Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saint Clement’s Island Maryland

Blackistone Lighthouse

On March 25, 1634, the first English settlers under the Baltimore proprietorship sailed to Saint Clement's Island on the Ark and the Dove.  March 25 is now commemorated as Maryland day.  The settlers chose Saint Clements island because as an island it offered a natural element of security and was initially believed that the 640 acre island could support the settlement.  The settlers soon determined the island was not sufficiently large, but remained on the island while they negotiated with the Yaocomico indians for land to establish a permanent settlement.

One of the fascinating facts about the island is that the 640 acres found by the English settlers has eroded over the past nearly 400 years to its present size of 40 acres.  The shores of the island have since been stabilized with stone bulwark to preserve the remaining 40 acres.

Dock to Saint Clement's Island

The island has a long history that included a base of operations for blockading the Chesapeake bay during the revolutionary war, a strategically important site during the civil war, attempts to turn it into a resort island with a grand hotel for vacationers from Washington, an Army installation, artillery range, home to an important navigation aid, cannery, farmland, and a steamboat landing.

St. Clement’s Island, or Blackistone Island, as it was called for nearly 200 years, became an important location for wartime blockades. During the Revolutionary War, the British used the island as a base of operations, supporting a blockade of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, while looting the nearby waterfront plantations. The British again took possession of the island during the War of 1812.

Blackistone Lighthouse-1

Dr. Joseph L. McWilliams took possession of the island through a land trade deal in 1850 shortly after the federal government had appropriated funds to erect a lighthouse on the south end of the island.  At this time the island was known as Blackstone Island, and the lighthouse built was duly named Blackstone light.  During the Civil War, the lighthouse made St. Clement’s Island very important to the Union blockade, which attempted to stop the flow of supplies into Virginia from southern sympathizers.

Cross and Blackistone Lighthouse

In 1864, Confederates launched a raid to dynamite the lighthouse. But due to the pregnancy and health of the keeper’s wife, the commander chose only to destroy the lens and the lamp, and take the oil. The Blackistone Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1932. Its interior was destroyed by fire in 1956, and the Navy razed the remaining walls a short while later.  Community organizers reconstructed the lighthouse in 2005 in close proximity to the 40 foot cross commemorating the settlers and their search for religious freedom.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


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