The Mayflower

the ship Mayflower anchored in the harbor after arriving at Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Women on the Mayflower

Image: The Ship Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
By William Halsall

The passengers on the ship Mayflower were the earliest permanent European settlers in New England. They were referred to as the "First Comers" and they lived in perilous times. With their religion oppressed by the British government and the Church of England, the small party of Separatists who comprised almost half of the passengers on the ship sought a life where they could practice their religion freely.

Freedom We Seek
On September 6, 1620, the ship Mayflower set off from Plymouth, England on its journey to the New World. There were 102 passengers, which included 41 English Separatists (who would become known as the Pilgrims), who were seeking a new life of religious freedom in America. The Separatists had obtained a Patent from the London Company, which indentured them into service for the Company for seven years after they arrived.

The Pilgrims

bronze statue dedicated to the young Pilgrim women on the Mayflower

Pilgrim Women at Plymouth Colony

The Pilgrim Maiden Statue
Sculpted by Henry Hudson Kitson
Brewster Gardens, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Dedicated in 1924 to "those intrepid English women whose courage, fortitude and devotion brought a new nation into being."

In the first years of the 17th century, small numbers of English Puritans broke away from the Church of England and committed themselves to a life based on the Bible. Most of these Separatists were farmers, poorly educated and without social or political standing. The Separatists were persecuted in England, and many fled to Holland where their religious views were tolerated. They remained there for almost 12 years.


Georgia Colony

Georgia Native Americans

Thirteen Colonies

Image: Oglethorpe and the Indians
From the Frieze of American History
In the Capitol Rotunda
Washington, DC

In the 1730s, England founded Georgia, the last of its colonies in North America. The project was the brain child of James Oglethorpe, a former army officer and a member of Parliament. He was concerned about the atrocious and crowded conditions in the debtor's prisons, and resolved to ship the inmates to America where there was plenty of room.

Georgia, named for England's new King, would also provide a refuge for persecuted Protestants, and a military presence between the other colonies, especially South Carolina, an increasingly important colony with many potential enemies close by. These enemies included the Spanish in Florida, the French in Louisiana and along the Mississippi River, and their powerful Indian allies.


South Carolina Colony

map of the colony of South Carolina

The Year:1670

Districts of South Carolina Colony

The first English settlement was made in 1670, when William Sayle sailed up the Ashley River with three shiploads of English emigrants from the Barbados. They pitched their tents on river banks and built a town, which has since wholly disappeared. In 1671, Sir John Yeamans joined the colony, bringing with him about two hundred African slaves, and before the year was over, two ships bearing Dutch emigrants arrived from New York. In 1680, the colonists sought a more favorable site for their town, and chose a point between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, and there they founded Charleston.

Scarcely had the first immigrants landed when a popular assembly began to frame laws. William Sayle was their first governor, but he soon died and was succeeded by Sir John Yeamans, who ruled for four years, when he was dismissed for having enriched himself at the expense of the people. Yeamans was followed by John West, an able and honorable man, who held the office for nine years.


North Carolina Colony

early settlements in the North Carolina colony

The Year: 1653

By 1729, there were settlements on each of North Carolina's major river systems, but the largest settlements were on the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

North Carolina almost became the first of the permanent English colonies in America. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I, granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh for land in present-day North Carolina (then Virginia). Five voyages were made under the Raleigh charter with the view of planting a permanent colony on the soil that became North Carolina. Raleigh established two colonies on the coast in the late 1580s, both ending in failure.


Virginia Colony

picture of the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg
Governor's Palace at Williamsburg

Thirteen Original Colonies

At the beginning of the seventeenth century all the eastern portion of North America, which afterward became the thirteen original states, was known as Virginia. On May 14, 1607, the Virginia Company explorers landed on Jamestown Island, and established the Virginia colony on the banks of the James River, sixty miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Early Virginia was a death trap. Of the first 3,000 immigrants, all but 600 were dead within a few years of arrival. Virginia was a society in which life was short, diseases ran rampant, and parentless children and multiple marriages were the norm.


Pennsylvania Colony

Pennsylvania Colony

The Year: 1682

Image: William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenape
Benjamin West Painting

In 1661, the year after Charles II was restored to the throne of England, William Penn was a seventeen-year-old student at Christ Church, Oxford. His father, a distinguished admiral in high favor at Court, had abandoned his erstwhile friends and had aided in restoring King Charles to the throne again.

