s City of 1634 as “a place of new beginnings” for the colonists who were escaping religious turmoil, and in some cases servitude, in England. “This place is very, very special,” he said.
St. Mary’s City is the fourth oldest permanent English settlement in the new world, after Jamestown, Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony. That has always given the town somewhat of an inferiority complex, but Kummerow said that St. Mary’s was the first place where settlers didn’t have to face starvation and fear of freezing to death.
The event’s keynote speaker earlier also talked about the food part of Southern Maryland’s history. Dr. Christine Bergmark, executive director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) noted that the colony was a place where “the settlers came to pursue their dream.” It was a place of adaptation and change for them.
Early on the settlers embraced tobacco as their cash crop and it made them wealthy, she said. “We grew some of the finest tobacco,” she said. But that spirit of change is now afoot as the area’s agricultural community adapts to a conversion from a tobacco society after almost four centuries.
Bergmark pointed out that less than five-percent of the world’s population is involved now in agricultural pursuits, a dramatic reversal from colonial times. Yet the world’s population will more than double by the end of this century. Someone has to feed all of those people.
There are currently one billion people in the world who are hungry, she said. One-sixth of the world’s population doesn’t have enough food, yet there are one billion obese people. Bergmark said that baby boomers are demanding higher quality, healthier food. That’s a positive trend and an opportunity for Southern Maryland, she said.
Dr. Bergmark rattled off a list of a number of local farmers who are adapting to the conversion from tobacco. “Southern Maryland will continue to take advantage of those needs,” she predicted.
U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D: MD 5th) also spoke. He said, “Just as we gather today, the first Europeans to settle in what is now Maryland set foot here in 1634 and beheld the land that would soon welcome thousands of refugees seeking religious freedom and a better life.
“They also set their eyes upon their new neighbors, the Piscataway Indians who had lived here for centuries.
“As the native people observed these newcomers, they could have reacted with fear and violence. And the Europeans could have done the same.
“But, true to what Maryland promised to become in the decades that followed, the two groups met in peace and forged bonds of cooperation that helped shape Maryland’s path forward.
“The foundation of tolerance that its early settlers so desperately sought in their new colony was laid on that day in that first encounter.
“While we cannot gloss over the bitter periods that followed, and the injustices done to the native peoples of our region and those brought here as slaves, let us remember and celebrate the moments in our history when cooperation and respect prevailed, not bigotry and fear.
“That is why our pantheon of Maryland heroes today elevates individuals like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Upton Sinclair, and Francis Scott Key.
“There are parts of our history we must remember and teach – lessons about a world we’ve put behind us. But Maryland day is a chance to remember and teach those parts that ours and future generations will always be proud of.
“And we have much reason to celebrate our state – one enriched by a diverse heritage and a long tradition of service and contributions to our country and the world.
“And it all began here, where, in their first moments together, the first Marylanders set aside the perils of the unknown and uncertain and instead embraced fraternity and opportunity. May that moment continue to guide us forward into the future.”
Historic St. Mary’s City Commissioner Dr. Henry Papenfuse, the state’s archivist, introduced the other guests on the stage, including Russell, Senator Roy Dyson and Delegates John Bohanan and Anthony O’Donnell, who all spoke.
The ceremony included the presentation of the flags of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City, in their order of creation from most recent to St. Mary’s County, the first. Sarah Simpson of Green Holly Elementary School carried the St. Mary’s flag. Hutch Downs of Barstow Elementary School carried the Calvert flag and Kaitlyn Downs of Dr. James Craik E.S. carried the Charles County Fla.
The colors were presented by NAS Patuxent River Color Guard and the St. Maries Citty Militia.
St. Mary’s City Executive Director Dr. Regina Faden gave welcoming remarks to the guests assembled under a tent next to the Visitor Center.
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