Last year Leonardtown Mayor, Dan Burris, proclaimed February 26th as Moll Dyer Day in a touching ceremony that was held at Tudor Hall Manor, the new location of the famed rock that bears her now faded handprint.
Many know the legend of Moll Dyer, but it’s not as widely known that Dyer was a real woman who lived just south of what is now Leonardtown in the late 1600s. She is believed to have been a healer who often aided the community.
However, when an epidemic of influenza arose during the winter of 1697, the Town inhabitants looked to lay blame and named her as its cause. Accused of witchcraft, Dyer was set upon by a mob fearful of the sickness. When they set fire to her small cabin, Dyer escaped into the surrounding woods on a bitterly cold night in February 1698. Her body was found days later by a young boy looking for lost livestock. She was found with one hand frozen to a large rock and the other outstretched to the sky. Legend has it that Moll put a curse on the land and on the rock. It’s rumored that anyone who touches the rock may become dizzy or even fall ill.
Prior to last year’s dedication ceremony, the rock was moved from the Old Jail where it sat for almost 50 years to Tudor Hall Manor, the home of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, where the organization oversees the preservation of this important piece of Southern Maryland history. The Society has helped build a platform and protective covering to shelter the rock from the elements. Since its move, the rock has seen a steady flow of visitors who often leave trinkets and small gifts for Moll.
Peter LaPorte, Executive Director for St. Mary’s County Historical Society notes the significance of this event and why Moll’s legend continues to resonate with us to this day, “The Moll Dyer Legend provides continued fascination within the County and beyond. The events leading up to Moll Dyer’s demise hold a deeper message – one that is relevant to today. Moll Dyer did not cause the plague,” continued LaPorte. “But as she lived afar and alone, behaved differently, she became the subject of hateful rumors and bullying. Moll Dyer didn’t die from the plague in February 1698. Sadly, she died from irrational fear because she was different and vulnerable.”
The enduring message from Moll’s legend is one of acceptance through understanding and simply to be kind to those who are different. For this reason, “Be Kind” has been chosen as the theme of this year’s festivities.
Planned activities for the first-ever Moll Dyer Day Celebration on Saturday, February 26, 2022, hosted by the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, the Commissioners of Leonardtown, Visit St. Mary’s, the St. Mary’s County Museum Division, and the Leonardtown Business Association, include an opening ceremony at the site of the Moll Dyer Rock at Tudor Hall Manor, a scavenger hunt for the entire family, paranormal investigations, a ghost walk, and special offers and activities provided by local Leonardtown businesses.