Maryland Traces Its Irish Roots
Among the most influential families in Maryland’s history are the descendants of Ely O’Carroll, an Irish prince whose family fortunes suffered under the activities of England’s Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.
The first Carrolls arrived in the United States in 1688. They settled in Maryland and soon began to thrive both economically and politically. Perhaps the best-known member of the family was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who bore the dual distinction of being the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the wealthiest man to sign the document. It is often suggested that he was the signer with the most at stake if the colonies lost the Revolutionary War.
There were so many Carrolls in Maryland’s history – several with the first name Charles – that it was hard to keep them straight. In fact, the joke during Revolutionary times was that Charles Carroll of Carrollton felt the need to sign his address after his name – and would forever be known by that title – so he could distinguish himself from all the other members of his family. (Note that some history books call him Charles Carroll the Signer to distinguish him from Charles Carroll the Settler, Charles Carroll the Barrister, etc.)
Today the state is peppered with historic houses and religious sites that have ties to various members of the Carroll family.
For more information about travel in Maryland, call 800-719-5900 to order a free Maryland Travel Kit or visit the state’s tourism web site at www.visitmaryland.org.
For those interested in the Carroll family history on the other side of the Atlantic, Maryland has a sister tourism region in Ireland called Ely O’Carroll Country. For information about this region, which embraces parts of Offaly, Tipperary and Laois near the heart of Ireland, visit www.elyocarroll.com.
Carroll Family Sites in Maryland
Charles Carroll House of Annapolis
This 18th-century structure was the urban home and birthplace of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of four Marylanders – and the only Catholic – to sign the Declaration of Independence. The Carroll House is one of only fifteen surviving signer’s birthplaces in the United States and is a National Historic Landmark. 107 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD 21401, 410-269-1737, www.charlescarrollhouse.com
Maryland State House
Among the items on display on the ground floor of this historic building are portraits of Charles Carroll and the other three Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence (Samuel Chase, William Paca and Thomas Stone). The State House – the oldest one in continuous legislative use anywhere in the United States – was built between 1772 and 1779 and once functioned as the U.S. Capitol. 91 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401, 410-974-3400, www.maryland.gov
B&O Railroad Museum
The Carroll family was closely tied to the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. This museum is located on the site of the B&O’s former Mount Clare Shops and is known as the “birthplace of American railroading.” A painting in the museum’s collection depicts Charles Carroll of Carrollton breaking ground on the railroad on July 4, 1828. It is interesting to note that Carroll was selected because he was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was the second choice behind President John Quincy Adams, who opted to instead attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal because he thought it offered more potential. Ironically, the railroad is credited/blamed for the demise of the canal, which closed in 1924 – and the railroad continues to operate as part of CSX transportation. Carroll is reported to have said that opening the railroad was “. . . among the most important acts of my life, second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence, if even it be second to that!” (In another ironic twist, Carroll was actually a member of the board of the C&O Canal, too.) 901 W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21223, 410-752-2490, www.borail.org
Baltimore Museum of Art
Three items related to the Carroll family are on view at the museum. The first is Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s elephant-shaped mantel clock, probably made in Paris around 1770. There’s also a silver medal that was designed by Christian Gobrecht in 1826 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was presented to Charles Carroll of Carrollton and recognized him as the last surviving signer of the Declaration. Finally, there is a silver bowl that was made by John Inch of Annapolis in 1743. It is thought to be the oldest, major surviving piece of Maryland silver and served as a trophy to commemorate the first formal horse race in Maryland. The race was won by Dungannon, owned by Dr. George Steuart, in a competition with a horse owned by Charles Carroll, father of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. There is also a springhouse outside the museum, designed by Benjamin Latrobe (see below) around 1812 for Robert Goodloe Harper’s country house, called Oakland. Harper was married to Catherine Carroll “Kitty” Harper, a daughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. The structure was moved to the museum’s property in 1932. 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, 410-396-7100, www.artbma.org
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Bishop John Carroll, the first bishop of Baltimore – and, in fact, the first bishop of the United States – is buried at the basilica. Carroll laid the cornerstone for the basilica but did not live to see it built. The basilica is the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States and was designed by famed architect Benjamin Latrobe. (On the subject of “firsts,” Latrobe was the first professionally trained architect in the United States. He also designed the U.S. Capitol under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson.) The basilica is where mourners held the funeral mass for the bishop’s second cousin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, when he died in November 1832 at the age of 95. (He was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.) There’s a painting of the bishop in the rectory here, and there’s a Gilbert Stewart painting of him at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University, which he founded. Cathedral and Mulberry streets (rectory is at 408 N. Charles Street), Baltimore, MD 21201, 410-727-3564, www.baltimorebasilica.org
The Carroll Mansion
This was the home of Richard Caton and his wife Mary, who was one of the daughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. In fact, it was at this site that 95-year-old Charles, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, died on November 14, 1832. The house dates to 1808 and the Carroll-Caton family occupied it in 1820. Charles divided his year between Annapolis, where he spent his summers, and this Baltimore home, where he spent his winters. The building has survived in a changing neighborhood and has met the needs of a changing population. It has functioned as a saloon, tenement house, sweatshop, vocational school, recreation center and city museum. The site now interprets all the aspects of the building’s role in Baltimore’s history. 800 E. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, 410-605-2964, www.carrollmansion.info
