st. clements island heritage day

LEONARDTOWN, MD — With blue skies and a light breeze, it was a perfect day to visit St. Clements Island for Heritage Day. 

Visitors could climb the four stories of the Blackistone Lighthouse to get a birds’ eye view of the Potomac River, take in the slightly salty breeze as they strolled around the island, and take part in historic games and lessons, said Ellen Duke-Wilson, one of many volunteers. She has several generations of family ties to the island and the lighthouse, and volunteers when she isn’t working at an art specialist at Leonardtown Elementary School. 

The Museum Division of St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks invited the community to relive some of Maryland’s history June 11 with activities, lessons and the opportunity to take in the sights of St. Clements Island.

Accessible only by boat, the island has no paved streets or housing. The lighthouse is as close to the plans of the original lighthouse, with no running water or electricity, said Duke-Wilson.

“Some other points of interest include the 40-foot cross near the lighthouse, built during the Great Depression to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Maryland’s statehood, and the remains of the brick, slate roofing, and lantern deck of the original Blackistone Lighthouse,” said Duke-Wilson.

Children were given free watermelon while participating in the heritage games, which included beanbag tossing and stilt walking.

Dr. Thomas Gerard and his daughter Elizabeth, portrayed by Mike and Virginia Barbour, shined a light on what colonial life was like when the Blackistone Lighthouse was first constructed.  Visitors had the opportunity to discuss the life and challenges of being a lighthouse keeper with Isaac Wood, portrayed by Pete Woodside.

Representatives from Historic St. Mary’s City were on site to present the Native American Woodland Indians with a hands-on exhibit, featuring items such as deerskin fringed tunics and bone melee weapons. Other groups represented at the event include The Friends of Newtowne Manor House, who could walk listeners through the journey of the house, how it started from a one story farmhouse to grow into a four story manor.

Martin Gary, executive secretary of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, was also available for visitors to ask questions about how the commission helps conserve and improve aquatic wildlife of the Potomac River. St. Mary’s County Master Gardeners were located on the museum grounds with abundant information about your gardens and how to raise and maintain Maryland’s official state flower, the Black-eyed Susan.

A book signing featuring Mick Blackstone’s latest book, The Blackistones of Maryland, was also hosted. Blackstone will also have a selection of his other publications available for sale, including The Day They Left the Bay, Sunup to Sundown: Watermen of the Chesapeake, and Broken Wings Will Fly.

Local musician Joe Norris attended the event and charmed visitors with live guitar music, including his own musical pieces and other folk favorites. Volunteers with St. Clement’s Hundred were also in attendance to share their stories about the island and replica lighthouse. Check out this link for more information about the volunteer group.

Visitors who made the journey to the top of the lighthouse had the option to ring the bell located adjacent to the replica lighthouse. Sitting on the porch of the lighthouse, Duke-Wilson noted how cool despite the growing June heat.

“There’s always cool sitting up here on the porch. The best way to learn about history is to come out and see it,” said Duke-Wilson.

About St. Clements Island Museum: The St. Clement’s Island Museum is located at 38370 Point Breeze Rd. in Colton’s Point, MD.  The museum and grounds are handicap accessible but the water taxi and island are not.  For more information please call the St. Mary’s county Museum Division at 301-769-2222 or visit their website.  In the event of rain or high wind boat service will be cancelled and exhibitors and elements of the program will be moved inside the museum.

Contact Jacqui Atkielski at