Born to all the advantages of the landed aristocracy of England, Penn was sent to the finest English schools and on a grand tour of the continent by his father, Admiral Sir William Penn, conqueror of Jamaica.


Salem Witch Trials

13 women were hanged on Gallows Hill during the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Witchcraft in 17th Century Massachusetts

Image: Witchcraft Victims on the Way to the Gallows
Illustration in the Boston Herald 14 May 1930

Scattered episodes of witch trials and hangings occurred throughout New England from the middle sixteen hundreds. The only escape for the accused or condemned was to confess and claim to negate the pact with the Devil, or to escape south out of New England to New York or Pennsylvania where witchcraft was not punished. Most of the accused were not wealthy enough to escape south fast enough to stay ahead of the sheriff sent to detain them.


Carolina Colony

map of the Province of Carolina

The Year: 1663

Image: Map of the Carolina Colony

In 1630, Sir Robert Heath, the Attorney General of King Charles I, obtained from his king a charter for a domain south of Virginia, six degrees of latitude in width, and extending westward to the Pacific Ocean. This included the region between Albemarle Sound and the St. John's River in Florida. That patent was declared void in 1663, because neither the proprietor nor his assigns had fulfilled their agreements.

Sufferers from the oppression of the Church of England in Virginia looked to the wilderness for freedom, as the Huguenots and the Pilgrims had done. In 1653, a few Presbyterians from Jamestown settled on the Chowan River. Others followed, and the settlement flourished.


New York Colony

map of the colony of New York

The Year: 1664

New York best illustrates the great melting pot that would become America. By 1646, the population along the Hudson River included Dutch, French, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Portuguese and Italians.

Image: Colonial New York on Manhattan Island

The English
In 1664, the English claimed New Netherland and renamed it New York, arguing that the Hudson Valley was part of Virginia as given by James I to two companies in 1606. This tract had been settled at both ends, they reasoned – on the James River and the New England coast – and why should a foreign power claim the central portion?


New Jersey Colony

Map of Colonial New Jersey

The Year: 1664

Image: Map of Colonial New Jersey

The early European settlement of New Jersey involved the Dutch and the Swedes. The Dutch West India Company worked to stimulate settlement in the area by granting large tracts of land to its members in New Netherland, which included the area that would become New Jersey. These grants were called patroonships. A patroon was a landholder who was granted one of these great estates in exchange for bringing fifty new settlers into the colony.

In 1620, a trading post was established at the site of Bergen, New Jersey, which would later be developed as the first permanent white settlement in the area. Other Dutch enclaves followed at Fort Nassau and at Jersey City.


Witchcraft in Connecticut

Colonial women

The Year: 1647

Image: Witchcraft Trial

In 1642, witchcraft became punishable by death in the Connecticut Colony. This capital offense was backed by references to the King James version of the Bible: Exodus (22:18) says, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. And Leviticus (20:27) says, A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood (shall be) upon them.

Belief in witchcraft was common in seventeenth-century New England. The infamous witchcraft trials at Salem in 1692 are well known, but if you exclude those, ninety-three complaints of witchcraft were made in New England between 1638 and 1697—forty-three in Connecticut and fifty in Massachusetts, which was much more heavily populated.


Maryland Colony

American Colonies: Maryland

Thirteen Colonies

A Southern Colony
The Province of Maryland was an English colony in North America that was founded in 1632. It began as a proprietary colony of Lord Baltimore, who wanted to create a haven for English Catholics in the New World, and to demonstrate that Catholics and Protestants could live together harmoniously. Although Maryland was an early pioneer of religious tolerance in the British colonies, religious strife between Anglicans, Puritans, Catholics, and Quakers was common in the early years.

A Royal Charter
Charles I of England granted a charter for about twelve million acres to Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore on June 20, 1632. The charter had originally been granted to Calvert's father, George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, but he died before it could be executed, so it was granted to his son. Cecil had converted to Catholicism, which was a severe stigma for a nobleman in 17th century England. Catholics were considered enemies of the crown and traitors to their country.


Delaware Colony

map of the Delaware Colony

The Year: 1638

Early explorations of Delaware's coastline were made by Samuel Argall in 1610. During a storm, Argall was blown off course and sailed into a bay that he named in honor of his governor—Lord De La Warr. In 1631, the first white settlement was made on Delaware soil, after a group of Dutchmen formed a trading company headed by Captain David Pietersen de Vries. The expedition of about 30 individuals sailed from the town of Hoorn on the ship De Walvis (The Whale). Arriving in the New World in 1632, Captain de Vries found the settlers had been killed and their buildings burned by the Indians.

