Apostle of Maryland
Prayers written by White between 1634 and 1640 in English, Latin, and Piscataway
On November 22, 1633, he took Baltimore's offer and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight with lord Leonard Calvert and fellow Jesuits John Altham Gravenor and Thomas Gervase on The Ark, one of George Calvert's ships. Their landing on March 25, 1634, on St. Clement's Island marks the birth of the Maryland colony. The anniversary of this date is now celebrated as Maryland Day. In saying Catholic Mass that day, he became the first priest to do so in the original thirteen English colonies. By July of that year, White had written his first discussion on the new colony, titled A Relation of the Sucessefull Beginnings of the Lord Baltimore's Plantation in Maryland. Sections of this were used to further advertise the colony.
White spent most of the next decade in St. Mary's City, working on English-Native American relations, particularly with the Yaocomico tribe, which consistently saw favorable trade treaties from Calvert because of White, and the Anacostans. In 1637 they were joined by Jesuits Thomas Copley and Ferdinand Poulton, and between 1634 and 1650 there averaged four permanent Jesuits in the Maryland Colony. To further his missionary work, he wrote dictionaries and translated the catechism into the native languages. On July 5, 1640, he famously converted Chitomachon, the chief of the Piscataway Indians, to Christianity. The chief was baptized as Charles. He later baptized a princess of the Patuxent Indians, and much of her tribe.
In 1933, the architect and writer Christopher La Farge designed a monument to White that is located just outside St. Mary's City.
Return to England
The English Civil War was to cut short his missionary work. In 1644, Richard Ingle and Puritan colonists from the neighboring Virginian colony of Jamestown, which had previously rebuffed George Calvert's visit, first raided St. Mary's City. Ingle succeeded in burning the town and, with the aid of William Claiborne, in controlling the Maryland Colony. White was again arrested for his Catholic preaching, and in 1645 he was sent with Thomas Copley in chains to London. Once there, he was tried for the crime of returning to England after being banished in 1606, which carried the punishment of death. He escaped this fate by arguing that his return was not of his own will. His petitions to return to Maryland denied, he spent the last decade of his life quietly in England until his death on December 27, 1656.