Southern Colonies

Kristina Stokes

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The Five Southern Colonies Include:

  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Georgia


As early as 1650, colonists from the Virginia colony moved into the area of Albemarle Sound. By 1663, King Charles II of England granted a charter to start a new colony on the North American continent; it generally established North Carolina's borders. North Carolina was founded for religious reasons and for economic reasons. The colonists wanted to be able to practice whatever religion they wished. In order to do that, they had to escape from England. By 1775, North Carolina was governed as a Royal Colony. In 1770, North Carolina had an estimated population of 197,200 people.The names of the North Carolina tribes included the Algonquian, Bear River Indians, Cape Fear Indians, Catawba, Cheraw, Cherokee, Chowanoc, Machapunga, Moratok, Natchez, Occaneechi, Saponi, Shakori, Tuscarora and Waccamaw tribes. The first permanent English settlement in North Carolina occurred in 1655 when Nathaniel Batts, a Virginia farmer, migrated to an area just south of Virginia with the hopes of finding suitable farmland. In 1665, Sir John Yeamans established a second permanent colony in North Carolina on the Cape Fear River near present-day Wilmington. In 1670, a settlement near present-day Charleston, South Carolina (Charles Town) was established. This settlement grew quickly because it had a natural harbor and allowed easy access to trade with the West Indies. Charles Town soon became the principal seat of government for the entire region. Because of the distance between Charles Town and points in the northern part of the colony, the terms “North Carolina” and “South Carolina” came into use. In 1729, the Lord Proprietors sold their interests in the Carolina colony back to the English Crown, and North and South Carolina became separate royal colonies.


South Carolina, part of the original Province of Carolina, was founded in 1663 when King Charles II gave the land to eight noble men known as The Lords Proprietors. At the time, the province included both North Carolina and South Carolina. North and South Carolina became separate royal colonies in 1729. The Spanish and French vied over the rights to the coast of South Carolina in the 1500’s. In 1562, French soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to start a settlement on Paris Island off the coast of present-day South Carolina. In 1566, The Spanish built the colony of Santa Elena near the site of the original French settlement. Santa Elena was abandoned in 1576 after being attacked by Indians. Although the settlement was rebuilt, the Spanish concentrated their forces in Florida after British pirate Sir Francis Drake destroyed St. Augustine. The British would be the next to colonize the area. In 1670, the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina was established at Albemarle Point. Many of the original settlers came from the Caribbean island of Barbados, including the new governor, William Sayle. A year before, in 1669, prospective Carolina settlers including John Locke wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which served as an early form of government for the Carolina colony. In 1680, the colony moved to Charles Town (later Charleston). Charles Town would quickly become the cultural and economic center of the southern colonies. Because of the influence of the Caribbean settlers, the colony’s original economy resembled the plantation colonies of the West Indies. It would become a major center for rice, tobacco and indigo production, and the colony’s plantation owners were among the wealthiest people in all the colonies. By the late 1700’s, African-American slaves represented the majority of the population in South Carolina, as the number of cotton plantations increased. This colony had an estimated population of 249,073 people. 107,094 were slaves.


Virginia was established in 1607. In 1606, a group of wealthy London businessmen petitioned King James I for a charter to establish a colony in the New World. They formed the Virginia Company and set out to establish a permanent English settlement in the Americas.Despite the failure of the Lost Colony at Roanoke, King James I was eager to start a permanent English settlement in North America. He granted charters to a pair of English companies to establish those settlements. While one of the two companies was unsuccessful in establishing a colony in present-day Maine, the other, known as the London Company, led by captain Christopher Newport, sailed to Virginia and established a settlement on a swampy peninsula on the James River. While the chosen location certainly provided good cover from the potential ambushes of local Indians, its swampy climate led to horrible diseases such as Dysentery and Malaria. Jamestown further suffered from poor and corrupt leadership and a population of men that were unfit for life in the wilderness. Many were there for the opportunity to make a lot of money and refused to participate in building shelters or collecting food. Settlers constantly bickered with each other and found relatively little in the way of natural resources or wonders to send back to England. Because Jamestown was built on traditional hunting grounds of the Algonkin Indians, trouble arose soon after their arrival. By the winter of 1607, only 38 out of the original 104 settlers were still alive. Food shortages were making unbearable situations even worse. Jamestown was on the brink of collapse until John Smith formulated plans to procure Indian corn and other foods via trade.


Cecil Calvert, second Lord of Baltimore, founded Maryland in 1632. Cecil’s father, George Calvert had received a royal charter for the land from King Charles I. The new colony was named after Henrietta Maria, the wife the king. In November of 1633, about 200 Catholic settlers led by Cecil’s younger brother boarded the ships ARK and DOVE, and set sail for Marie’s Land (later Maryland). By 1634, Maryland became one of the few territories of England to be predominately Catholic. Their settlement became known as St. Mary’s and is currently the fourth oldest permanent British settlement in America. In 1649, the Maryland Toleration Act was passed which guaranteed religious tolerance to settlers, as long as the religion was a sect of Christianity. After England’s “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, which established the Protestant faith in England, Catholicism was outlawed in Maryland until after the Revolutionary War. The Puritan government of Maryland at the time burned down all of southern Maryland’s original Catholic churches. By the 1700’s, Maryland and Virginia became plantation economies, and grew tobacco as the cash crop. Up to 40 percent of Maryland’s population was slaves or convicts who worked in the tobacco fields. Soon, Baltimore, a large port on the Chesapeake Bay, became an important center for tobacco export. By 1775, Maryland was governed as a Proprietary Colony. The population was around 319,728 people. Of those people, 103,036 were slaves.


The colony of Georgia, located directly in between the English colony of South Carolina, and the Spanish colony of Florida, was the subject of frequent military invasions by both sides until the Yamassee War (1715-1716) left the area devoid of people. In 1732, James Oglethorpe received a royal charter for the Province of Georgia. It was named after King George II. Oglethorpe imagined the area as a refuge for England’s poor people, who were crowded together in debtor’s prisons. In 1733, 116 settlers arrived in modern-day Savannah aboard the HMS ANNE. Georgia would become the last of the English colonies in the New World. Soon, immigrants throughout the world came to Georgia in the hopes of being awarded generous land grants and Georgia quickly become a major center for the export of rice, indigo, beef and pork. In 1742, British forces under James Oglethorpe attacked a garrison of Spanish soldiers near present-day St. Simon’s island in what came be known as the Battle of Bloody Run. After about hour, the Spanish were defeated and permanently abandoned their attempts to invade Georgia. The population of Georgia in the 1770s was around 23,400 people.