The Swedes
In 1638, a Swedish trading post and colony was established at Fort Christina (now Wilmington) by Dutchman Peter Minuit and a group of Swedes, Finns, and Dutch. This was the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley.


Overview of the Middle Colonies

American Colonies: Middle Colonies Map
The Middle Colonies — New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania — created a unique environment of early settlement by non-English Europeans, mostly Dutch and German. English men and women were the smallest minority. These immigrants came mostly in family units that preserved a balanced sex ratio.

Religious Tolerance
The Middle Colonies were the most ethnically and religiously diverse of the thirteen original colonies because of the influence of their Polish, English, Dutch, French and German origins. In this atmosphere of religious tolerance, New Netherland and New Amsterdam became the commercial center of the eastern North American colonies.


New Haven

Native Americans and the Colony of New Haven

Colony of New Haven

Image: Quinnipiac Memorial Monument
Fort Wooster Park, New Haven, Connecticut

Monument to Native Americans
This monument to local Indians, whose ancient place names like Hammonasset and Wepawaug still identify the landscape, was dedicated on November 12, 2000. It stands above New Haven Harbor, looking down upon rich fishing and oystering grounds, and memorilizes the small tribe who educated the colonists in wilderness skills and helped protect them against raiding parties from larger tribes such as the Pequots.


Rhode Island Colony

Colony of Rhode Island

The Year: 1636

The Colony of Rhode Island
Scattered Europeans began to settle the area that would become Rhode Island as early as 1620, but the first permanent settlement was not established until 1636. When Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious beliefs, he took refuge among the Narragansett Native American tribe, who occupied the country at the head of Narragansett Bay. Canonicus, their chief, held the good man in high esteem, and presented him with a large tract of land, which the devout Williams named Providence.

A New England Colony
Other nonconformists followed Roger Williams to that region, including Anne Hutchinson and William Coddington, who founded Portsmouth in 1638. A short-lived dispute sent Coddington to the southern tip of Aquidneck Island (also purchased from the Narragansetts), where he established Newport in 1639. The fourth original town, Warwick, was settled in 1642 by Samuel Gorton, another dissident from Portsmouth.


Maine Colony

map of the American colony of Maine

History of Maine

Image: Map of Early Maine

The 1622 grant of the Province of Maine is outlined in blue. The Province of New Hampshire is shown in teal, and the colony of Maine is shown in pink. The boundaries of the Massachusetts Bay Company grant are shown in green.

The Province of Maine refers to several English colonies of that name that existed in the 17th century along the northeast coast of North America, roughly encompassing portions of the present-day states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Canadian province of Quebec. The province existed through a series of land patents in several incarnations, the last of which was eventually absorbed into the Province of Massachusetts Bay.


Connecticut Colony

map of the American colony of Connecticut

One of the Thirteen Original Colonies

The Colony of Connecticut included all of the present State of Connecticut and a few townships on the shore of Long Island Sound. The Dutch claimed the territory and erected a fort on the Connecticut River in 1633. A number of Massachusetts traders settled at Windsor in 1633. Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut, was settled in 1635. A great many emigrants came from Massachusetts in 1636, the principal leader being Thomas Hooker.

Dutch, Pilgrims and Puritans
The people of Massachusetts were not long in casting their eyes westward from their own barren coast to the fertile valley of the Connecticut River. That knowledge had come early to the Dutch, who had planted a blockhouse, the House of Good Hope in 1633. Plymouth Colony, searching for new trading opportunities, sent William Holmes, who sailed past the Dutch fort and took possession of the site of Windsor.


New Hampshire Colony

Colony of New Hampshire

The Year: 1629

One of the New England Colonies, New Hampshire began as a proprietary colony - a colony in which private land owners retained rights that were normally the privilege of the state. King James I provided ships, provisions, and free land - with one important condition, that it always be subject to the English crown. So it remained until the Revolutionary War.

Land in the New World was granted to Captain John Mason who lived in Hampshire County, England. In 1623, Mason sent two groups of English settlers to establish a fishing colony in what is now New Hampshire, at the mouth of the Piscataqua River.