Homewood House Museum
Charles Carroll of Carrollton supplied the money to build this spacious home in 1801 as a wedding gift to his only son, Charles Jr., and Harriett Chew of Philadelphia. The five-part house was designed as a country villa and was built just two miles from the city center of Baltimore. Homewood is known for both its interior and exterior architectural details, and Federal-style furnishings have been assembled to present the house as it would have been at the height of 19th-century fashion. The house, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971, is located on the campus of the internationally recognized Johns Hopkins University. 3400 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, 410-516-5589, www.jhu.edu/historichouses
Irish Shrine and Railroad Workers Museum
Many years after Charles Carroll of Carrollton broke ground for the B&O Railroad, this area, Irish immigrants found steady work on the railroad yards. The Irish Shrine is a unique, non-staffed interpretive site that includes two alley houses furnished to depict daily life for the Irish immigrant living in the late 1840s visible through a clear back wall; a garden; and other interpretive exhibits. Guided tours, departing from the B&O Railroad Museum, are also available. 920 Lemmon Street, Baltimore, MD 21223, 410-669-8154, www.irishshrine.org
Maryland Historical Society
The Maryland Historical Society is the state’s oldest cultural institution and includes a museum and library. The society collects, preserves and interprets objects and materials reflecting Maryland’s diverse heritage. It also houses the most extensive collection of objects and artifacts in the state of Maryland and one of the largest collections of Americana in the world. The library’s collection contains thousands of Carroll family documents, including letters, prints and photographs. The paintings collection includes 13 paintings from the Carroll family, and they can be seen online through the Maryland ArtSource at www.marylandartsource.org. Portraits of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Charles Carroll Harper (grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and son of Kitty Harper, outlined in the Baltimore Museum of Art reference) and a Federal side chair that was owned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton are on display at the museum. 201 W. Monument Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, 410-685-3750, www.mdhs.org
Mount Clare Museum House
This was the country home of Charles Carroll the Barrister, a distant cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. (In fact, this branch of the Carroll family was associated with the Church of England rather than the Catholic church.) The house was built in 1760 and is a five-part Georgian mansion. Mount Clare was the center of the barrister’s 800-acre Patapsco River plantation and home to Carroll and his wife, Margaret Tilghman Carroll. Today it houses displays of original paintings, furniture and decorative arts. The house, which is designated a National Historic Landmark, remained in the Carroll family until 1890, when it was sold to the city of Baltimore. 1500 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230, 410-837-3262, www.mountclare.org
An entire Maryland county is named for the Carroll family, even though none of them ever actually lived here. The county’s historical society notes that there are no less than three “Charles Carrolls” associated with the area: Dr. Charles Carroll, Charles Carroll the Barrister and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Among them, the various Charleses purchased 30,000 acres of land in the area that is now named for them. There are, however, no sites, historic houses or museums pertaining to the family. It was the Carroll family’s interest in the B&O Railroad (see earlier reference, under Baltimore) that directed the railroad through neighboring Frederick County. The Carrolls wanted to be sure that the railroad passed by their land holdings in that area. There are a number of interesting attractions in Carroll County, including the Carroll County Historical Society and the Carroll County Farm Museum. The farm museum is home to one of the state’s biggest festivals, the Maryland Wine Festival, held the third weekend of September. Carroll County Tourism, 800-272-1933, http://tourism.carr.org/
Old Trinity Church
Old Trinity Church is the nation’s oldest Episcopal church. Its graveyard is the final resting site of Anna Ella Carroll, known as the “silent member of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet.” She was influential in many of the decisions Lincoln made regarding the Civil War and as late as 1934 was honored by Union war veterans and descendants for the role she played in preserving the Union. Anna Ella was the daughter of one-time Maryland governor Thomas King Carroll and a descendant of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. The church is located off Route 16 near the town of Church Creek. For information, contact the Dorchester County Tourism office at 410-228-1000, www.tourdorchester.org/pages/heritage.htm
Darnall’s Chance House Museum
“Darnall’s Chance” was the name given to property patented by Colonel Henry Darnall, the father-in-law of Charles Carroll the Settler and great-grandfather of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. A portion of the property became the new town of Upper Marlborough (now spelled Upper Marlboro) in 1706. On one of the town lots stood a house (now demolished) in which Darnall’s great-grandsons, Daniel and John Carroll, were born. Daniel was a framer of the U.S. Constitution; John was the first bishop of the United States Catholic Church and founder of Georgetown University in neighboring Washington, D.C. (The pair were second cousins of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.) The Carrolls sold another portion of Darnall’s property to a Scottish merchant named James Wardrop, who in 1742 built the house now shown on this site as a museum. 14800 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772, 301-952-8010, www.pgparks.com
Poplar Hill on His Lordship’s Kindness
The Carroll family and the Darnall families are linked throughout many generations. This historic home was built in 1787 by Robert Darnall, great-grandson of Colonel Henry Darnall (see above reference). Robert and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, grew up together in Annapolis, and Charles eventually married Robert’s sister Mary. The family is further linked at this site because the estate was once the home of Eleanor Darnall Carroll, mother of Daniel and John Carroll (first cousins to Robert Darnall and second cousins to Charles Carroll of Carrollton). It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. 7606 Woodyard Road, Clinton, MD 20735, 301-856-0358, www.poplarhillonhlk.org
St. Ignatius Catholic Church
Bishop John Carroll laid the cornerstone here, at the nation’s oldest active Jesuit Catholic parish. The church was built in 1798 and the manor house was built in 1741. Of particular interest here are the slave house and underground tunnel. The role of the tunnel – whether it was used to hide Jesuit priests or slaves – is currently under investigation. 8855 Chapel Point Road, Port Tobacco, MD 20677, 301-934-8245, www.chapelpoint.org