Jesuit Estates

Draft posted: 2019-02-09

Jesuit Holdings in Colonial Maryland

From the point of Andrew White's arrival in 1634 the Jesuits were a presence among the concentrated, but small Catholic community in Maryland, and to this day, the Province has land holdings in the state. In making the journey to Lord Baltimore's colony in British North America, White dedicated himself to helping to settle the area with British citizens, who primarily came as indentured servants. Thus, he covered the travel expenses for 26 men in the initial voyage. Over the next four years, the Jesuits financed the arrival of 28 more men, and in the fifth year, there were an additional 20 men, each of whom served a relatively short contract of indenture, lasting three or four years.1

The presence of these indentured servants facilitated the Jesuit claims for land in the Colony. While the mission received a large parcel of land at Mettapany from Metagnomen, the chief of the local native community, Lord Baltimore refused to recognize the gift as a valid title to land. In the end, the Jesuits were forced to relinquish the gifted land and rebuild their mission on land claimed directly following the same process and procedures of other British colonizers. The "Conditions of Plantation" for Maryland made it possible for Adventurers, or the men who financed the journey, to claim parcels of land, the size of which depended on the number of Settlers they brought to the province. The conditions specified that Adventurers could claim 2000 acres of farmland, or five acres of land in town for every ten individuals he sponsored. Adventurers would file their claim, then the land would be surveyed, an initial tax would be paid, and then the land office issued a deed for the land.2

Following this process, Thomas Copley, SJ, who arrived in 1637 to serve as Superior for the Mission, began to claim land along the Potomac on Maryland's western Chesapeake shore. In 1638, Ferdinand Pulton, SJ, took over for Copley supervising the mission, and the process of completing the land claims. Pulton was shot unexpectedly in 1639, so Copley returned to administer the Mission, and complete the land claims. The result of these efforts was the establishment of the first two major estates: St. Inigoe's Manor, and St. Thomas's Manor. Over the next hundred years, the Jesuits acquired, either through purchase or bequest, three more major estates: Newtown, Bohemia Manor, and White Marsh. Along the way, there were a number of other smaller transactions, including the acquisition of St. Joseph's, shifting the Jesuits' land holdings in Maryland up and through the middle of the Nineteenth Century.3


St. Inigoes

Situated 12 miles from what is now Point Lookout where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay on the Western Shore, St. Inigoe's Manor was the first plantation established by Jesuits in Maryland. Comprised of 2,000 acres, the plantation was situated, like Newtown and St. Thomas's Manor, on land with a poor drainage, so the Jesuits could only farm the land near the banks of the waterways unless they invested in building a system of drainage ditches. Thus, most of the more interior land remained woodland. There the Jesuits, their indentured servants, and eventually their enslaved people, farmed wheat, and some corn and tobacco. The position of the estate on directly on the water made the estate accessible by boat for easy transportation of supplies and export of grain and tobacco. This ideal situation for transportation also made the plantation vulnerable to intrusion. During the war of 1812, the British came ashore and right up into the manor house in search of provisions and plunder.4

St. Thomas's Manor

The founding story for the second plantation, St. Thomas's Manor, was similar to that of St. Inigoe's Manor. Positioned on both sides of Port Tobacco Creek, St. Thomas's included a total of around 4,400 acres of land. After 1717, St. Thomas's Manor frequently served as the home of the mission superior. In 1740, the Jesuits built a brick manor house and a small chapel. George Hunter, SJ, was the plantation's longest resident pastor, serving from 1747 to 1779. In 1798, Charles Sewall, SJ built a full church on the property. In the 19th Century, Francis Neale, SJ, served as resident pastor from 1818-1837, after a long career that included helping to found Georgetown College, building Holy Trinity Church in the District of Columbia, and many years serving as the fiscal agent of the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen. When the mission achieved the status of becoming an independent province in 1833, William McSherry, SJ, took up residence at the site when he took the post of Provincial.5


Smaller than both St. Inigoe's and St. Thomas's, Newtown is situated between the two estates on the Potomac between Bretton's Bay and St. Clement's Bay, just a few miles from what is now Leonardtown. Unlike the first two estates, which were colonial claims, Henry Warren, SJ, purchased Newtown from a prominent local family, the Brettons, for 40,000 pounds of tobacco in 1668. Between 1668 and 1717, the Jesuit superiors resided at Newtown, building a small fenced-in compound that included a two-story brick manor house, a meat house, a chicken house, and stables. Given its central location, Newtown served as a hub of activity for the Catholics in St. Mary's County. From 1677 to 1792, the Jesuits ran a preparatory school from the estate that served as a launching point for sending the elite Catholics in the area to St. Olmers in Flanders to complete their education, since there was not yet a Catholic university in British North America.6


Located in the northern part of the Eastern Shore at the Little Bohemia River in Cecil County, Bohemia Manor came into Jesuit hands in part through a bequest and in part through an outright purchase. Originally claimed by Mary Ann and Margaret O'Daniel in 1680, the survey and deed process for the land was not completed before the two sisters died. They bequeathed their 300 acres to Thomas Mansell, SJ, and William Douglass, SJ. Mansell completed the survey and claim process for the land and contiguous vacant areas in 1706, and then purchased a number of adjourning tracts, increasing the size of the estate to roughly 2,000 acres.7 The plantation and its facilities served as the first Catholic outpost outside of the Jesuit farms in Southern Maryland. The Manor originally had a log house where Mansell lived until his death in 1723. The following year Thomas Hogdson, SJ, erected a brick house and church on the estate. Bohemia hosted a Catholic school started by Thomas Pulton, SJ, in 1745 or 1746. Though it only functioned for a decade at most, it proved to be a precursor to Georgetown College. Intended to provide an affordable education to Catholic boys who would go on to St. Olmers, the Academy at Bohemia included future Jesuit John Archbishop Carroll among its alumni.8

