Earlier Inhabitants of Baltimore, Maryland

Notable historical items on the facade of the Lord Baltimore Hotel are a couple of stone carvings, which portray the original Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, and another person, a Native American. As many people are aware, Europeans and Africans were not the earliest inhabitants of North America – so who were the people who lived in the Baltimore region before the Europeans and Africans arrived?

The area that would eventually become known as “Maryland” has been occupied by people for many thousands of years. A chronology of the state’s history by the Maryland State Archives notes:

“c. 10,000 B.C. First humans arrived by this date in the land that would become Maryland.

c. 1,500 B.C. Oysters became an important food resource.

c. 1,000 B.C. Native-American introduction of pottery.

c. 800 A.D. Native-American introduction of domesticated plants; bow and arrow came into use.

c. 1200. Permanent Native-American villages established.”

According the Maryland Historical Society, one of the three-dozen or so tribes who lived here prior to the arrival of trans-Atlantic immigrants were called the Yaocomico:

“The Native Americans in Maryland were a peaceful people who welcomed the English. At the time of the founding of the Maryland colony, approximately forty tribes consisting of 8,000 – 10,000 people lived in the area.  They were fearful of the colonists’ guns, but welcomed trade for metal tools.  The Native Americans who were living in the location where the colonists first settled were called the Yaocomico Indians. The colonists gave the Yaocomico Indians cloth, hatchets, and hoes in exchange for the right to settle on the land.  The Yaocomico Indians allowed the English settlers to live in their houses, a type of longhouse called a witchott. The Indians also taught the colonists how to plant corn, beans, and squash, as well as where to find food such as clams and oysters.”

Another one of the tribes that is often mentioned in Maryland state history is the Susquehannocks, whose reputation was a bit different than the Yaocomico. This detailed account of the tribe is from Adam Youssi, writing for the Historical Society of Baltimore County:

“The Susquehannocks were involved in numerous conflicts with other tribes.  Often, it was war with other Natives, and the potential for economic gain that prompted the Susquehannocks to interact with Europeans and acquire their manufactured goods.  The many different peoples and places with which the Susquehannocks were involved make for a complicated narrative.”

Youssi continues:

“To the far south the Susquehannocks could observe the Powhattan confederacy trading with the English near Jamestown.  The Susquehannocks were using most of northern Maryland and Baltimore County as hunting and trapping grounds but refrained from much confrontation with Powhattan.  West of territories controlled by the Susquehannocks, in the Susquehanna River valley, were the Senecas.  The Senecas found themselves in the worst position for trade.  Hunt claims that the Susquehannocks were hijacking shipments being traded between the Senecas and Europeans, leading the Senecas to war with the Susquehannocks.”

The territory where Native Americans lived eventually changed hands through both treaties and wars, and Native Americans gave way to the European immigrants. Some notable dates in this process from the the Maryland State Archives:

“1652, July 5. Susquehannocks sign treaty at Severn River, ceding Eastern Shore and Western Shore lands (except Kent Island & Palmer’s Island) to English.

1675-1677. Maryland and Virginia war against remaining Susquehannocks.

1744, June 30. Native-American chiefs of the Six Nations relinquished by treaty all claims to land in colony. Assembly purchased last Indian land claims in Maryland.”

Do you know something about the pre-European history of the Baltimore area? Email stories@lordbaltimorehotel.com and share your knowledge with us!