What Were The 13 Original Colonies?

Today, the United States of America includes 50 states. However, they were only thirteen in the beginning—- the 13 original colonies. 

The 13 original colonies of colonial America can be grouped geographically into three distinct regions. They include:

  1. The Southern Colonies
  2. The Middle Colonies
  3. The New England Colonies 

The Southern Colonies

The southern Colonies included the provinces of Maryland, Carolina (later divided into South and North Carolina in 1712), Virginia, and Georgia. 

These colonies were known for generating massive revenue by cultivating crops like tobacco, indigo, and rice. They were able to cultivate a lot of crops because enslaved people farmed these plantations at the time. 

Virginia Colony

On April 10, 1606, King James I issued a charter that authorized the London company — which late became the Virginia Company of London — to establish a Virginia settlement along the eastern seaboard.  

Their goal was to establish an English settlement to prevent Spain’s total domination of the North and South American coasts. They also aimed to use the Colony to export commodities to England.

So, In 1607, John Smith and other colonists backed by the London Company set out to the location with 144 men on three vessels: the Godspeed, the Discovery, and the Susan constant. When they reached the Chesapeake Bay, they moved up about 60 miles to the James River, where they set up the Jamestown settlement. 

They started out searching for natural resources like gold and other exportable resources with little success, and it seemed as though the Colony would not survive. Only after they started growing tobacco in 1616 was their survival guaranteed.

Maryland Colony

Just like Virginia, a Royal Charter issued by King James 1 established the Maryland Colony. George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore, requested the charter. Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, and son of the 1st Baron Baltimore, received the Charter on June 20, 1632, after his father’s death. 

Following the Charter, Leonard Calvert — the 2nd Baron Baltimore’s younger brother— led 17 gentlemen and their wives alongside about 200 apprentices and laborers aboard two ships: the Ark and the Dove. This group of people would be the first colonists in Maryland when they arrived on March 25, 1634. 

Maryland was named after Queen Henrietta Maria, the queen consort to Charles 1 by Cecilius Calvert. Like the Virginia colonists, the Maryland landowners grew tobacco on estates and fuelled the practice with enslaved people.

North Carolina Colony

King James II, in 1653, granted a charter to the “Lords Proprietors” — a group of eight English Noblemen — to set up a colony in the region. 

The settlement was originally just Carolina, including some parts of Virginia, Florida, and the Pacific Ocean. However, it was divided into North and South Carolina in 1729. 

French protestants from Virginia were among the Colony’s original settlers. John Lawson, who published the first history of North Carolina (1709), was among the early settlers of North Carolina and became the surveyor general of the Colony.

South Carolina Colony

South Carolina made up the second half of the Carolina colony. It shares a similar history with North Carolina. It was widely known for exporting commodities such as tobacco, indigo dye, rice, cotton, etc., which increased the state’s revenue, making it among the most resourceful and wealthy early colonies. 

Their economy depended mainly on labor from enslaved people who did most of the operations for the plantation.

Georgia Colony

The British Colony of Georgia came into existence in 1732 following a Charter issued to Jame Oglethorpe, representing the trustees of England and the Savannah settlement. 

James Oglethorpe formerly served in the military and cared deeply for England’s poor and debt-ridden people. He devoted his time to helping them after leaving the army and pursued the goal of setting up a settlement in America to help these people. 

Another motivation for establishing this settlement was the South Carolina colony which was increasingly important to Britain yet had numerous enemies. 

At the time, there were Spanish colonies in Florida, French colonies in Louisiana, and Indians throughout the region. The British government was concerned about the South Carolina settlement and intended for the Georgia settlement to act as a shield for them. 

The Georgia colony was under the control of the trustees as a corporation, and they were allowed to run their government. Georgia’s large population makes it the most prominent southern colony.

New England Colonies

The New England Colonies came into existence in 1621. The colonies were established by puritans being punished for their religious beliefs to have a safe place to practice their religion without interference from the English political laws. 

The colonies that made up the New England Colonies include Rhode Island, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Rhode Island Colony

Founded by Roger Williams in 1636, Rhode Island was among the original colonies that made up America’s east coast. It was initially an English colony from 1636 until 1707. 

Rhode Island was among the early colonies of England to give full rights to religious practice. It made churches a prominent figure separate from the state.

Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was established by the Massachusetts Bay Company according to a charter by King Charles in 1629. It was named after Massachusetts Bay, the water separating Cape Ann and Boston. 

The Massachusetts Bay company aimed to establish a colonization and trading company in New England. Massachusetts Bay was the first Colony not to have its board of directors settled in England.

The early settlers were the puritans, which aimed to create a society filled with people who shared the same religious ideology and believed in God’s wishes, expelling those with contradicting opinions.

The Colony had traders who exported goods such as farm products, fish, and lumber to Europe, which brought massive success to the settlement by the mid-18th century.

Connecticut Colony

Settlers in Massachusetts Bay Colony who intended to gain more land and religious freedom set out to the Connecticut Bay Area in 1636. Thomas Hooker and Rev. Samuel Stone led the colonists in the region. The area was initially recognized as the Connecticut River Colony and the Hartford settlement.

Thomas Hooker played a significant role in developing colonial New England through his great sermons and extensive writing on Christian-related subjects. He was among the first settlers of the colony. As a result, the colony was notable for its religious piety and education.

Connecticut was the first colony to have a written constitution in the United States in 1639, which garnered it the nickname ‘the constitution state.’ 

New Hampshire Colony

Adventurous settlers from England, comprising fishermen and farmers, occupied the areas along the Atlantic coast in 1623. They formed numerous small towns and villages that later became important commercial and trade centers in colonial America. 

The Colony was named New Hampshire after Hampshire county in Southern England. With the Motto-“Live free or die.” 

New Hampshire was initially called North Virginia and was once under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. 

Middle Colonies 

The British monarchy established the middle Colonies in 1664. Unlike the southern Colonies, they had productive and fertile soil. As a result, they were to become trade centers to yield more economic revenue. 

They were nicknamed the “Breadbasket Colonies” and were known for farming large crop products. The Middle colonies weere New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

New York Colony

Peter Minuit bought Manhatten for 60 guilders from the Native Americans and named it New Amsterdam in 1624. 

Minuit was among the first settlers of New York from the Dutch in 1624 along the Hudson River. However, in 1664, the British captured the Colony and renamed it New York, after the Duke of York, who later became King James II. 

New Jersey Colony

New Jersey’s history can be traced back to 1609 when Henry Hudson —an English sea explorer who discovered parts of the northeastern United States and changed its name to New Netherlands on behalf of Holland — claimed the region. However, the Colony was instituted in 1664 when the British monarchy granted the lands to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret.  

Among the first settlers of New Jersey were European Finns, Dutch, and Swedes.

New Jersey became known for producing crops, especially wheat, to export to Europe.

Delaware Colony

The Colony of Delaware became a separate British colony in 1682. However, the region had been under the control of numerous governments before that year. 

First, the Swedes in 1638 named it the Colony of New Sweden. Later, the Dutch captured the Colony and renamed it New Netherland. As a result, the population of Delaware was a mix of English, Dutch and Swedish immigrants. The region consisted of land on the west bank of the Delaware river.

William Penn, who was known as the Father of representative government in Delaware, governed the region. 

Pennsylvania Colony

Like Delaware, Pennsylvania was originally a Swedish colony founded in 1638. 

Pennsylvania came into the vision by William Penn as a haven for his fellow Quakers and was among the first colonies which provided total freedom to practice religion.

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