Religious persecution has led to more than one colonial settlement in the New World. Despite their own experience back home though, colonists, once they arrived here, had no qualms about converting Native Americans to Christianity, usually with the stipulation, “love it or leave.”

A 1605 attempt to kill King James resulted in the widespread repression of Roman Catholicism in England. This persecution did not prevent George Calvert from publicly confessing his faith upon retirement from public life in 1625. In 1633, his son Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, mounted an expedition to found a new Chesapeake colony in part to give Catholics a place to live and worship. George, himself, had attempted to settle a colony in the cold Northeast at a site he called Ferryland in 1627–8.

The expedition, led by Cecil’s brother Leonard, embarked in two ships, the Arcke (also spelled as Ark and Arke) and the Dove, which may have been used on their father’s earlier venture. It is unclear whether the Calverts renamed these vessels for the purpose of this voyage. All that is known is that they were existing vessels from England’s merchant fleet, and some assume that the ships’ names were inspired by Noah’s Ark and the dove he released to seek land.

The Dove was a pinnace, from the Spanish pinaca, a light vessel in attendance to a larger one. She was to be the expedition’s support vessel carrying essential provisions and going on trade missions once the colony was on its feet.

Perhaps her name had a different Biblical origin.

“And I say, Oh that I had wings like a dove
I would fly away and be at rest; yea I would wander afar,
I would lodge in the wilderness,
I would haste to find me a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”

— Psalms 55:6–8

We know something of the Dove’s history thanks to the testimony of William Fitter—a former servant of Thomas Cornwallys, a New World adventurer—in an April 1636 lawsuit, the transcripts of which may be found in the Public Record Office of London.

Lord Baltimore and his co-adventurers paid the Dove’s several owners 100 pounds sterling for a quarter interest in her and hired Richard Orchard “to goe Mr. (master or captain) of the said Pinnace the Dove as aforesaid, did undertake to guide, carry and conduct the said Pinnace the Dove as Mr. of her the said voyage, & did promise to those that hiered him a fore said, to performe follow & obey their Commission for the said voyage.”

At their departure in October 1633, Orchard was instructed to keep company with the larger ship, but three days at sea, the Dove was found “sluggishly to follow the Arke” and he was not able to carry out these orders. They hove to at sea and Orchard was told to take a shorter route and “ply for St. Christophers (today’s St. Kitts) & there to stay until the Arcke came hither.”

Instead, Orchard followed a longer, more southerly route and brought the Dove into Barbados, where the faster Arcke had already lain for a fortnight. The Arcke was ready to sail, but when its captain, Richard Lowe, went aboard the Dove and ordered her to sea, he was informed that Orchard had left the ship and gone inland to pursue some debts owed him. He was absent “three or fower dayes” and when he returned, the balance of a week was lost before the two ships departed together for St. Christophers in January 1633. They lost sight of Dove again in a day or two, and when she caught up, Orchard claimed they had been chased by pirate ships.

Upon their arrival in Maryland, Gov. Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore’s representative at the colony, had his people disembark adjacent to what would become the St. Mary’s River. The Arcke returned to England to be laden as a supply ship.

Documents survive that contain the names of the consigners and cargo bills for that second voyage, which was loaded between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4th, 1634: “The Right Hono’ble Lord Baltemore…box cont.xlv (65) smale groce of sheffeeld knives xxx (30) dozen hoes xl (60) dozen hawkes bells ijc (200) Axes.” The bells and knives were mostly likely items to be traded with the Native Americans.

The Dove, still captained by Orchard, was freighted with corn and other commodities he was to sell in New England. Contrary to orders, he did not return to Maryland, but to Point Comfort, near the Bay mouth on the Western Shore in November 1634. Leonard Calvert and a companion, Jeremy Hawly, were visiting Jamestown when they were informed that the Dove had arrived, 120 miles from where she was supposed to be. Orchard told his employers that neither “hee nor the Dove should or woulde budge from Pointe Comfort before hee had his wages,” according to court transcripts taken during Fitter’s testimony.

Calvert and Hawly pointed out that their money was in Maryland and all he had to do was sail the ship home to get it, and that if he were to abandon the ship at Point Comfort, they’d have a hard time finding mariners to sail her up themselves.

“The said Richard Orchard & Nicholas Perry…took the boate belonging to the said Pinnace and…forsook her there & left none of her company in her but one little boy & after they had thus forsaken her, there arose a great storme, in w’ch the said Pinnace was in great daunger to bee caste away,” according to court transcripts.

Calvert, Hawly and Fitter stayed with the ship, and three or four days later Orchard returned with some of the ship’s company and boarded Dove “in a mutinous and braveing manner toward the said Capt. Calvert (his military rank) & Mr. Hawly.” Orchard, it was said, “layd hand on the said Mr. Hawly & jostled him.”

Concerned over potential violence, Calvert sent Fitter to the nearby fortification at Point Comfort for aid.

Orchard and his crew departed at some point, leaving only only the ship’s mate, now accompanied by two servants of Calvert to husband the ship. Calvert and Hawly “were inforced w’th much adoe& great chardges to gett Marriners to carry that Pinnace to Mariland where they were inforced to keepe her untill August followeinge before they could gett Marriners to bring her for England,” according to the transcripts.