White Marsh

Inherited from James Carroll in 1729, White Marsh sits near the head of the Patuxent River, roughly 18 miles from Washington, D.C. and 22 miles from Baltimore. The original bequest included land in both Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. It is the nearly 2,000 acres in Prince George's county that became known as White Marsh. As the individual recipient of the bequest, George Thorold, SJ, is thought to have taken up residence on the property in 1741. His work there was continued by a number of successors after his death in 1742. In 1764, John Lewis, SJ, took up oversight of the estate. He was assisted by John Ashton, SJ, who lived there until 1801. In the 1760s and for fifty years afterward, White Marsh was the home to many more enslaved people than any other Jesuit plantation. In 1783, the estate served as the meeting site for the priests who eventually formed the Corporation for Roman Catholic Clergymen.9

St. Joseph

In 1765, with authorization of Mission Superior George Hunter, Joseph Mosley, SJ, who was then stationed at Bohemia Manor, began the process of buying a small parcel of land in Talbot County near Queen's Town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. Taking possession of the track in March, Mosley arrived with eight enslaved people from White Marsh plantation.10 Over the next several years, Mosley narrated for his sister in England the primitive conditions he and his enslaved people endured as he established the facilities for the plantation:

On ye land there wree three Buildings, a miserable Dwelling ^House^ & much worse for some Negroes, & a House to cure tobacco in. The dwelling House was nothing but a few Boards riven from Oak Trees, not sawed Plank, & these nailed together to keep out some of ye coldest air: not one Brick or stone about ^it^, no plastering & no chimney, but ^a^ little stole in ye Roof to let out ye smoak. In this I lived till ye Winter, when i got it plastered to keep of ye cold, & build a Brick Chimney, ye Bricks I was obliged to buy & cart about 5 Mile. One great Benefit I had, there was wood bough about me, so I Could not want Tine. I have as yet ye place chiefly to clear of ye woods & to open a Plantation, in which I succeed much to my satisfaction: I doubt not, but in a Little Time to accomplish my deeds & my whole Design, & to settle have a Place much to our future Ease & Comfort....11

In the midst of the physical struggle to establish the plantation, Mosley also immediately turned his attention to his sacramental duties, performing and recording baptisms and marriages from 1765 onward.12


Georgetown College

At the western edge of the district of Columbia, officially founded in 1789 (Oldest Catholic University in the country).... 13

Spread of missions Kentucky and Missouri

The firm establishment of the mission in Maryland served as launching point for Jesuit ventures elsewhere in the United States. While the order spread up the east coast, they did so mostly without the inclusion of enslaved people, but the migration of the order west from the Chesapeake definitely progressed with on the backs of enslaved labor. [Bardstown and St. Louis.]14


  1. Zwinge, Joseph. "The Jesuit Farms in Maryland. Facts and Anecdotes." Woodstock Letters XXXIX, no. 3 (1910): 374-376.
  2. Zwinge (1910), 375-377.
  3. Zwinge (1910), 375-377.
  4. Zwinge (1910), 377-382.
  5. Joseph Zwinge, "The Jesuit Farms in Maryland. Facts and Anecdotes," Woodstock Letters XL, no. 2 (1911): 180-99, and Edward Devitt, "History of the Maryland-New York Province, II," Woodstock Letters LX, no. 3 (1931).
  6. Joseph Zwinge, "The Jesuit Farms in Maryland. Facts and Anecdotes.," Woodstock Letters XL, no. 2 (1911): 180-99, and Edward Devitt, "History of the Maryland-New York Province, III," Woodstock Letters LXI, no. I (1932). 11-25
  7. Thomas Hughes, History of the Society of Jesus in North America : Colonial and Federal (Documents), vol. Volume 1, Part 1 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908), 207-209.
  8. Edward Devitt, "History of the Maryland-New York Province, IX," Woodstock Letters LXIII, no. 1 (1934): 1-12.
  9. Edward Devitt, "History of the Maryland-New York Province, VII," Woodstock Letters LXII, no. 2 (1933): 170-175
  10. Joseph Mosley, Daybook St. Joseph's Church (1764-1767) Accounts [174 B], Maryland Province Archives, (Box: 49, Folder: 2), and Thomas Hughes, History of the Society of Jesus in North America Colonial and Federal (Documents), Vol. 1, Part 1 Nos. 1-140 (1605-1838) (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers company, 1908), 328-332.
  11. Joseph Mosley to Mrs. Dunn, Letter, 1766-10-14, Early Catholic Manuscripts Collection: Joseph Mosley, GU Archives and Special Collections (Box 1, Folder 7).
  12. St. Joseph's and St. Mary's County Christenings, Fr. Jos. Mosley, 1760 (transcription), Box 4, Folder 6, Maryland Province Archives, Lauinger Library, Georgetown University.
  13. Georgetown founding sources
  14. Gollar, C. Walker. "Catholic Slaves and Slaveholders in Kentucky." The Catholic Historical Review 84, no. 1 (1998): 42-62.