New England Timeline, 1603-1718

The following article was written by my good friend, by William Dollarhide:

The founding of the first English colonies in North America happened in an area known simply as Virginia. They happened in the early 1600s, during an era of intense religious turmoil going on in England. Without that turmoil, there would have been no need for the Great Migration of Puritans to New England. Therefore, a timeline of events relating to New England must include the historical events of England. The players and events leading up to the Great Migration to New England, and the events thereafter are identified below, from the discoveries of New England to the arrival of the first Scots-Irish immigrants to Boston Harbor.

1602 Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard. English Privateer Bartholomew Gosnold led an expedition to present Massachusetts, named Cape Cod and discovered an island south of Cape Cod, that he named Martha’s Vineyard. Gosnold had planned on planting a small settlement in the Cape Cod area, but the settlers chose to return to England due to a lack of provisions. Gosnold went on to become one of the founders of the Jamestown Colony.

1603 England. James I became King of England, the first monarch to rule both England and Scotland. (He was James VI of Scotland since 1566). He was also the first English monarch to publicly assert that he was blessed with “the divine right of Kings,” meaning he was the voice of God on earth, at least in England, Scotland, or Ireland. Although James I was most remembered for commissioning a Bible translation, during his reign the first permanent English colonies were established in Virginia and New England. James I also led the English takeover of Northern Ireland, and was the first advocate for the transportation of thousands of clan people living along the Scottish-English border to Ulster Province, Northern Ireland.

1603. English Captain Martin Pring led an expedition to present Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. He was the first European to ascend the Piscataqua River, and was the first to erect a small fort on Cape Cod (now Truro, MA).

1603-1604. French nobleman Pierre DuGua (Sieur DeMonts) was granted exclusive rights to colonize the area he had named l’Acadie (Acadia), granted by French King Henry IV. The area of Acadia included allof present Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and most of Maine. In 1604, DeMonts established a French colony on St. Croix Island, at the mouth of the St. Croix River, now Maine. After surviving a bad Winter, the entire colony was moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port-Royal, now Nova Scotia.

1606. Two joint stock companies were founded in 1606, both with royal charters issued by King James I, for the purpose of establishing colonies in North America. The Virginia Company of London was given a land grant between Latitude 34o (Cape Fear) and Latitude 41o (Long Island Sound). The Virginia Company of Plymouth was founded with a similar charter, between Latitude 38o (Potomac River) and Latitude 45o (St. John River), which included a shared area with the London Company between Latitude 38o and 41o. The first leader of the Plymouth Company was Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who was given official sanction for starting colonies in North America.

1607. May. Led by John Smith and his cousin, Bartholomew Gosnold, the London Company established the first permanent English settlement in North America – the Jamestown Colony. It was followed in August 1607 by the Sagadahoc Colony led by George Popham, established by the Plymouth Company, near the mouth of the Kennebec River (present Phippsburg, Maine). The Sagadahoc colony was abandoned after just one year, due to a lack of confidence in a change of leadership. Thereafter, the Plymouth Company dissolved until it was revived in 1620 as the Plymouth Council for New England.

1609. The 2nd Virginia Charter of 1609 extended the jurisdiction of the London Company to include the former shared area with the original Plymouth Company, and the language of the new charter now included the words, “sea to sea.” (James I was assured that the Pacific Ocean was just a bit west of the Appalachian Mountains).

1614. New England. English Captain John Smith, a leader of the Jamestown Colony, visited the coast of present Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine; then wrote his Description of New England, which encouraged Englishmen to settle there. Smith was credited as the first to call the area New England. Back in England, Christopher Jones was one seafarer who was known to have read Smith’s Description of New England, and remarked that he would like to go there. He got his wish as the master of the Mayflower in 1620.

1620. Plymouth Colony. A new Royal Charter was issued by King James I to the Plymouth Council for New England (formerly the Virginia Company of Plymouth) to establish colonial settlements in New England. The area was from Latitude 40o to Latitude 45o (“sea to sea”). In that same year, the Mayflower dropped anchor off Cape Cod, and Plymouth Colony was founded by a small group of Separatists/Pilgrims, who had fled England for Holland a few years earlier. Unlike the Puritans, the Pilgrims did not want to purify the Church of England, they wanted to get away from the church’s Prayer Book, and have their own method of worship.

