The British Empire settled its first permanent colony in the Americas at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. This was the first of 13 colonies in North America.
The 13 Original U.S. Colonies
The 13 colonies can be divided into three regions: New England, Middle, and Southern colonies. The chart below provides additional information including the years of settlement and founders of each.
The New England Colonies
The New England colonies included Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Plymouth Colony was founded in 1620 (when the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth) but was incorporated into Massachusetts Bay in 1691.
The group that left England for America in the Mayflower was called the Puritans; they believed in a strict interpretation of the writings of John Calvin, who dismissed the beliefs of both the Catholics and the Anglicans. The Mayflower first made its way to Mashpee on Cape Cod, but after a disastrous interaction with the Native people in the region, they crossed Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth.
The Middle Colonies
The Middle Colonies were located in the area now described as the Mid-Atlantic and included Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. While the New England colonies were made up largely of British Puritans, the Middle Colonies were very mixed.
Settlers in these colonies included English, Swedes, Dutch, Germans, Scots-Irish and French, along with Native Americans and some enslaved (and freed) Africans. Members of these groups included Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dutch Calvinists, and Presbyterians.
The Southern Colonies
The first "official" American colony was formed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. In 1587, a group of 115 English settlers arrived in Virginia. They arrived safely on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. By the middle of the year, the group realized they needed more supplies, and so they sent John White, governor of the colony, back to England. White arrived in the midst of a war between Spain and England, and his return was delayed.
When he finally made it back to Roanoke, there was no trace of the colony, his wife, his daughter, or his granddaughter. Instead, all he found was the word "Croatoan" carved in a post. No one knew what had happened to the colony until 2015, when archaeologists discovered clues such as British-style pottery among Croatoan remains. This suggests that the people of the Roanoke colony may have become part of the Croatoan community.
The first "official" American colony was formed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607; by 1752, the colonies included North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. The Southern Colonies focused most of their efforts on cash crops including tobacco and cotton. In order to make their plantations pay, they employed enslaved Africans.
|Colony Name||Year Founded||Founded By||Became Royal Colony|
|Massachusetts||1620 - Plymouth Colony|
1630 - Massachusetts Bay Colony
|New Hampshire||1623||John Mason||1679|
|Connecticut||c. 1635||Thomas Hooker||N/A|
|Rhode Island||1636||Roger Williams||N/A|
|Delaware||1638||Peter Minuit and New Sweden Company||N/A|
|South Carolina||1663||Eight Nobles with a Royal Charter from Charles II||1729|
|New Jersey||1664||Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret||1702|
|New York||1664||Duke of York||1685|
|Georgia||1732||James Edward Oglethorpe||1752|
- Shi, David E., and George Brown Tindall. "America: A Narrative History," Brief Tenth Edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.
- Smith, James Morton. "Seventeenth-Century America: Essays in Colonial History." Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.