Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: Newfoundland to Tolerance: The Fall Line


The Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line is one of those things that everyone talks about and nobody explains. The Wikipedia article has it as a "900 mile escarpment where the Piedmont and Atlantic coastal plain meet in the eastern United States." To save the reader the bother of clicking through, "the Piedmont" is defined as a plateau region between the same coastal plain and "the main Appalachian mountains." The Fall Line is also the boundary between a "hard metamorphised terrain" and the sandy and flat alluvial plain to its east, consisting of "unconsolidated sediments."

In other words, the plain is the bit with no rocks, which was probably fairly important to the Neolithic people who lived along that coast, and always puts me in mind of the execution of John Ratcliffe by vivisection with mussel shells, which seems like some kind of ritualistic statement about a paramount chief's obligation to trade for workable stone. Or maybe that's just because I was sucked into watching clips from Maximilian on Youtube when I should have been writing this. 

The map of the Fall Line here, apart from being very colourful, ends at the New Jersey/New York Palisades and therefore omits the palisade over which the Mohawk tumbles to the Hudson in New York, the rapids that powered the mills of Springfield and Lowell, Massachusetts, and the ones on the St. Lawrence upstream from Montreal that blocked Cartier and Champlain's way to Asia. 
(I'm not sure if I've never saved one of Fortune's giant St. Lawrence Seaway-adjacent pictures on my  hard drive, or if Windows has decided that there are too many things to search on my hard drive and has given up without telling me. Anyway, that's what I'd rather have on here instead of a nice canvas from Asher Brown Durand of the Hudson River School.)  

It does, however, make a good point about there being a mountain range in commuting distance of New York.)

Towns on the Fall Line include Philadelphia, it says on Wikipedia although the Falls of the Schuylkill are actually in Norristown, "approximately 6 miles from the Philadelphia city limits,  and the Delaware passes the Fall Line at Trenton, New Jersey. Close enough for William Penn, evidently. Wilmington, Delaware, is also on the Fall Line, which is hard to believe given that most of Delaware is on the Delamarva Peninsula, and Baltimore, Maryland is cut in two by the Fall Line, which also marks the location of Washington, D. C. Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, and so on through a list of prominent eastern cities as far south as Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Given that the Wikipedia geographer sees fit to extend the Fall Line almost down to the Gulf Coast, it is odd that the feature isn't extended northwards into New England and even Canada. The key point, after all, is that the rivers of the Eastern Seaboard all descend a sufficient height of land to create a rapids that makes inland navigation above the Falls impossible and conveniently creates an inland logistical corridor upon which the Haudenosaunee can organise themselves and James Fenimore Cooper can wax obliquely poetic about. 

One famous early town that was not on the Fall Line is St. Mary's City, Maryland, the first capital of the Calvert's proprietary colony of Maryland. 

According to the early history of Maryland, St. Mary's City was selected at the behest of the Yaocominco branch of the Algonquian-speaking Piscataway, who were interested in a military and commercial alliance with European partners similar to the ones made by the Powhattans of Virginia, the Anacosta of the Northern Neck at Georgetown, across and up the Potomac at that river's passage of the Fall Line. The Yaocominco accordingly abandoned the territory around St. Mary's City for European settlement, and vanish into obscurity thereafter, "disappearing," according to the set tropes of American folk history, at some point in the 1670s and 1680s after falling prey to whichever of the "three Ds" of "drink, degeneracy and disease" as the chronicler might prefer. 

It takes, one has to say, a remarkable map-making prowess that puts D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Trenton in five different states with St. Mary's the southernmost city of the lot. The justification for it, such as there is, is that at this point New York was still New Amsterdam, and the Dutch influence extended south into the Delaware Valley. While that would not prevent New Sweden from being erected in Pennsylvania and Delaware just six years later, it strongly  influenced the preferred location of the proprietary colony that the Calverts petitioned Charles I to erect for them between the northern limits of Virginia and the southern limits of New England.