1622-1623. Province of Maine. In 1622, the Plymouth Council of New England granted rights of lands to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. The lands were between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers, an area which included parts of present New Hampshire and Maine. Gorges was the first to use the name Maine to describe the area. In 1623, English Captain Christopher Levett obtained grants of land from the Plymouth Council to establish colonies in New England. Levett’s first Casco Bay settlement was the Colony of York, at the site of present Portland, Maine, but the small group of people Levett had left there were gone when he returned a few months later. Then in 1623, the Levett colony at the mouth of the Piscataqua River (now Kittery) was successful, as was a second York colony on the York River. Piscataqua/Kittery and York were the first permanent English settlements in the Province of Maine.

1625 England. Charles I became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Charles believed in the same principles his father, James I had espoused, i.e., that as King, he was the infallible interpreter of God’s will on earth. Soon after taking office, Charles began to note a large number of non-conformists among his subjects. Along with his Archbishop, William Laud, the King began a campaign to purge his church of the largest group of non-conformists, the so-called Puritans, a militant Calvinist religious sect attempting to purify the Church of England. Unfortunately, Charles I took on a job that led to civil war in England as well as the loss of his head. But, his campaign can be credited as the main cause for the founding of the largest English settlement in North America.

1628. The Massachusetts Bay Company was granted a royal charter for an English colony to be established in North America within the bounds of the Plymouth Council of New England. It was said that King Charles I was misled as to the religious leanings of the Massachusetts Bay Company leaders, all prominent Puritans, not Pilgrims, as he had surmised. The language of the Royal Charter essentially removed the Plymouth Council from the picture, and the Massachusetts Bay Company managed to acquire legal interest in the area from Latitude 410 to Latitude 450, except for any previous grants in the same area.

1629. New Hampshire. Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason agreed to split their grants at the Piscataqua River, with Mason retaining the land west of the river as the Province of New Hampshire.

1629. The Great Migration to New England begins. As a result of Charles I’s campaign to purge non-conformists from the Church of England, 1629-1640, large groups of people were alienated. Charles I disbanded Parliament and ruled England alone for eleven years. The Puritans referred to this era as “the eleven years of tyranny.” It was during these eleven years that about 80,000 Puritans felt compelled to leave England. About a fourth of them moved to Holland; another fourth of them to Ireland; a fourth to the West Indies, particularly the islands of Barbados, Nevis, and St. Kitts; and the final group, some 20,000 Puritan immigrants, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony of North America.

1630. Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colonial government was organized, with the first General Court at Charlestown and the creation of the first three counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. They happened to be the same names as the three East Anglia counties of England from whence the majority of the Puritans had lived before coming to America.

1634. The Massachusetts Bay colony began annexing areas of present Maine. The original grants issued to Sir Ferdinand Gorges and Captain Christopher Levett were overlapped by grants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which began selling land in any unsettled areas just across the Piscataqua River in present Maine. As soon as settlements were established, Massachusetts Bay formally annexed those areas as part of their territory.

1635-1637. In 1635, religious dissident Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1637, Anne Hutchinson, a charismatic religious leader opposed to the Puritans, was put on trial (in the Church Court), excommunicated, and banished.

1636. Connecticut Colony. The English settlements of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor were formed as the Connecticut Colony. First known as the River Colony, it was a recognized organization for a Puritan congregation established by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1637. King Charles I, now keenly aware of the fact that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was an enclave of non-conformist Puritans, turned their charter over to Sir Ferdinand Gorges, a loyal supporter of the king, and the original leader of the Plymouth Company. However, the official transfer document with the king’s seal was on board a ship that sank en route to Boston. The Puritans, believing it to be an Act of Providence, ignored the king’s edict.

1638. Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and more dissidents, founded the Providence Plantations (later Rhode Island and Providence Plantations).

1638-1643. In 1638, New Haven Colony was formed as an independent colony, separate from Connecticut Colony. In 1643, the coastal settlements of Branford, Guilford, Milford, Stamford, plus Southold (on Long Island), all joined the New Haven Colony.

1642. English Civil War. Since taking the throne in 1625, King Charles I had purged most of the Puritans from the Church of England. To deal with a Parliament opposing his every move, in 1629, Charles disbanded Parliament and ruled England on his own. That action canceled over 400 years of liberties gained by Parliament since the Magna Carta. When Parliament was restored in 1640, it quickly became dominated by the same Puritans who Charles had removed from the Church of England. Beginning in 1642, Royalist supporters were forced to fight the armies of the Puritan Parliament in the English Civil War. The supporters of Charles I did not fare well against them.

