Garrett Van Sweringen
Maryland was an immigrant society and one of the most remarkable immigrants was the Dutch settler Garrett Van Sweringen. He originally came to America working for the City of Amsterdam at its colony on the Delaware River known as New Amstel. When it was captured by the English in 1665, Van Sweringen decided to move to Maryland. He eventually came to St. Mary’s City and took up the trade of innkeeper in a building known as Smith’s Ordinary. But Van Sweringen was a true entrepreneur and was soon engaged in merchant activities, providing medical services, and building the stocks and whipping posts for the colony. In 1677 he left Smith’s Ordinary to open a private lodging house that would appeal to the elite, which proved very successful. An innovator, Van Sweringen also undertook brewing and sometime in the late 1600s opened the first coffee house in the Chesapeake region. Lord Baltimore appointed him to be Alderman on the first city council and later, Van Sweringen served as mayor. For a Dutch immigrant to serve as the mayor of the capital of an English colony is remarkable. When Van Sweringen died in 1698, he was buried at the Chapel site, leaving a large family that is today found throughout the United States and Canada.
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