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1731 church, 1766–1767 additions to church; 1786–1789 house; 1816 additions to both. 21370 Newtown Neck Rd.
  • (Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie)
  • (Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie)
  • (Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie)

Indicative of the early prosperity and influence of the Jesuits in Maryland, St. Francis Xavier is possibly the oldest Catholic church in the original thirteen colonies. The frame center section, a plastered barrel-vaulted basilica-plan space, has been dated via dendrochronology to 1731, but a church stood on this site as early as 1662. The Flemish bond brick vestibule and choir was added to the west end in 1766–1767, and the “confessional” on the east was added in 1816. The historically inaccurate box pews currently in the interior were added in a 1984 restoration. It is more likely an eighteenth-century Catholic church would have just had a few wood benches along the walls.

Newtown Manor, a large brick Georgian dwelling behind the church, was a residence for the Jesuits who served the parish and rode as circuit priests throughout the Western Shore. Dendrochronology indicates that the house was built in 1789, replacing a nearby 1717 structure. The gambrel roof was raised in 1816 to increase the available space. The manor house was part of a 700-acre tobacco plantation including seven outbuildings and a community of enslaved workers. The slaves included skilled workers such as James, a bricklayer who worked on construction of the manor house, and Peter and Nick, a bricklayer and carpenter for the 1816 additions. The 56 enslaved individuals at Newtown were included in the now infamous 1838 sale of over 200 enslaved workers from Jesuit plantations in Maryland to Catholic planters in Louisiana in order to financially save Georgetown University.

Writing Credits

Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie



  • 1731


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Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie, "ST. FRANCIS XAVIER ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND NEWTOWN MANOR", [Leonardtown, Maryland], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Maryland, Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2022, 27-27.

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