New England Colonies

Kristina Stokes

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  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • New Hampshire


The colony of Massachusetts was founded in 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived from England and formed the Plymouth Colony. Although the Pilgrims were ravaged by disease and hunger, they managed to write the Mayflower Compact, a local government that established rules and regulations in order to ensure the colony’s survival. Upon their arrival, local Wamapanoag Indians, led by Chief Massasoit, taught them to plant crops. About half the original passengers on the Mayflower survived. In 1620, the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving. In 1629, Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston. The Puritan colony grew quickly and soon became the economic and religious center of Massachusetts. Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts for religious freedom, the Puritans came for religious purification, and were intolerant of other religious groups. Many religious groups were banned from Massachusetts and several dissenters exiled by the Puritans, such as Roger Williams and Joseph Hooker, founded other colonies. In the 1770s Massachusetts had an average population of 235,808 people.


Rhode Island was first discovered in 1524 by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485 - 1528), who was acting on behalf of the French. He was followed by the British explorer Henry Hudson (1565-1611) who explored the area on behalf of the Dutch. The land was originally given the Native Indian name of Aquidneck which is derived from the Narragansett word literally meaning the "Isle of Peace." One of the Dutch explorers, Adrian Block (c.1567 – 1627), named the area "Roodt Eylandt" meaning "red island" referring to the red clay that lined the shore. The region was controlled by the Wampanoag tribe, whose leader was Chief Massasoit, the father of Metacomet who would become known as King Philip of Pokanoket. In 1635 the colonist Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his religious teachings and in 1636 he settled in the area of Colonial Rhode Island naming the area Providence Plantations. Chief Massasoit eventually gifted Roger Williams with Aquidneck Island, Providence and Prudence Island for his friendship. English colonists from Massachusetts including Anne Hutchinson, William Hutchinson, William Dyer, John Coggeshall, William Coddington, Nicholas Easton, William Brenton, John Clarke, and Richard Maxson first settled in Aquidneck in 1638. They were led by Anne Hutchinson who had been found guilty of heresy and condemned to banishment by the Civil Court. In 1644, the colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations combined to form Colonial Rhode Island which would eventually become the State, of "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". On July 15, 1663 King Charles II granted the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It had a total average population of 68,700 people.


Connecticut was originally settled by Dutch fur traders in 1614. They sailed up the Connecticut River and built a fort near present-day Hartford. The first English settlers arrived in Connecticut in 1633 under the leadership of Reverend Thomas Hooker. They were Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After their arrival, several colonies were established including the Colony of Connecticut, Old Saybrooke, Windsor, Hartford, and New Haven. Hartford quickly became an important center of government and trade. Much of land settled by the colonists was purchased from the Mohegan Indians. The Pequot tribe, however, wanted the land. Soon, violence erupted between settlers and the Pequot Indians in 1637. In what came to be known as the Pequot War, The Pequots were systematically massacred by not only the settlers, but by Mohegan and Naragansett Indians that had previously warred against them. Pequot lands were subsequently divided among the settlers and other tribes. After the Pequot War, Thomas Hooker led in the drafting of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639. The document was a plan for government and is sometimes called America’s first Constitution. John Haynes was then chosen as Connecticut’s first governor. Finally, in 1662, Connecticut was issued a royal charter, which gave the colony a legal basis and approval from the King. The average population was 237,946 people and an estimated 2,764 slaves.


New Hampshire was founded in 1622 when John Mason and Ferdinando Gorges were given a land grant by the Council for New England. Only three years after the Pilgrim’s landed at Plymouth, the first settlers arrived near present-day Portsmouth in 1623. They were fisherman. Before long, the settlers built a fort and fish-processing buildings. They named the area Pannaway Plantation. Eventually, some of the settlers moved from Pannaway Plantation and in 1629, founded the settlement of Strawbery Banke. Strawbery Bank would eventually become Portsmouth. In 1641, the Massachusetts colony claimed the territory that was New Hampshire. New Hampshire became known as the “Upper Province” of Massachusetts. It remained the Upper Province until 1679 when it became a “Royal Province”. Once again, it was reunited with Massachusetts in 1698. Finally, in 1741, New Hampshire gained its independence and elected its own governor – Benning Wentworth, who governed the colony until 1766. Its population was around 141,885 people.