Historic St. Mary’s City
Horses Arrive in the New World
On May 2, 1692, in a flurry of pomp and circumstance, the first royal governor of Maryland, Sir Lionel Copley, rode into St. Mary’s City upon his magnificent white horse, Draggon, to meet with the Colonial legislature for the first time, a moment immortalized in signage near the reconstructed Van Sweringen Council Chamber Inn on the grounds of Historic St. Mary’s City today.
Even before that momentous occasion, the history of horses and St. Mary’s City have been intertwined, as the first horse to arrive in the Maryland Colony (most likely from Virginia), disembarked here in the 1600s. That horse was the first of many to become a part of daily life in Lord Baltimore’s capital, the fourth oldest permanent English settlement in the United States.
Horses played an integral role in transportation, agriculture and even sport as early settlers struggled to tame the new land. According to Maryland Probate Inventories for St. Mary’s County from 1720 to 1725, residents owned 221 horses, an average of 2 horses per individual; the value of these horses comprised approximately 4 percent of their owner’s entire wealth.
Today, Historic St. Mary’s City, situated on the site of Maryland’s first capital, is a fascinating museum of history and archaeology. Visitors can see horse-related archaeological artifacts that were unearthed on the site of this early settlement. And throughout the site’s 40 acres of outdoor exhibits, costumed interpreters bring alive the area’s rich history and heritage. Exhibits in the St. John’s Museum offer insights into ways researchers reconstruct the past using historical and archaeological evidence. And during the archaeology field season, visitors can tour working excavations. An exhibit within the Visitor Center called “Once the Metropolis” offers additional insight into St. Mary’s City history and archaeology.
Historic St. Mary’s City has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark since 1969 and is one of Southern Maryland’s leading tourism attractions. The site offers a broad range of programs and tours that immerse visitors in Maryland’s story. Lectures, workshops, tours, weekend concerts and demonstrations take place throughout the year. Living history exhibits featuring costumed docents are open seasonally, from the middle of March through November. Visit the website for more info.