Former governor returns to final resting place


St. Mary's City, MD - Philip Calvert has come home.

As part of Historic St. Mary’s City’s 2016 Maryland Day celebration Saturday, March 19, the state museum introduced the public to Philip Calvert, former councilor, chancellor and temporary governor during a tumultuous period of the colony’s early history—and occupant of one of three lead coffins discovered at Chapel Field in 1990.

His final resting place, along with his wife, Anne Woseley Calvert and a young child whose identity remains unknown, will now become part of the site’s most dynamic exhibit to date.

Ironically, it’s the same exact location where the unusual biers were unearthed, only now the reconstructed Great Chapel will allow the state to reveal its history in new and imaginative ways.

“We have learned remarkable things about this place and there are many more waiting to be discovered,” Dr. Henry Miller, HMSC director of research, admitted.

Where's the city?

Historic St. Mary’s City has always been a paradox for most visitors.

“Where’s the city?” they inevitably ask.

The archaeologist’s answer: “Right under your feet.”

For more than four decades, the archaeologist’s trowel has revealed roads, fence palings, foundations three-and-a-half centuries old, a hidden colonial town a little over a foot down; and graves. The site was relatively protected and undisturbed over three centuries.

In 1990, near what was referred to in the historical record as the “Great Chapel,” archaeologists found their Holy Grail: Three coffins lined in lead, signifying wealth and status.

Could a Calvert lie within?

Indeed, a pivotal figure in Maryland’s colonial history, Philip Calvert, Lord Chancellor, who at one point presided as the colony’s governor following the ill-fated Fendall’s Rebellion of 1658, was buried there.

At the time of the discovery, the sky turned black and a cold wind gusted up from out of nowhere, Miller recalled.

It was no ill wind that blew, however, only a harbinger of exciting research, the crux of all the colonial capital of Maryland represented from its turbulent and significant past.

The battle for remembrance

Miller’s March 19 address to the assemblage at Chapel Field appropriately paid homage, not only to those men and women who eked out a hardscrabble existence in a challenging new world 382 years ago, but also to those in modern history whose work insured the historic site would not be forgotten. 

Retired four-star general Robert Hogaboom moved to St. Mary’s City in 1961.

“He quickly recognized the importance and depth of the history in this place,” Miller explained.

A native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hogaboom grew up surrounded by history with an uncannily unique perspective.

“He would walk through the battlefield hand in hand with his two uncles,” Miller said. “One hand was held by his Confederate uncle who fought in the battle. The other hand was held by a Union uncle who fought on the opposing side. His history lessons consisted of contrasting views of the past.”

After himself fighting against Sandanistas, witnessing history at Iwo Jima and Korea, in 1963 Hogaboom began the battle of Historic St. Mary’s City.

While gratified that the majority of the site’s historic wealth was relatively undisturbed, at the same time Hogaboom was appalled at how little there was to commemorate its extensive history.

He was to chair the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission from its inception, to forge an 800-acre park through sometimes bitter land acquisition battles.

Historian Lois Carr played a vital role in researching the written record, bringing so much of Maryland’s early story to light.

Miller described a land unearthed by Carr’s research, a land of “no stores, no pubs, no orchards; where dangerous animals, including wolves, threatened; a place where one in three would be dead from disease within five to six months of arrival.”

Seventy percent of the population who did survive had to labor four years to pay for their passage across the Atlantic, he explained.

What drew them to America was the opportunity for freedom, Miller said, that and the promise of fifty acres once their indenture was fulfilled.


The fact that Philip Calvert was buried at Chapel Field and that his remains were discovered brings a real element to Historic St. Mary’s City that can touch visitors in a real and meaningful way.

“This is more than just a building in a field,” Miller stressed. “This is truly a sacred place.”

He added that more work in Chapel Field awaits. 

"We would love to find and identify Governor Leonard Calvert," he said.

Scott Watkins of the Society of Colonial Wars in the state of Maryland presented for the Great Chapel, a small wooden cross crafted from the roots of the Liberty Tree from Annapolis, where Philip Calvert once negotiated peace with the Susquehanna Indians.

The tree fell prey to Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Two other crucifixes carved from the root were presented to Pope Francis and Prince Charles of England, Watkins stated.

Dr. Douglas Owsley and Dr. Kari Bruwelheide of the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History were honored for their extensive forensic work in helping to identify the remains.

Miller recalled when Maryland Governor William Stone marched to Annapolis in the largest land battle in the state's history in 1655, rallying his men under a flag and yelling, "Hurrah for St. Mary's!"

"That should be our rallying cry," he said, "to see St. Mary's established in its rightful place in the history of humankind."

Contact Joseph Norris at

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