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History of St. Mary's County Historical Society


The Saint Mary’s County Historical Society was founded October 25, 1951. Colonel Norwood S. Sothoron served as the Society’s first president. The Chronicles of St Mary’s was first conceived by our second president, Charles E. Fenwick. With the able assistance of his wife, Laverne, and a publication committee, the first monthly issue of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s was published in June of 1953.

In September of 1963, the St. Mary’s County Historical Society was awarded an honorary membership in the Ohio Genealogical Society for the publication of the Chronicles and its work in the field of local history and genealogy. The Chronicles were described by the Ohio Genealogical Society as “one of great time, effort and worth” and congratulations were offered for its excellent content and presentation.

During Mr. Fenwick’s nineteen-year tenure as president (1952 -1971), the Society grew from approximately forty members to 800. Other highlights during this period included the establishment of the popular quarterly dinner meetings with outstanding speakers; the acquisition and restoration of the Old Jail in Leonardtown, built in 1876 as headquarters of the Society; the micro-filming of old county records, the St. Mary’s Beacon and St. Mary’s Enterprise newspapers and early County land records; a compilation of the County cemetery records; the enlargement of the Society’s library facilities and many other accomplishments.

Mr. Edward Warfield Beitzell became editor of the Chronicles in 1956, and during his four-decade tenure (1956–1996) the published issues of the Chronicles began being bound for sale. Throughout this period, the faithful indexer of the Chronicles had been Mrs. Hilda Cheseldine. The Chronicles have provided a valuable resource over the years. Mrs. Regina Combs Hammett, editor of the Chronicles (1984 -1995), found them invaluable while writing her History Of Saint Mary’s County, published in 1977, a project sponsored by the St. Mary’s County Bicentennial Commission. Today, thanks to the efforts of Pete Himmelheber, a valuable member of the Society’s publication committee-until his death in 2022, the Chronicles have all been digitized.

Historical Society Presidents


1951 - 1952 Norwood S. Sothoron
1952 - 1971 Charles E. Fenwick
1971 - 1974 Thurston H. Baxter
1974 - 1977 J. Spence Howard
1977 - 1981 Frederick L. McCoy
1981 - 1995 Joseph A. Dillow
1996 - 2002 Richard C. Gass
2002 - 2006 Mary (Polly) Combs Barber
2006 - 2007 Richard C. Gass
2008 - 2011 John Hanson Briscoe
2012 - 2023 John Roach, MD
2023 - Present   Adm. Tim Heely, USN (Ret)

Editors Chronicles of St. Mary's

1953 - 1956         Charles E. Fenwick 
1956 - 1984   Edwin W. Beitzell
1984 - 1995   Regina Hammett 
1996 - 2006   Al Gough
2006 - 2009   Scott Lawrence
2009 - 2022   Pete Himmelheber
    2022 - Present   Jason Babcock