Southern Maryland in popular usage is composed of the state's southernmost counties on the "Western Shore" of the Chesapeake Bay. This region includes all of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's counties and sometimes the southern portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties.
Southern Maryland was originally inhabited by Piscataway Indians. Captain John Smith explored the area in 1608 and 1609. In 1634 St. Mary's City, at southern Maryland's lower tip was the site of the first Roman Catholic English settlement in North America (the site is now a living history museum). Tobacco plantations flourished in southern Maryland during slavery.
With a slave economy during the American Civil War, regional white sympathies were very pro-Confederate (as evidenced in the official state song lyrics). From the war's beginning, however, large numbers of Union occupying troops and patrolling river gunboats prevented the state's secession, although nighttime smuggling across the Potomac River with Virginia took place. John Wilkes Booth was helped by local people in his escape through the area after killing President Abraham Lincoln.
Southern Maryland was traditionally a rural and agricultural region, linked by passenger and freight steamboat routes. These steamboat routes operated on the Chesapeake Bay and major rivers until the 1930s before the building of highways and the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on U.S. Highway 301. Weekend excursion boats also carried Washingtonians to small amusement parks and amusement pavilions at numerous shore locations. From 1949 (1943 in some places) to 1968, the region was popular for its slot machine gambling.
During recent times, the region experienced suburban development as the Washington suburbs expanded southward. This expansion took place primarily in Prince George's County, and around Waldorf (a regional shopping hub) and St. Charles (a planned community in Charles County), Lexington Park (St. Mary's County) and Prince Frederick (Calvert County). This expansion of the Washington DC metropolitan area has caused much of southern Maryland's formerly predominant southern culture to fade giving way to a rapidly growing northeastern culture that is found throughout much of the Northeast Megalopolis. However, as noted, land-use maps show that the area is still primarily low-density.
Many southern Marylanders work at Andrews Air Force Base, the U.S. Census Bureau or at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its related industries. Other smaller industries include a nuclear power plant and a liquified natural gas terminal (both in Lusby), a Naval ordnance test ground (at Indian Head), electric power plants (at Aquasco and Morgantown) and an oil terminal (at Piney Point). The beautiful towns of Solomons Island and Chesapeake Beach are favorite weekend tourist resorts. Maryland International Raceway and Budds Creek Raceway near Chaptico attract many auto and motocross racing enthusiasts.
While the steamboats are long gone, more than three-quarters of the land area is still rural, a mixture of forest and farmland. The growing of tobacco, once a dominant crop, has declined greatly because of state government farm buyouts during the 1990s.
St. Mary's County is home to Amish and Mennonite communities. In addition, two state recognized tribes exist Piscataway Native American tribe, tribes that live along the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland (see We-Sorts). Fishing, boating and crabbing are popular activities in this region; large marinas are found in the Solomons Island and North Beach areas. However, the population of fish and other marine life is threatened by pollution and environmental factors. Ancient marine fossils are abundant at Calvert Cliffs.
The region's northern boundary passes through Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County, east of Washington. Its eastern boundary is the Chesapeake Bay and its southern and western boundary is the Potomac River, Maryland's boundary with Virginia.
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Perhaps the most notable food dish originating from Southern Maryland is stuffed ham, which is cabbage, kale, onions, spices and seasonings that are chopped and mixed, then stuffed into deep slits slashed in a whole, corned ham.
Seafood is popular amongst Southern Marylanders, given the region's location along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Both steamed crabs and crab cakes are considered Southern Maryland delicacies due to the large amount of harvesting of blue crabs from the bay. Also popular are oysters, which were once fished from the bay in great numbers, and served either fried, raw, or stuffed. Rockfish is considered one of the most prized fish dishes in Southern Maryland.
Towns and places in Southern Maryland include:
Anne Arundel County:
Prince George's County:
St. Mary's County:
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Colleges in Southern Maryland include:
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