In the late 17th century, in what would become Leonardtown, Maryland, the townspeople were disturbed by the presence of an old woman named Moll Dyer. She lived a poor and solitary existence and was said to often be seen begging for alms and foraging in the woods. This behavior may have ordinarily been dismissed as simply bothersome, but in 1697, the winter struck hard and cold. Fields of crops and numerous herds of sheep and cattle died, and the townspeople needed someone to blame.
They turned to Moll, who was accused of witchcraft and run out of her home in the dead of night. Some days later, she was found frozen to death on a large rock in the middle of the river. The legend says you can still see the imprint of her hands and knees on the rock on which they found her.
For many years, the famous rock’s location was unknown. But in 1968, writer Philip H. Love read about the legend and went in search of Moll Dyer’s rock. With the help of a local grocer, Love located the stone at the edge of a ravine. In the 1970s, it was moved to the Old Jail Museum in the town square of Leonardtown. The rock sat beside the old jail, marked with a small plaque for many years. In March 2021, it was moved to a new spot outside of Tudor Hall, home to the St. Mary’s County Historical Society.
In the hundreds of years since her death, Moll Dyer has become part of the local folklore and garnered much interest. Her story has been the subject of books, a local ballet, and has been featured on The Weather Channel. The landscape even bears her name: Moll Dyer Road and Moll Dyer Run, near downtown Leonardtown, are named after the story. It has been speculated that The Blair Witch Project, also set in Maryland, drew inspiration from this tale.
While researching Moll Dyer’s story in 2013, Lynn Buonviri uncovered more of the details of her life. Mary Dyer was born in England in 1634. When she was about 35 years old, she sailed to the West Indies and spent eight years as an indentured servant on St. Kitts. Dyer relocated to Maryland around 1677, and records indicate that she likely had knowledge of medicinal herbs and other natural remedies.
Know Before You Go
The Moll Dyer Rock is now located at Tudor Hall, 41680 Tudor Pl, Leonardtown, MD 2065.