Brief History of Colonial America and the 13 Original Colonies
By Natasha Hoover
Colonial America and the 13 Original Colonies
This is the second half of my brief colonial history of the thirteen original American colonies. This is not meant to be a definitive guide to all one needs to know, but, instead, a brief timeline of the colonies and some lesser-known tidbits of information about them.
King Charles I officially granted George Calvert, Lord of Baltimore, the charter to Maryland in 1632, but the first colonists arrived a year later. The colony was founded as a haven for English Catholics because the European Wars of Religion were raging across the Continent. This does not mean all settlers were Catholic - there were also Anglicans, Puritans and Quakers. In fact a Puritan revolution was briefly able to overturn the Baltimores as rulers of the colony!
Next, in 1636, Rhode Island came into being. One of the important founders of the colony was Anne Hutchinson, who helped create Portsmouth in 1638. As discussed in Part I, she, along with many other early immigrants to Rhode Island, were expelled from Massachusetts for religious heterodoxy. Like Maryland, Rhode Island gained the reputation for religious freedom. Interestingly, it was among the first to advocate freedom from British rule, but the last of the 13 colonies to ratify the new Federal Constitution.
Connecticut, founded in 1636, saw Dutch inhabitants before English ones. Dutch traders established an outpost in the area of Hartford around 1633, but the colony was officially established when Rev. Thomas Hooker was expelled from Massachusetts and founded his own community. Expulsion from Massachusetts is quite a theme!
Originally founded as New Sweden by the Swedish in 1638, Dutch captured the area in 1655. These early Swiss colonists brought the log cabin house design that is so iconic in American culture and history. The English defeated the Dutch in 1644 and took control of the colony, but it did not remain English. The Dutch briefly reclaimed it in 1673 and held the area until the following year. From that point, Delaware remained an English colony until the American Revolution. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution and became a state in 1787, three years before Connecticut.
The original charter for the Carolina colony was granted by King Charles II in 1663, but the first settlement, Charles Towne, was not founded until 1670. While the terms North Carolina and South Carolina were in use for a long time, the two did not officially gain separate governments until 1729. The border between the two states has changed slightly over the years, and each lays claim to the birthplace of President Andrew Jackson. As recently as 2011, residents of the states have argued over the exact location of the shared border!
The most convenient date for Pennsylvania is 1682, but immigrants from various European countries started settling in the area almost 40 years earlier. 1682 is when the land was granted to William Penn, a Quaker, to offset a debt owed to his father. A boundary dispute between the Calverts and Penns lead to the formation of the Mason-Dixon line in 1763. The surveying was conducted for more than four years by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
Last up is Georgia, officially founded in 1732. Georgia is a very misunderstood colony. People imagine that Georgia was populated with dangerous criminals and the general dregs of English society. In fact, George Oglethorpe was a bit of a Utopianist and founded the colony for members of the English underclass who he thought deserved a second chance. His interest in the disadvantaged began while working on a committee in Parliament that drew his attention to the terrible living conditions in debtors' prisons. The colony's founding documents prohibited the importation of both slaves and intoxicating alcoholic beverages, and Oglethorpe only allowed the "deserving" in. It was never used as a wholesale dumping ground for prisoners. Oglethorpe was the only founding Colonial Proprietor to see the Revolution and the formation of the United States.
- How to Spend a Weekend in Colonial Williamsburg
Spending a weekend in Colonial Williamsburg is easy - the challenge is making sure you do not miss anything you want to see! Follow these tips to successfully plan a weekend in Colonial Williamsburg.
- A Brief History of Colonial America and the 13 Original Colonies, Part I
- Life in the Colonial Period
Curious about life in the Colonial period? Learn about how daily life for colonial Americans and some surprising facts about women in Colonial trades.
I hope this brief history of the Colonies, and some lesser-known facts about them, has sparked someone's interest. Thanks for reading!