In August 1635, the Dove was to carry the colony’s beaver pelts (in casks weighing almost 1,000 pounds), wainscot (dressed) timber and other goods back to England but “Her longe lyeing there by that occasion… he said Pinnace was much eaten the nature of the water here beeing very subject to bee wormeaten,” the transcripts state.

The saline portions of the Chesapeake are summer habitat for the boring mollusk, Bankia gouldi. Its larval stages attach to and bore into the unprotected wood of a ship’s planks (See “Past is Prologue,” July-August 2002). On entering a plank, they leave only a tiny larva-size hole, but once inside grow to the size of a pencil where hundreds of them can honeycomb even massive timbers in a disturbingly short time. The Dove had become afflicted after spending almost three years in the warm waters of the South Atlantic, Caribbean and the warm Chesapeake.

Again at great expense in a colony short of skilled labor and shipwrights, Calvert did what he could to remedy the Dove’s structural faults, but atop those problems, Fitter testified that “Hee beleeveth their (hides and trade) goods were much dampnefied by longe lyeing at Mariland for want of Marriners.”

Dangerously close to the hurricane season, the ship embarked for England in August. “The Pinnace came from Mariland in August laste bounde for England…& there is noe news yet of her arrival here, soe that yt is conceived that shee & her ladeinge is quite cast away & lost.” The Dove and all aboard had vanished without a trace somewhere in the Atlantic.

It is not known what the Dove looked like, but in the mid-1970s, a replica of a mid-17th century trading vessel, the Dove of Maryland, was constructed based on modern scholarship and naval architecture at the shipyard of Capt. Jim Richardson on the Choptank River near Lloyds, MD.

When I saw her under construction in September 1977, the oak frames that underlie the replica ship’s planking were built lying down on the ground. The timber had been sawn from a mill on Richardson’s property. Each was successively raised into its vertical position along the keel, looking like a series of wooden lyres standing in rank. This ancient curve of the futtock (the curved timbers that form the frame of a ship) being constructed was a wonderful sight. She looked so large rising there, yet even for her time she was a very small ship.

The Dove of Maryland incorporated the 17th century tradition of whole molding, all the curves of her hull being variations on a single curve pattern that the shipwright/designer had as his stock in trade. This single pattern determined the shape of the frames, as well as the curves of her bows, stern and waterlines. Although her rounded bows made her a slow sailer, a sturdy and spacious vessel resulted.

Her keel had been laid months earlier and was blessed in a ceremony by Episcopal Bishop Martin Townsend from Easton, MD. Bishop Martin, now retired though busy with mission work, was rector of Trinity Church, at St. Mary’s City for 11 years, which he describes as “the happiest of my life.”

Trinity was built about 1828 near the site of the original 17th century State House using bricks lying about the crumbled site as well as others disassembled from still-standing walls. Townsend said that “Wings of Morning,” a pageant depicting the religious origins of the colony, was performed at St. Mary's City in the 1970s. He suggested that the name, Dove, might have yet another biblical origin:

“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea even there shall thy hand lead me.”

— Psalm 139:9


When I next saw the Dove of Maryland, in September 1978, she had already been launched and lay at the pier, her hull brightly painted in 17th century fashion.

Richardson was hard at work rigging her spars. He held up one of the deadeyes which would be used in pairs to support the masts when the rigging swayed up under great tension. He explained that it was fashioned from the naturally rock-hard wood of the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), which is very tough and resistant to splitting if it is kept well-finished in boiled linseed oil.

Richardson and his yard crew were fitting the hounds—wooden clamps that would hold the overlapping upper and lower mast sections rigid as a unit against the force of the wind—to the foremast top. These pieces were made of American chestnut.

Richardson was well-experienced with wooden spars. Nearby lay the immense rotted mainmast of USS Constellation vastly larger than those of the Dove of Maryland. It was the pattern spar, nearly 8 feet in circumference, trucked in for duplication, as part of this Naval icon’s restoration.

Richardson said that the Dove of Maryland’s masts had come from a cypress swamp in Delaware that had been in a friend’s family for generations. Every few years, Richardson said, “He goes in and starts logging. He’ll cut as many thousands of board feet as he can till some environmentalist screams loud enough; then he quits and lays low.” (See “Past is Prologue,” March 2004.)

The crew were on deadline to get the Dove of Maryland off to St. Mary’s City, her new home, where she has since served as a symbol for Maryland history and a school for interpreting the Chesapeake’s past.

Richardson’s granddaughter took us aboard the ship, down among the tons of paving block ballast, and into the great cabin where an old bottle with two dried flowers added cheer to the setting.

A third encounter was solely by chance, Oct. 8 1978. Anchored overnight near the Choptank River’s Susquehanna Point, I’d awakened to see stars at 4:30 a.m., but my ketch was surrounded by gray fog. Suddenly, the Dove of Maryland appeared out of the mist, on her way across the Bay, no longer a construction project but a living thing with her spritsail drawing, main course and topsail clewed to the yards.

There is some irony in the Dove of Maryland’s quarter century career. After her first few years, when management interest faded in the face of a budget crunch, her annual maintenance was skipped for a summer or two. When hauled again, she was found to be severely wormshot. The cost of repairing the damage from neglect approached 14-fold the money that her managers thought they had saved.

As in all matters of caring for the Chesapeake and her heritage, management delay often means that the cost to regain lost ground is many times more than what it would have been if responsible action had been taken immediately.

Fortunately, the Dove of Maryland, now sails well-captained, lovingly crewed and well-managed—a lesson for us all.