The Original Thirteen Colonies

Our country started as 13 colonies and became one nation.  What do we know about those 13 colonies? One of the things I learned was that some of the original colonies did not start off as English colonies.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about the different countries traveling across the ocean after Christopher Columbus.  Think about it – Columbus discovered America in 1492, but the first English settlement wasn’t until 1607.  What happened between those years?
Let’s take a look at each colony as it was settled.

Virginia was founded in 1607 by the London Company.  The men who came over were seeking wealth, hoping to discover gold as the Spanish were doing in Central and South America. James I supported the London Company’s plans.  The first settlement – Jamestown was named after him, as was the James River, where the settlement was struck out.  Unfortunately, fortune did not smile upon the London Company and they went bankrupt.  In 1624, Virginia became a royal colony.  The House of Burgesses was set up as the first official government body in the New World.

Massachusetts was founded in 1620 by the Puritans, who were separatists.  They were seeking religious freedom.  They were Englishmen and women who left England, living in Holland for a time, because they did not want to belong to the Church of England.  They traveled to the New World on the Mayflower.  When they arrived, they became friends with the Wampanoag tribe.  We all know the story of the First Thanksgiving.  The people who landed here wrote out the Mayflower Compact, which was the first official document to draw up a government.

New Hampshire was founded in 1623 by John Wheelwright.  He was sent over by James Mason, a lord who lived in Hampshire County, England.  He wanted settlers to create a fishing colony in the New World.  They created a settlement at Odiorne’s Point. New Hampshire was actually part of Massachusetts until England gave them a royal charter in 1679.

Maryland was settled in 1634.  Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, who was a member of the Irish House of Lords requested a land charter from King Charles I.  He had originally attempted to create a settlement in Newfoundland but it failed.  Unfortunately, he died before he received the land charter, but it was given to his son, the 2nd Lord Baltimore.  As a Catholic from Ireland, Lord Baltimore had wanted the colony to be a refuge for Roman Catholics.  The charter was actually a proprietorship which means the people have the right to establish a government and hand out land.  Maryland was named after Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria of France.

Connecticut was settled in 1635 by Thomas Hooker, John Winthrop, and other Massachusetts settlers who did not agree with the religious policies in that colony. Three different small settlements joined together to form the colony. Thomas Hooker was seeking profit and more religious freedom.  John Winthrop received permission to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony and formed the Saybrook colony. A New Haven colony was established by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton.  Together they received a charter from Charles II and created Connecticutt, the Anglican version of an Algonquin word “quinatucquet” which means “upon the long river”.

Rhode Island was settled in 1636 by Roger Williams.  He was banished to England by the Massachusetts Bay Colony because he believed in separation of church and state and wanted freedom of religion for all.  He received a land grant from the Narragansett and Pequot tribes for his colony.  Ann Hutchinson was also banished to the area and created her own small settlement.  Two other small settlements joined with them to create Providence Plantation (an early name of the colony). It later became known as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Delaware was formed in 1636 by Peter Minuit who established a Swedish trading post.  It was called New Sweden and was actually part of New Netherland.  Charles II gave New Netherland to his brother, the Duke of York at the time.  The Dutch took over after 17 years, but in 1664, the Dutch were conquered by the English under Sir Robert Carr.  New Sweden was renamed Delaware and became part of Pennsylvania until 1703.  The Duke of York leased the land to William Penn to give him access to the waterway.

North Carolina was formed in 1653 by some Virginia farmers who wanted to settle the land south of their colony. The lost colony of Roanoke was in North Carolina, but no sign of the people or the settlement exists.  The Spanish actually settled in the area first but all but one settler were killed by the natives.  A land grant was given to eight nobles for the settlement of the land south of Virginia but north of Florida to keep the Spanish from settling there.  It was first called the Province of Carolina until it was split in 1729.  The farmers who moved there brought with them their slaves and soon had plantations and began increasing their wealth.

South Carolina was formed in 1663 by a royal charter given to the eight nobles mentioned above.  The land was settled by wealthy settlers from Barbados.  The land was called Carolina since it is the Latin name for Charles Land.  In 1719, the settlers seized control of the colony from the proprietors. There was a lot of internal problems between the areas so the crown took over colony and made it into North and South Carolina in 1729.  South Carolina enjoyed the prosperity that came from the Low Country for growing.  Charles Town, named after the king, was the port that helped South Carolina become one of the most prosperous colonies.

New Jersey was founded in 1664 by Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The land originally was part of New Netherland and belonged to the Duke of York.  First the land belonged to the Dutch, but when the English took control, the Duke of York decided to reward two of his friends who remained loyal to the king during the English Civil War.  The men advertised for settlers interested in religious freedom and representative government.  The Quakers bought the land charter from them.  The land later became called the Province of New Jersey.

New York was founded in 1664 by the Duke of York.  As mentioned above, the land – New Netherland was a large land mass that included New Jersey at first.  The land was actually first discovered by Henry Hudson who entered the Upper New York Bay on September 11, 1609.  There were Dutch trading posts all around the area.  The English captured the territory in the Second Anglo-Dutch War.  The Dutch captured the city of New York in 1673, but the area was given back to the English with the Treaty of Westminster in 1675.  When the Duke of York took control of the land, it was renamed for him – New York.

Pennsylvania was founded in 1682 by William Penn.  The land grant was given to him by King Charles after the English Civil War.  Penn’s father was owed a debt by the king who rewarded his son with the largest land grant given to one person in history.  Penn wanted to found a colony where religious freedom was available to all who arrived.  He was a Quaker and believed in peace.  He signed peace treaties with all the native tribes in the area.  None of those treaties were every violated.

Georgia was founded in 1732 by James Oglethorpe.  King George II gave the land charter to Oglethorpe who named the colony after him.  The colony was to serve two purposes – to provide a place for debtors who could start new and to create a barrier between the Spanish and the other colonies. The king did not want the Spanish moving north and gaining control or threatening his hold of the New World.  In 1742, the Spanish invaded in the War of Jenkins Ear.  The colony could not repay the Crown for its support so it became a royal colony in 1752.  Once it became a royal colony, slaves were brought in to advance the interest of the Crown – planting more tobacco and other crops that were in high demand.

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