(1660 – 1685)
by Silas Hurry, HSMC Curator of Collections & Laboratory Director
Mark Cordea was born in Normandy, France. In the 1660s he immigrated to the New World to pursue his fortune. Little is currently known of Cordea before his arrival in the Maryland Colony. Cordea married in Maryland and became a successful planter, ordinary keeper and importing entrepreneur. In 1671 he was made a naturalized citizen of Maryland by act of the Maryland Assembly. In the 1670s Cordea served in the municipal government of St. Mary’s City, first as a City Alderman and subsequently as Mayor. Historical research indicates that like most other significant players in the 17th century story of St. Mary’s City, Mark Cordea lived on a nearby plantation rather than actually being resident in the city. Cordea’s plantation, St. Elizabeth, was located south of St. Mary’s City off Smith Creek. During his period of activity, Cordea kept an ordinary, first at the St. John’s site, and subsequently somewhere near the core of the 17th century City.
Review of the records makes it very clear that Cordea was deeply involved in overseas trade and redistribution. Research in the papers of the wealthy New York merchant Jacob Leisler by historian David Vorhees at New York University has demonstrated that Cordea was Leisler’s Chesapeake factor and thereby deeply tied into the North Atlantic trade operations of the latter 17th century. Only a little historical data has been discovered which bears directly on Cordea’s activities at the Cordea’s Hope parcel. We know he had a servant who was a shoemaker so Cordea could supply a material in great demand in the Chesapeake colony. Among his labor holdings was a servant named Evan Carew who specialized in keeping accounts. At the time of his death in 1685, Cordea was owed debts in excess of 135,000 lbs of tobacco representing nearly 250 debtors. This reinforces his position as an importer and entrepreneur and points out how most fortunes in the 17th century, like today, exist primarily on paper.