Or maybe it didn't.  Sir George Calvert was born of Yorkshire gentry, the son of a follower of Lord Wharton, whose name, I see, is hyperlinked at Wikipedia but you ain't sucking me down that rabbit hole, Wikipedia! (Okay, okay. Wharton had Spanish connections.) The Calverts were from a notoriously crypto-Catholic part of the country and a great deal of the his early biography is taken up with various indications for and against he and his father being privately Catholic before George Calvert publicly converted in 1625. It seems pretty suspicious in that Calvert became Cecil's private secretary in 1601 and did much secret service for Cecil on the Continent and in connection with securing the succession of James I, becoming a privy councilor in his turn before falling due to being involved Spanish Match. (The attempted marriage alliance between the future Charles I and a Habsburg princess.) On his way out the door, Charles rewarded Calvert with land and an Irish peerage that we now associate with the Manor of Baltimore on the coast of Cork. A fairly remote town on a large bay  of which the O'Driscolls had been possessed earlier in the century. A pilcharding station had been erected in the town after the native Irish were removed, and true to the tradition of Irish folk history of the period, I am assured by the website I have open in the other window that they were god-fearing Calvinistic Presybterians. God, I wish more people would read some modern ecclesiastical history and stop throwing these labels around.  On 20 June, 1631, Jan Janszoon landed with 230 men and carried off 109 captives for sale in Algiers, after which the unfortunate residents of Baltimore disappear from history, not that that stops anyone from speculating about sex slavery, which seems like a very questionable use of skilled fishwives to me, but what do I know? Meanwhile, Jan Janszoon used his money to buy 200 acres on Long Island, Sale having got a bit hot for his money with the arrival of William Rainsborough's squadron off the mouth of the Bou Regreg in June of 1637

As for the Lord of the Manor of Baltimore, his disgrace at court did not lead to rustication in Ireland, but rather a much more ambitious scheme to establish a proprietary colony of Avalon at Fairyland (Ferryland) in southwestern Newfoundland. Sailing for the new land with a mixed party of Protestant and Catholic settlers, and two priests, Calvert erected a substantial manor house for his (second, secretly married) wife, twelve children, mostly by his first marriage, and an unspecified number of servants. With a 400t armed merchantman, the Ark, and a 40t pinnace, Calvert had more than enough tonnage to  haul a substantial colony across the Atlantic, but from his letters was not entirely happy to be pressed into service privateering against the French fishing fleet in Newfoundland waters when he would  have preferred to "builde, sette and sowe." By the arrival of Newfoundland's characteristically latte spring in 1629, Calvert seems to have had a better sense of what was and was not possible, writing the King for a newer and better colony, sending his children back to England in August, and by that time departing with his wife and those afore-mentioned servants for Jamestown, where he was by the late summer or fall of 1629, where his religion made him no friends. Leaving wife and servants in Virginia, Calvert departed for Ireland, although he was probably living in lodgings in London, attending the court, by the time that the Baltimore raid took place, dying there in April of 1632. 

Calvert's eldest son inherited the Irish peerage and the proprietorship of the Calvert's New World interests, but it was left to his bachelor second  son, Leonard, to make good on the colonial project, establishing the colony of Maryland on 25 March, 1634 on St. Clement's Island opposite St. Mary's City, which seems like a very well-chosen date. Not that I'm going to makea fuss over the celebration of the establishment of a city named for the Mother of God on the day of earth renewal that commemorates Muskrat's dive to bring up Earth to create Turtle Island for Fallen Woman's couching. 

By this time the Calverts had gone full Papist and there was a small Jesuit mission along for the voyage with some 300 settlers (or another article says, 140, which seems more plausible) and, once again, the Ark and the Dove. At least, per the founding narrative, although the Calverts lost a ship off Baltimore in 1631 with the second Lady Calvert aboard, so I do wonder. 

Calvert had a fairly exciting few years as governor, waging war against a Virginia adventurer and marrying Anne Brent, who, we are told, was the sister of acting Governor Giles Brent, who was the brother of Margaret Brent, at whcih we finally arrive at some documented history, as Mary Brent was extremely active in Maryland and Virginia public affairs. We thus know that she herself was a spinster, but a prominent businesswoman, owning a mill, several houses, "valuable farming equipment and numerous cattle." Meanwhile, Acting Governor Giles was married to Mary Kittamaqund, recorded as the daughter of the chief of the Piscataway Indians, which suggests the usual English confusion over the matrilineal inheritance practices of Eastern Woodland Indians. Mary Kittamaqund was clearly a substantial heiress, but not through her father. 

However, Leonard Calvert left for England in 16443 and returned with, Wikipedia says, "a new wife and children." William and Anne had issue and court cases, which have between them unleashed sufficient research efforts that we know that William was legal issue of Leonard Calvert, that he was a licensed Indian trader from at least 1662, but the best we can do for the "new wife" is the fatal [mother unknown.]

