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GREEN VALLEY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY

"Genealogy Today", by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
From the Green Valley News, Sunday 3 February 2013, page C1


Colonial Settlements

Settlers came to the 13 original American colonies for many and varied reasons. Each colony was distinguished by various characteristics brought by those settlers. Today we may appear to be a group of homogenous states, but this wasn't always the case.

The Pilgrims were the first Europeans to found a permanent, lasting settlement in the New World. They arrived in Massachusetts as Separatists, separated from the English church by their objections to existing church hierarchy and the sacraments, with the exception of baptism and communion. As Calvinists they also believed God had predestined those who would go to Heaven. They did not celebrate Christmas and Easter as they believed those days were created by men, not God.

They were followed within 10 years by the English Puritans who settled around Boston Harbor. Their beliefs were similar to the Pilgrims, but they did not separate themselves from the established church. Rather they wanted to purify it from within. When Archbishop Laud was elected in 1630 he dedicated himself to eradicating the Puritans. Hence their migration to the New World in great numbers soon outpaced the Separatists.

While the Puritans fled religious intolerance, they did not offer it to others. Connecticut was the next state settled by a group led by Thomas Hooker. As the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, disputes with the Puritan leadership led him south where he founded the city of Hartford in 1636. Connecticut is generally considered the first government with a democratic constitution giving authority to its people.

Rhode Island was also founded in 1636 by a Baptist theologian, Roger Williams due to religious disputes with the Puritans. Williams believed God led him there and named the area Providence Plantations. He obtained a charter from the Crown in 1644 and promised religious freedom to all citizens. Among the prominent dissenters to whom the state offered sanctuary were Anne Marbury Hutchinson and Samuel Gorton and the followers of each. As the "rebel" colony, Rhode Island was the first to renounce allegiance to Britain in 1776 and the last to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1790.

New Hampshire, founded by religious dissenters from Massachusetts in 1629, was under control of Massachusetts for most of its first hundred years. The real motivation for settlement was the abundant wealth of fur and timber. First called the New Hampshire Grants, the state's early history was turbulent, marked by land disputes and border disputes as late as 1740. The western boundary along the New York border was established by King George III in 1764.

Vermont declared independence from the New Hampshire Grants in 1777 with the Connecticut River as its eastern boundary, and is not considered one of the original colonies. Similarly, settlement of Maine was prolonged by failed attempts and minor conflicts between the French, Dutch and British. For a time part of the state was claimed by Massachusetts.

Vermont achieved statehood in 1791. Maine residents approved a constitution in 1819. It was ratified by Congress in 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise and statehood was granted a few days later. Today's border between Maine and Canada was finally established in 1842.

The Middle Atlantic and Southern colonies, with the exception of Virginia and New York, were slower to settle than those in New England. The British were concentrated in New England, while the Dutch inhabited New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania but were unable to maintain control as Britain's strong military presence secured their English colonies.


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