03 October 2003

Avalon and Lord Baltimore

There was an interesting article in the weekend edition of the National Post about the first permanent English settlement in Newfoundland, called Avalon, established by my wife's 9th great grandfather, George Calvert, the 1st Lord Baltimore, in 1621. The article doesn't get it quite right, however: "In 1621, Sir George Calvert (later known as Lord Baltimore after he 'discovered' Maryland) set up one of the first English colonies in the New World, in cod-rich southeastern Newfoundland." In fact, the king had already named Calvert the Baron of Baltimore after his estate in Ireland. He was given the proprietorship of Maryland only after leaving Avalon in 1629 due to the harsh climate. He might thus have become the first Canadian snowbird if he had not died in 1632, before he had a chance to get to his southern and more temperate colony. The following is from the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage site:

Despite the severe religious conflicts of the period, Calvert secured the right of Catholics to practice their religion unimpeded in the new colony, and embraced the novel principle of religious tolerance, which he wrote into the Charter of Avalon and the later Charter of Maryland. The Colony of Avalon was thus the first North American jurisdiction to practice religious tolerance. . . .

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