Calvert, Sir George (Lord Baltimore)

Governor of Province of Avalon, 1627-1629

George Calvert was born at Kipling, Yorkshire around 1580 to Leonard and Alice (nee Crosland) Calvert. He matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, in July 1594 and received his BA. in February 1597. He married his first wife, Anne Mynne, around 1604, and obtained his MA in August 1605. He was, in 1606, made clerk of the crown in Connaught province and county Clare (both in Ireland), and two years later he was named clerk of the Privy Council. In 1609, Calvert served as Member of Parliament for Bossiney; he was knighted in 1617 after assisting the king in both foreign and domestic matters. Having first entered the public service as secretary to the Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil, Calvert himself became Secretary of State in 1619.

In 1620, Calvert, who had long been interested in colonial matters, purchased from William Vaughan a parcel of land between Fermeuse and Aquaforte. In 1621, Edward Wynne and some Welsh colonists were sent by Calvert to found a colony at Ferryland. The colony continued to grow with the arrival of Daniel Powell and his settlers in 1622. Having applied for a royal charter, Calvert's right to the land given to him by Vaughan was confirmed on April 7, 1623, and the limits were extended from Ferryland to Petty Harbour, bound to the northwest by Conception Bay and to the west by Placentia Bay. The colony then took on the name of Province of Avalon.

By 1625 the population of the settlement had grown to 100. At this time, Calvert, who had recently converted to Catholicism, stepped down as Secretary of State after a thwarted attempt to negotiate the marriage between Charles, the heir to the British throne, and Maria, daughter of Philip III of Spain. In 1625, Calvert was given the title of Baron Baltimore in recognition of his loyalty to the king.

In July 1627 he disembarked at Ferryland with two Roman Catholic priests, one of whom would stay and found the first Catholic ministry on British soil in North America. Calvert departed shortly thereafter but returned in 1628 with his second wife, Jane (his first wife had died in 1622), all of his children save his eldest son, Cecil, a priest and 40 Catholic settlers. Despite living comfortably in a stone mansion with his family, Calvert became disheartened over the next year as he had to sustain attacks from French privateers, including the pirate de la Rade (or de la Ralde), and to endure a harsh winter and a food shortage that claimed the lives of 10 settlers and inflicted many others with scurvy. In addition to these problems, a Puritan revealed to authorities back in England that Calvert, in addition to holding Protestant services, had been allowing the inhabitants of the colony to practice Catholicism and hold mass.

Opting for a gentler climate, Calvert applied for a land grant in Maryland and, without even waiting for a reply to his request, left for Maryland in 1629. The request was approved in June 1632; Calvert had, however, died in April. Calvert's son, Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore, accepted the land grant in Maryland, but continued to maintain links with Ferryland.

Previous Governor | Next Governor