Commemorating an event that occurred during the War of 1812, the Town of Lower Marlboro and local community organizations held their 5th annual Lower Marlboro Freedom Day on Saturday, October 5.
In the summer of 1814 British ships sailed up the Patuxent River to advance on Washington. They encountered Commodore Joshua Barney and the Maryland Militia at St. Leonard Creek to battle in what would be the largest naval engagement to ever occur in Maryland waters.
The British “chased” Commodore Barney up the Patuxent, laying anchor at Lower Marlboro to “acquire” needed supplies. In the 1800s, Lower Marlboro was a bustling port with several stores, a school and a wharf providing farmers an option to ship their tobacco and other goods.
As they had done in other sites, the British offered refuge to enslaved people in exchange for their assistance as Colonial Marines. As an enticement, the British allowed them to bring family members with them. Records show that one of Levin Ballard’s slaves, Charles Steward, fled Ballard’s plantation to serve on the British ships. With the help of the British, Steward came back to the home of Ballard’s mother, Elizabeth Wheeler Ballard, to free twelve slaves that included Steward’s wife and children. After the war, Levin Ballard filed a claim against the British on behalf of his mother to receive reparations for these lost slaves.
A small community, Lower Marlboro is filled with historic surprises. It has the largest concentration of historic homes than any other community in Calvert County. A brochure, Historic Lower Marlboro Walking Tour, was available for self-guided tours. The buildings, which could be viewed from the street, included several 16th century homes. Patuxent Manor, one of the oldest homes in Lower Marlboro was built in the 1700s. It witnessed the War of 1812 and was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. Other homes included King Fields, The Harbormaster’s House, Hinman House, the Mills House, Millenian House (also known as the Armiger House), Mills House and Carr-Wells House.
Lower Marlboro United Methodist Church, also known as Largents Chapel, has been an active church since it was built in 1868. It provided a backdrop for speakers:
- Marie Rundquist, author of two books on the Acadian exile from Nova Scotia – Cajun By Any Other Name and Revisiting Anne Marie, speaking on her quest to discover her ancestors using DNA test results, history, and genealogy sites.
- Michael Kent, President, Calvert County NAACP, spoke on The Black Marines. During the British invasion of Maryland in 1814, more than 1500 Black Marines assisted the British inflicting a humiliating American defeat.
On the pier overlooking the Patuxent River. Alan Reed, the Choral and Drama Director at Fairmont Heights High School, provided a reading of the deposition of Levi Ballard requesting reparations for his lost slaves. Laniya Plowden, a junior at Fairmont Heights High School, presented a dramatic reading “Freedom” from Do You Believe in Maijack? Reed finished the presentation by singing an amazing rendition of Old Man River.
The Lower Marlboro Hall, built in the 1930s for the Junior Order of United American Mechanics (JOUAM), held exhibitors with displays and artifacts from the War of 1812 and the Lower Marlboro community. In the middle of the hall a large War of 1812 display explained the sequence of events that occurred in Southern Maryland and the effect it had on the area. Additional exhibitors included:
- Marie Rundquist, author, Cajun By Any Other Name and Revisiting Anne Marie, took questions and signed copies of her books.
- The Calvert County Historical Society provided information on slavery in Calvert County during the 1800s, the Town of Lower Marlboro and the War of 1812 in Calvert County.
- Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, showcased archaeological artifacts from Lower Marlboro and the War of 1812, including musket and cannon balls, metal and pottery.
- Glenn Webb, a local historian and collector of historic memorabilia, exhibited his collection of Lower Marlboro memorabilia, including log books from the local postmaster, photos, news articles and post cards.
- Rev. Ken Phelps, All Saints Church, displayed memorabilia from the Church’s recent 325th Celebration.
- Tom Dugan, a resident of Lower Marlboro, portraying a woodworker from the 1800s, demonstrating techniques and tools.
- The Calvert County Department of Natural Resources provided information on nature parks throughout the county. Free kayak tours on the Patuxent River were available.
Delicious fish and ribs were served up by Melvin’s Place food truck, with Cold Penguin Ice Cream providing dessert.
The organizers of the event wish to thank the following people for their support: Andrea Chris Banks, Whitall Clevenger, Joyce Baki, Maya Davis, Thomas Dugan, Tania Gale, Mark “Doc” Grace, Tori Hall, Michael Kent, Joan Kilmon, Rev. Faith Lewis, Julie McGaughran, Alice Merkel, Karyn Molines, Rebecca Morehouse, Rev. Ken Phelps, Debra Rantanen, Alan Reed, Marie Rundquist, Mary Stuart Sierra, Kirsti Uunila and Glenn Webb.
The following organizations participated in the development of the program: All Saints Parish, Calvert County Historic District Commission, Calvert County Parks & Recreation – Division of Natural Resources, Calvert County Planning & Zoning, Calvert County Historical Society, Calvert Library, Fairmont Heights High School, Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Maryland State Archives, and Mt. Harmony – Lower Marlboro United Methodist Church, and the NAACP – Calvert County Branch.
Very special thanks are given to the generous residents of Lower Marlboro for opening up their community to the public and to the Youth Ministry of Mt. Harmony-Lower Marlboro UMC.
For more information on the War of 1812 in Calvert County please visit:
- Calvert County Dept. of Economic Development, www.ChooseCalvert.com
- Calvert County Dept. of Natural Resources, http://www.co.cal.md.us/index.aspx?NID=1190
- Calvert County Historical Society, http://www.calverthistory.org/
- Calvert County NAACP, http://calvertnaacp.org/
- Maryland State Archives, http://msa.maryland.gov/
- Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium, https://destinationsouthernmaryland.com/
Please enjoy the picture gallery below.
Joyce Stinnett Baki