In 1785, a group of families from the southern Maryland counties of St. Mary, Charles and Prince George formed a “Catholic League of Families” [aka "Emigration League"] pledging to migrate to Kentucky. Reasons for this move were varied. Economics may have played a large role in this westward movement, with the depletion of available land in Maryland and the after-effects of the constant plundering by the British during the Revolutionary War.
Certainly religious freedom was a likely concern to many of these pioneers. After a century of anti-Catholic bias in Maryland, many were seeking freedom to openly practice their faith. John Carroll (a few years later named the Bishop of Baltimore) told them that if they would settle together he would do what he could to supply them with a priest.
True to their word, these pioneers largely settled together in what today are the three Kentucky counties of Nelson, Washington and Marion. Even now this central Kentucky area is known far and wide as the Kentucky Holy Lands.
As land further west opened up for settlement, some of these same pioneer families again packed up and headed out seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Many from this group seemed to have agreed to once again settle together. This led to many sister communities of this same group all across the western part of the United States.
The idea for a reunion originated in 1988 during the course of a Buckman, Leake and Montgomery family reunion in Monroe City, Missouri. It was thought that it would be wonderful if people who had for many years researched these families by mail and phone calls could at last meet, sit down together and share more family information. The idea bore fruit in 1990 when the first Maryland to Kentucky reunion was held at Nazareth, Kentucky. It was such a success that we knew that it had to be repeated. A gracious offer came from St. Mary's County Maryland asking us to please come back to our ancestral home in 1992. In 1994, Cape Girardeau and Perry County, Missouri rolled out the red carpet for us which was followed by a 1996 meeting at St. Charles and Lebanon in Marion County, Kentucky where our keynote speaker was the Historian Laureate of Kentucky, Dr. Thomas D. Clark. A video of the Maryland to Kentucky migration was made available. Owensboro, Kentucky in Daviess County fired up it's renowned barbecue pits in 1998 and we were thrilled to hold our millennium meeting at Leonardtown, St. Mary's County, Maryland in 2000.
The 2002 reunion was held in historic Washington County, Kentucky, site of the third Maryland settlement at Cartwright's Creek in 1787. We met on the grounds of Saint Catharine Motherhouse and College on June 28-30. Other events took place at the Dominican Proto-Priory at Saint Rose, dating from 1806.
On July 16 - 18th, 2004, the reunion was held at Hannibal, Missouri. In 2006 the group enjoyed the great hospitality of St. Mary's Co., Maryland. In 2008 the group met at St. Thomas Farm, Bardstown, KY. A wonderful surname book was compiled by the committee. The reunion was held in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s Co., MD in July 2010. There was a hiatus in reunion activity in 2012.
Late in 2012, individuals who had an interest in reviving the reunion inquired as to the interest of forming a new group who would take on the task. An outpouring of interest by previous reunion attendees and members of local historical and genealogical societies in Kentucky ensued. As a result, “Maryland to Kentucky and Beyond, Inc.” was born. Anyone with an ancestor of any faith who migrated from Maryland to Kentucky is encouraged to participate as a member and/or as a reunion attendee.
A reunion was held June 27 – 29, 2014 at St. Catharine College, Springfield, KY. Genealogists of all faiths were encouraged to join us for a weekend that has to be called a researcher's delight. The theme of the reunion was "Celebrating Our Heritage of Liberty". Speakers, informational displays, vendors, a welcome reception and a banquet provided a memorable experience for the 465 participants who came from 26 states to share their family history and genealogy.
In 2017, Brescia College, Owensboro, KY, was host for another ambitious get together. Again, many speakers,
informational displays, vendors, a welcome reception, and a banquet made this event a huge success. With 25
states represented, it is easy to see that our Maryland to Kentucky ancestors have spread far and wide but want
to continue to get together to share their family story.
Going forward, we will continue to plan a variety of activities and events to promote our organization and expand our membership.