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One of Maryland's lost towns.

During the English Civil War, Virginia, to the south of Maryland, was a Cavalier stronghold, harboring the King's brother for a time. Puritans, who formed a large part of the New Model Army back in England, weren't all that welcome in Virginia.

The initial Maryland settlers at St. Mary's City led as precarious an existence as the earlier settlers at Jamestown. Instead of hostile Indians, however, Maryland was beset by hostile Virginians, who mounted a 1645 raid that decimated Lord Baltimore's settlements, which were primarly concentrated in the three southern counties around Saint Mary's City. In 1648, Maryland governor William Stone received orders from Lord Proprietor Cecil Calvert to encourage more settlement in Maryland. The next year, one famous piece of promotional legislation, the Maryland Toleration Act, passed the General Assembly. At the same time, Stone invited Puritans to come from Virginia and settle. Many Puritans took Stone up on this offer, and settled on the Broad Neck Peninsula, between the Maggotty and Severn Rivers. The best-known of these settlers was a Robert Burle, who became the town surveyor.

Providence was never so much a "town" as a collection of farms along the Magothy and Severn rivers. It was a "town" through a quirk of Calvert's original terms of settlement. In addition to the 100 or 200 acres that the colonists would probably grow tobacco on, Calvert granted settlers 5 or ten acres of "town lands" (depending on whether you were free or indentured) in a central location. It was probably assumed that the settlers would subdivide their town lands and sell them to people who had worked out their indentures. It never worked that way; Maryland's political structure developed into a plantation system much like its neighbor Virginia.

Nevertheless, Providence grew rapidly enough to shift Maryland's population center away from St. Mary's City for good. So many came that the General Assembly erected a new county the following year, naming it after the Lord Proprietor's wife Anne Arundel.

Puritan settlement in Maryland had unfortunate political consequences. By 1654, Puritan Oliver Cromwell ruled England with a mailed fist. Although Calvert was able to keep Parliament from revoking his charter, he couldn't keep them from replacing Maryland's colonial commissioners. Cromwell replaced Stone with the great bugbear of Maryland history, William Claiborne. This led to a 1655 military expedition from St. Mary's City, still a Catholic stronghold, to take over Providence, and with it, control of the colony. Providence's settlers repulsed There was much bloodshed on both sides, and the invaders failed in their objectives. The new commissioners promptly repealed the Toleration Act and excluded Catholics from holding public office. Over the next 40 years, Catholics and Protestants struggled for control, with the Protestants coming out on top in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution (One of William III's first acts was to revoke Maryland's charter). Maryland degenerated from an area of relative religious freedom into another Crown colony with the Church of England established.

Providence lost its identity as a town some time during the Restoration Period. Many of the Puritans converted to Quakerism, and others left their town lands for their larger holdings elsewhere in Maryland. By 1684, a new town (planned by none other than Christopher Wren) was laid out on the other side of the Severn River from Providence. Since settlement had probably spread to the west side of the Severn by then, Ann Arundell Town or 'Arundelton' is often regarded as a continuation of Providence.

In 1695, Governor Francis Nicholson moved the seat of Maryland's government to Ann Arundell Town, renaming it Annapolis after Princess Anne, who was now William III's heir.

Today, Broad Neck peninsula is mostly covered with suburban sprawl from Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, D.C.. Maryland archaeologist Al Luckenbach stumbled across Robert Burle's original homestead in 1990, while looking for evidence of ancient Native American settlements. Since then, several other archaeologial sites have been identified, including a clay pipe factory which exported its wares to Massachusetts, Virginia, and England.

The Lost Towns Archaeology Project

Other bits of research from making year nodes.

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