The Jesuits played an important role in early Maryland history. They were financial supporters of Lord Baltimore's overseas colony, and all of the gentry on board the Ark and Dove were from families that were associated with the Jesuits (Bossy 1982:162). Two Jesuit priests, Father Andrew White and Father John Altham, were among the first settlers, and they brought enough servants to qualify for a grant of 6,000 acres of land. There is no record that the grant was ever acted upon, and it seems that the first Jesuit landholding in Maryland was St. Inigoes Manor, located on St. Inigoes Neck. The manor was purchased from Richard Gerard in 1637, an original investor in Lord Baltimore's colonization effort, by Father Thomas Copley acting as agent for the Society of Jesus. The manor was the site of the first English Catholic mission in the New World which functioned as the headquarters of the Jesuit mission effort in Maryland.
Father Copley's purchase included the roughly triangular 2,000-acre tract on St. Inigoes Neck as well as 1,000 additional acres of land on St. George's Island across St. Mary's River from the manor (King and Pogue 1985:3; Smolek et al. 1983:7).
St. Inigoes Manor was comprised of three types of farms. The first type of farm established was the church (or home) farm. This was the location of the priests' residence and supplied most of the food and material goods for the priests and servants. The home farm was established sometime prior to 1638, for in that year the home was reported to be producing large crops of tobacco and grain (Beitzell 1976:20). The home farm consisted of an orchard, garden, and nearby fields with stables, barns, a store, structures for fowl, a gristmill, and a blacksmith shop. It lay in an area today referred to as the Old Chapel Field (Pogue and Leeper 1984:7).
There was also a servants "plantation" located on the manor that is thought to have been located in the southeastern part of the landholding near Smith Creek. The Jesuits transported more than 60 servants during the 1630s (Bossy 1982:162; Menard and Carr 1982:180), and the plantation operated to provide the servants with employment and, at the same time, generated income to support the Jesuit missionary efforts in Maryland (Beitzell 1976:19; Smolek et al 1983:11).
Tenant farms were established on the manor perhaps as early as 1639. and rent paid by tenants supported the priests' residence and the mission. Tenants apparently were a regular fixture and are known to have been on the manor into the twentieth century, although little is known historically of the tenants before the 1870s (Beitzell 1976:20).
A wooden fort was also located on the manor. The fort, possibly built as early as 1637, was located at the mouth of St. Mary's River and remained in operation until ca. 1650. During the 1640s, St. Inigoes Manor suffered the same disruptions as did the rest of the colony when Richard Ingle and his followers raided St. Mary's and the surrounding farms and plantations. Property was stolen from the home farm and cattle were dispersed. Several Jesuit priests stationed at the manor fled to Virginia, and Fathers Copley and White were captured, taken to England, and tried for treason. During this period, the fort at St. Inigoes was pressed into service, and for two years Governor Calvert, after returning from Virginia, conducted the business of government from the fort (Smolek et al).
Puritans, emulating their fellow English zealots, raided St. Inigoes Manor in 1655, forcing the Jesuits to again flee to Virginia. The Jesuits returned to St. Inigoes in 1660, after the restoration of the Calvert government, and found the manor plundered and in ruins (Smolek et al. 1983:9).
In 1668 the headquarters of the Jesuit mission moved to Newtown Manor. The shift, however, did not significantly affect the operations at St. Inigoes Manor; the mission remained active and the manor continued to function as a self-sufficient home farm with servant's plantation and tenant farms (Smolek et al. 1983:9- 10).
In 1704, the Maryland provincial legislature passed an "Act to Prevent Popery," which prevented the public practice of Catholicism (Beitzell 1976:44). As a result, the Catholic chapel at St. Mary's City was closed and dismantled, and the bricks were removed to St. Inigoes Manor. The bricks were used to construct the second St. Inigoes manor house, ca. 1705. The structure was built in what is now known as the Old Chapel Field and has been identified archaeologically (Pogue and Leeper 1984:13). Archeological evidence indicates that the site was occupied until ca. 1755, when a third manor house was built at Priest Point (Smolek et al. 1983:50). During the Revolutionary War, the exposed position of that structure made it an easy target for the British who occupied St. George's Island across St. Mary's River from the point. During the war, the manor was repeatedly plundered, and once a cannonball was fired into the manor house and nearly struck one of the Jesuit fathers.
At the conclusion of the war in 1783, the Jesuits rebuilt the home farm. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, under the direction of Brother Joseph Mobberly, St. Inigoes Manor experienced a long period of sustained prosperity. During his tenure, a brick barn, a windmill, a miller's house, a weaver's house, a blacksmith's shop, a cow house, and a hen house were added to the existing barns, stables, storehouses, workshops, and slave quarters (Agonjto 1977:88). The farm was so successful during this period that the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus moved from Georgetown College to St. Inigoes Manor in 1812 (Smolek et al. 1983:11).
The outbreak of the War of 1812, however forced the Novitiate back to Georgetown in April 1813. During the war, St. Inigoes again was repeatedly raided by British troops. Property was stolen or destroyed, the chapel was desecrated, and there were threats to burn the manor house. It is reported that the tenants suffered greatly from the raids, and there was concern that many would have to move as they were unable to pay their rents (Smolek et al. 1983:12-13).
After the war, the manor residents once again began to rebuild their farms. A map prepared shortly after the war (1818) shows only a few structures on the manor. In addition to the home farm at Priest Point (called Friable Point on the map), structures are shown on St. Inigoes Creek to the north, and on Smith Creek and Kitts Point at the southern end of the manor. No structures appear in the project vicinity.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the St. Inigoes Manor had recovered from the war and was prospering. St. Inigoes Manor experienced only minor damage during the Civil War, but in 1872 a defective flue caused a fire that destroyed the house at Priest Point. The ruins of the east wing were soon rebuilt into a smaller house that served as a priests' residence.
In 1876, the "Villa House" was constructed north of the rebuilt manor house to accommodate students. In 1919, the priests' residence was transferred to St. Michaels's at Ridge, and activity at St. Inigoes Manor decreased.
The Navy acquired the northern 773 acres of the manor in 1942 and created Webster Field as an auxiliary landing field for the Patuxent Naval Air Station. Shortly after the Navy acquired the property, the Villa House was torn down and a new barracks (Building 10) was constructed in its place. All the remaining Jesuit buildings were also removed. The ruins of the small priests' residence at Priest Point was modified by the Navy into the Bachelor Officers' Quarters. The remainder of the manor is still owned by the Jesuits.