1645-1651. England. After his defeat and capture in 1645, Charles I refused to accept his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy, and briefly escaped captivity in 1647. While recaptured, his son, Prince Charles, was able to marshal Scottish forces for the king. However, by 1648, Oliver Cromwell had consolidated the English opposition. King Charles I was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649. The Civil War continued until 1651.

1651-1658. Commonwealth of England. Prince Charles had lived in exile after the execution of his father, Charles I. In 1649, the Scots had proclaimed Charles the King of Scotland. But, the Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, defeated his army in 1651, and Charles fled to France. Cromwell was to become the Lord Protectorate of the Commonwealth of England, with a puritan-controlled Parliament.

1656. The first Quakers in New England, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, arrived at Boston Harbor and were immediately arrested.

1658. Massachusetts had always expressed a claim to Maine, based on the language of their 1628 Royal Charter (which had defined their northern bounds as the St. John River). After several partial annexations beginning in 1634, all of Maine was annexed as frontier territory by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1658. The Maine communities were allowed to vote on the final annexations, and all were in favor of joining Massachusetts.

1659. After being convicted by the Church Court in Salem, Mary Dyer was hanged for the crime of being a Quaker.

1660. England. Oliver Cromwell had died in 1658. Soon after, the English people became dissatisfied with the government that Cromwell had established. In 1660, Parliament invited Prince Charles to return and declared him king. Charles II was restored to the throne as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was to become one of the most effective English monarchs of all time. He ruled until his death in 1685, and during his reign, the English colonials forced out the remaining pockets of Atlantic settlements made earlier by the Dutch, Swedes, and Danes. Charles II was the first monarch to recognize the potential for the North American colonies to become a contiguous, viable commonwealth.

1661. March. The last Quaker was hanged in Boston. In April, King Charles II ordered the Massachusetts Bay Colony to end the practice.

1665 Connecticut Colony. New Haven Colony and Connecticut Colony merged into one chartered colony, retaining the name Connecticut.

1685-1688. Charles II died in 1685 without issue. His brother, the Duke of York was crowned as King James II. After James II declared his Catholic beliefs, he was deposed in 1688. His Protestant daughter, Mary, was declared the legal heir to the throne. She had married her cousin, William of Orange, the Stadtholder/Ruler of Holland, and Europe’s most staunch Protestant leader. Because of William’s stature as the leader of the Protestant insurrection which had overthrown the Catholic James II, Parliament asked both William and Mary to rule England jointly. The Protestant-controlled Parliament considered the skirmish a holy war, and later gave the insurrection the name of Glorious Revolution. James was exiled to France, where he died in 1701.

1691.Province of Massachusetts Bay. The province was formed after merging the Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. About this time, the term District of Maine, was used to describe that area as part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

1692. The Salem Witch Trials took place, culminating in over 170 arrests and 20 executions.

1707. During the reign of Queen Anne, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was established after the Union with Scotland Act passed the English Parliament in 1706; and the Union with England Act passed the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. The English Colonies were now the British Colonies.

1714. After Queen Anne died without issue, her 2nd cousin, George I was crowned King of Great Britain and Ireland. Although there were several English heirs closer to Queen Anne than George I, he was the closest Protestant heir, a great-grandson of English King James I. George I was the first of the House of Hanover to rule Great Britain. He left his home in Hanover infrequently, never learned to speak English, and sanctioned the creation of the first Prime Minister and Cabinet Government in Great Britain. During the reign of a mostly absent George I, the British colonies were invaded by the first wave of Scots-Irish immigrants.

1718. The arrival of the first Scots-Irish immigrants to New England was via Boston Harbor. The so-called Scots-Irish (or Ulster Scots) were former border clan people who had lived near the Scottish-English border for centuries. A good number of them had moved into areas of Northern Ireland in the early 1600s, and a mass migration to most of the British colonies of America began in about 1717. Generally, the Scots-Irish did not care for civilization that much, and usually leap-frogged over any Atlantic settlements en route to the higher, wilderness areas of America. They did this in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The first Scots-Irish who came to New England were to immediately head west into central Massachusetts or north into New Hampshire. Soon after the first New England arrivals, a number of Scots-Irish discovered the coastal areas of Maine. By 1775, the Scots-Irish in America outnumbered (by three times) the other three founding colonial English groups (Puritans, Royalists/Cavaliers, and Quakers).

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