Study Guide

New England Puritans & Pilgrims Timeline

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Dec 19, 2019

Thomas Hunt Kidnaps Squanto

English explorer Captain Thomas Hunt kidnaps Squanto (or Tisquantum) and 20 other Patuxet (or Pawtuxet) Indians from the Cape Cod region and brings them to Spain. He plans to sell them as slaves, but Squanto is rescued by a Spanish priest, taken to London, and taught English.

Dec 19, 2019

Squanto Returns

Squanto returns to what is now Massachusetts and finds that his tribe, the Patuxet (or Pawtuxet), has been wiped out by disease. He will later serve as an interpreter for the Pilgrims, teaching them where to plant corn and how to fish.

Sep 1, 1620

Mayflower Departs

The Mayflower sets sail for America, carrying about 102 settlers and crew, including men, women, and children, and both Puritans and non-Puritans. William Bradford leads the expedition. The Pilgrims embarking for America have secured a land patent from the Virginia Company, and they bring along Miles Standish, a soldier hired to help with their defenses upon landing. Standish is one of several "strangers" on board—people who have not yet received the gift of grace. Puritans who have been elected by God for salvation are called "saints."

Dec 26, 1620

Pilgrims Land with Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower lands in Massachusetts at a place its passengers name Plymouth Harbor. The passengers had intended to land much further south, around Virginia, but their stormy voyage has led them to Cape Cod and rough waters have prevented them from departing again. The ship remains at Plymouth Harbor for four months, providing support as the Pilgrims build their dwellings in the midst of a snowy winter. The colony holds a land grant but no charter of government from England; the settlers rely upon the Mayflower Compact, an agreement drawn up aboard ship and signed by 41 Pilgrim leaders who agree to form a church and to abide by the laws established by the representatives they will select.

Oct 1, 1621

Pilgrims and First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims invite their Native American allies to a feast, known ever since as the first Thanksgiving, to celebrate the harvest and their survival.

Dec 19, 2019 - Dec 19, 2019

Church of England Censors Puritans

Under the reign of King Charles I of England, the Church of England dismisses Puritan ministers and censors their writings.

Dec 19, 2019

Private Property in Plymouth Colony

All land in Plymouth Colony is divided into private property and distributed among the settlers; up to this time, land has been communally held.

Dec 19, 2019

Massachusetts Bay Company Chartered

A group of merchants in London who support the Puritans and seek to establish a profitable trade with the Native Americans receive a royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Company. It derives its name from the Massachusett Indians of the New England coastal region.

Dec 19, 2019

John Winthrop Establishes Massachusetts

The first seven ships of the Massachusetts Bay Company sail from England. Among this group is Governor John Winthrop, the leader of the enterprise. Winthrop is a prominent lawyer from East Anglia who wants the colony to become a refuge for the Puritans, who (along with other dissenters) are increasingly persecuted under the reign of King Charles I. He brings the colonial charter with him. The Massachusetts Bay Company becomes a provincial government, and Massachusetts is founded.

Massachusetts Grows

Over 1,000 colonists have arrived since Winthrop and his group first came earlier in the year. By this point, the Massachusetts Bay Company boasts seven separate settlements, stretching from Salem in the north to Dorchester in the south, with Boston, Medford, Charlestown, Roxbury, and Watertown (the first inland town, 40 miles up the Charles River) between them.

Dec 19, 2019

Massachusetts Bay Opens Membership

The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Comapny accepts applications for "freemen" (shareholders on the Court) and admits 118 candidates to its ranks. The Court is the governing body in the colony; initially Winthrop and his assistants held the elite status of freemen, but they decide to avoid any conflict by opening up the governing body—to church members only—when other settlers express interest.

Dec 19, 2019

John Winthrop Loses Power

Each Massachusetts town sends two delegates to the General Court in Boston for a meeting. The delegates demand to see the royal charter that Winthrop has kept hidden away; when he reluctantly produces it, they learn that the General Court has the power to pass laws and levy taxes. Winthrop thinks that the Court has grown too large for such responsibilities, but the Court turns itself into a representative institution. Two or three deputies are selected to represent each town. They choose a new governor to replace Winthrop, who will not occupy the office for another three years

Dec 19, 2019

Roger Williams Banished

Roger Williams, a teacher and minister of the Salem church, is banished from Massachusetts. He has gotten into trouble with the General Court because of his radical beliefs; he challenges the Puritans to acknowledge they have separated from the Church of England (they contend that they are trying to purify it), he questions the king's right to confiscate Native American lands, and he declares a separation of church and state—specifically that civil magistrates have no power over matters of conscience. He is supposed to return to England, but out of personal sympathy, Governor Winthrop allows him to move south with his followers, some Narragansett Indians whom he has befriended.

Dec 19, 2019

Roger Williams Founds Providence

Roger Williams establishes the town of Providence on Narragansett Bay, the first permanent settlement in what is to become Rhode Island. This is the first place in North America to legislate freedom of religion.

Dec 19, 2019

Harvard Founded

The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony issues a grant to establish the first English institution of higher education on the continent; two years later, it is named Harvard College for benefactor John Harvard. It is intended for the education of Puritan ministers, but steadily expands over time into an institution of general education.

Dec 19, 2019

Anne Hutchinson Trial

A pregnant Anne Hutchinson is placed on trial before the General Court in Massachusetts for sedition. Hutchinson, the wife of a well-to-do merchant, has been hosting meetings in her Boston home to discuss religious matters. These meetings have become a forum for her to showcase her own opinions. 

