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GREEN VALLEY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY

"Genealogy Today", by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
From the Green Valley News, Sunday 17 February 2013, page C1


Colonial Settlement Continues into 1700s

The first permanent colonial settlement in the New World was not in New England but at Jamestown, Virginia where a fort was built in 1607. The city continued to grow with the help of Polish and Dutch settlers and was the capital of Virginia from 1616 until 1699.

Wealthy Brits started a number of companies that hoped to establish trade and profit from the American colonies. Most of the companies including the Virginia Company struggled to make a profit and failed within a few years. Weather, the native population, distance from the mother country, and the difficulty settlers had just surviving day to day were factors in their failure. Farming was unsuccessful until they began growing tobacco.

New York City, first called New Amsterdam, was settled by Dutch entrepreneurs hoping to profit from the fur trade. Due to its large natural seaport, the city and surrounding colony grew quickly with farms spread all the way up the Hudson River, a perfect outlet for getting their products to a wide market.

The Dutch developed a trading post in New Jersey opposite New York City in 1620 and were soon joined by Swedish fur traders. Pennsylvania was also first occupied by Swedes, then Dutch. The rivalry between the two ended in 1655 when the Dutch evicted the Swedes. Their victory lasted only until 1664 when the Duke of York claimed the entire area and named it New Jersey after the British Isle of Jersey.

The British seized the area encompassing both New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to increase their economic trade base and capitalize on the extensive availability of farm land. The Quaker, William Penn and his followers received a large land grant in the area around Philadelphia including most of colonial Delaware. Wheat was the primary crop grown in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Maryland was settled in 1634 by Lord Baltimore, and became a haven for Catholics, discriminated against in other areas. Catholics flocked there in great number as they could avoid the religious persecution prevalent in many Protestant communities.

By 1653 further south, North Carolina supplied many needs of the British navy including lumber, tar and wood products. Tobacco was also important to that colony’s growth. South Carolina supported plantation farming with crops of rice and indigo, popular for its purple dye. Here slavery gained a foothold to supply plantation owners’ needs for cheap labor.

Georgia the last of the 13 original colonies was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1732. It began as a penal colony offering debtors and petty thieves an alternative to hanging, and also acted as a buffer zone protecting the English colonies from Spanish Florida. Georgia’s economy was supported largely by rice and cotton crops.

Thus diverse groups of people from various parts of Europe left their familiar lives behind and ventured to start over in a radically different environment from that they knew. The American shores were well on their way to claiming the title of "the melting pot" even in colonial days. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the U.S. government became concerned about immigration and the need to regulate the numbers of immigrants coming into our country.


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