When Governor Calvin died in 1648, Margaret Brent "took the initiative, it says here, persuading the colonial assembly to recognise a prominent planter as the acting governor and seizing proprietal land and selling it to pay off the private army that Governor Calvert had raised to make war around Chesapeake Bay. Brent further demanded a "vote" in the Assembly and was refused, after which she and Mary Kittamaqund departed for Virginia, dying sometime at some point in 1671, we know, because that was when her will was probated. By this time the Calverts had been marginalised in Maryland due to an ongoing religious civil war that would finally be resolved in the Calverts' favour after Benedict Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore, decided that Baltimore was worth a Lord's Supper in 1715. 

By this time, the centre of gravity in the Colony had shifted north to Baltimore, a city with the usual obscure early history, being held depopulated by this time as a hunting ground by the Susquehannocks, and being "erected" as a county "by 1659," we know because in that year we have a warrant issued to be served by the Sheriff of Baltimore County, which we obviously couldn't have if there was no Baltimore County.  The County seems to have been erected on the basis of the estate of someone named David Jones, who it says on the website open opposite me, was a "Quaker," which I suppose isn't impossible. The house lay at the terminus of a "trail to Philadelphia," which was presumably actually a trail to a ford of the Susquehanna, and of a mill on Jones Falls.  By 1700 there was considerably more business at the fall, another little town at Cole's Harbor, and a lost "old" Baltimore perhaps on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Jones, for all his sectarianism, presided over the establishment of the Anglican parish of St. Paul's. 

We're a bit lost on the details, and this has been suggested to be a consequence of the then-raging Beaver Wars. Although the Haudenosaunee were the ultimate victors in this continental-scale war for access to pelt lands, in the middle years of the century, the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock were doing very well. With their New Swedish allies, they defeated Maryland in 1644, and in the late 1650s and through the early 1660s, they beat back repeated Haudenosaunee invasions, leading the Five Nations to appeal for French help in 1672. As the Wikipedia page says, tradition used to assert that sometime after that, the Susquehannock were defeated by the Haudenosaunee, but there is no actual record of that. Instead, they "declined rapidly" from the 1670s. 

As often, the "three ds" narrative is invoked, with the alleged New World vulnerability to Old World diseases having somehow spared the Susquehannock until this late date, but this works even less well than usual, since we also know that the Susquehannock, or Conestoga, had accumulated in large settlements along Pennsylvania's Susquehanna frontier, because they were the main victims of the Paxton Boys rebellion of 1764.   Other Susquehannock moved north to join the Seneca and Onondaga. Given the salt springs and Ohio portages available to the Five Nations, this seems like the place where Susquehannock labour was needed most, and a logical enough step if they were not to head across the mountains to the Ohio fur country. 

At this point I am going to call it a night. The obvious question is how deep the subterranean currents go here. The fisherfolk of Baltimore were a great deal more valuable on the landings of Newfoundland than on sale in Algiers, however prurient the interest might be. We know that Algonquin coastal fur traders made their way up to the Grand Banks, although we do not know how many, or how far they sailed. Chesapeake Bay seems like a bit of  a stretch, but it seems obvious enough that the Brents and Calverts made more local alliances than the recorded ones, and that the early increase in population in the middle colonies has as much to do with ethnogenesis as with immigration, just because immigration was up to this point so scant. Did the Calverts know what they were getting into?

The core problem of the narrative of the colonisation of the eastern seaboard of North America. Is that it took place in a sudden rush in the first half of the 1600s, when a project which had previously been demonstrated to be impossible suddenly became so easy that practically everyone succeeded, no matter how serious the problems they imported from home. We could add to this the story of the outsized success of the Haudenosaunee if anyone chose to see it as an anomaly, and an explanation, as far as it goes, is that the communities succeeded where the landscape made work that was only available within a certain ethnic identity, available. That is to say, it was mills that made America, and salt springs that made the Iroquois Confederacy. And ultimately, the mills of the Fall Line had more legs. Milling corn had more upside for the securing of Ohio pelts than access to brine for curing. Thus, it was the various  Middle State identities that won the battle for hearts and souls, just as the "Yengisee," Canadien, and Acadien identities were winning further north. 

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