She claims to have received direct revelations from God, convincing her that only two or three Puritan ministers correctly preached the "covenant of grace"; the others, she contends, are inappropriately preaching the "covenant of works," which incorrectly leads people to think that good behavior will grant them salvation. She threatens to undermine ministerial authority and guarantees of salvation to the Puritan "saints," and the fragile hierarchy finds her threatening and excessively individualistic.

Dec 19, 2019

Pequot War

The Pequot War erupts as the English colonists and their Narragansett allies organize a genocidal attack in order to quash the Pequot Indians of southeastern New England. They surround the central Pequot village near West Mystic, in the Connecticut River Valley, and burn the central fort with 400 men, women, and children inside it. According to a white man's eyewitness account, "not above five of them escaped out of our hands. Great and doleful was the bloody sight." From this point on, powerful tribal confederacies arrange mutually advantageous alliances with colonial authorities. Weaker bands of Native Americans try to gain English diplomatic protection and forge direct trading relationships with Europeans.

Dec 19, 2019

Treaty of Hartford

White colonists catch most of the remaining Pequots and sell them into slavery in Bermuda. The Treaty of Hartford, signed this year, declares the Pequot nation dissolved. A period of relatively peaceful coexistence follows until the outbreak of King Philip's War in 1675.

Dec 19, 2019

Anne Hutchinson Banished

Despite the fact that she debated on equal terms with the magistrates and testifying ministers at her trial the previous year, Anne Hutchinson is banished by the General Court as a leper not fit for "our society." She, her family, and some followers settle near modern-day Portsmouth, Rhode Island, just south of Providence. The journey is hard on Anne, who gets sick and gives birth to a stillborn baby.

Dec 19, 2019

First English Publication in America

The first publication printed in English America is a broadside, The Oath of a Freeman, which explains the rights and duties of all Massachusetts citizens, advising men to vote in accordance with their "own conscience [...] without respect of persons, or favor of any men."

Jan 14, 1639

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut Colony

Hartford and two other towns form the Connecticut colony. Representatives from the towns of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor meet at Hartford and adopt the Fundamental Orders, the basic law of the colony until 1662. The Orders are similar to Massachusetts laws except that they provide inhabitants with an understandable and compact frame of government. They prize the welfare of the community, mandating individual sacrifice for the public good whenever necessary.

Dec 19, 2019

Wachusett Massachusetts Colonization

Colonization of the inland Wachusett region commences in Massachusetts.

Dec 19, 2019

First English Book Printed

The first book printed in the territory of the present-day United States, the so-called Bay Psalm Book, is published in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Note: a competing claim is that the Bible in the indigenous Wampanoag language was the first book ever printed on North American soil.)

Dec 19, 2019

Act for Encouraging Mines

Colonial Massachusetts authorities seeking to encourage economic development pass the Act for Encouraging Mines, which promises investors control of any mineral discoveries they might make, and the right "to purchase the interest of any Indians in such lands where such mines shall be found."

Dec 19, 2019

Body of Liberties

The General Court issues a Body of Liberties, outlining the rights and responsibilities of citizens in Massachusetts. Some scholars have referred to this document of "fundamental laws" as the first bill of rights on the continent; it was modeled after England's Magna Carta. It acknowledges and accepts the concept of social inequality as an expression of God's will and includes a list of universal liberties as well as separate lists of particular liberties granted to free men, women, children, and servants. It also allows slavery (an aberration amidst a list of rights, and one that would be repeated in the U.S. Constitution). There are only 150 Black people in Massachusetts in 1640, and 295 by 1650; it is difficult to determine exactly what percentage of them are slaves.

Dec 19, 2019

Queries of Highest Consideration

Roger Williams, founder of the Rhode Island colony, publishes Queries of Highest Consideration, in which he argues for the complete separation of church and state.

Dec 19, 2019

Education in Massachusetts

A law requires each town in Massachusetts to establish a school.

Dec 19, 2019

Capital Punishment in Rhode Island

The First General Assembly of Providence Colony, Rhode Island, makes sodomy, buggery (in this context it means bestiality), and rape capital offenses.

Dec 19, 2019

John Winthrop Dies

John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, dies.

Dec 19, 2019

First Woman Author in Colonies

Poet Anne Bradstreet publishes The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. A Puritan wife with a large family who came to Massachusetts with the first Winthrop group in 1630, she is considered the first significant woman author in the American colonies. She will follow this publication with Several Poems (Boston, 1678), which contains "Contemplations," generally considered her best work.

Dec 19, 2019

A History of New England Published

Town founder and village historian Edward Johnson publishes A History of New England, a tale of Pilgrim progress that describes each town and church that has emerged out of what Johnson sees as the "wilderness."

Dec 19, 1662

New Haven Joins Connecticut

New Haven, founded as a separate colony in 1637 to 1638, reluctantly merges into the Connecticut colony.

Dec 19, 1662


An assembly of ministers at Boston accept the "Half-Way Covenant", which admits children of church members into a "halfway" membership with the Puritan faith. It enables them to secure baptism for their own children as well. But "halfway" members cannot vote in church or take communion. This is viewed as a sign of waning Puritan control in the face of encroaching worldliness among the new generation of New Englanders. Church discipline is suffering as an increasing number of young people are unable to give testimony of their salvation.

Dec 19, 1663

John Eliot Translates Algonquin Bible

John Eliot translates the Bible into an Algonquin language—"the first printing of the Bible in a non-European language and a tremendous undertaking for a colonial printer."

Jan 29, 1675

King Philip's War Begins

Colonial settlement leads to the most violent conflict yet with the Native Americans. New England settlers launch an all-out war against Wampanoag Indians led by a powerful chief named Metacom, who is better known to the colonists as King Philip. Metacom has allied his tribe with the remnants of southern New England tribes: the Narragansetts, Nipmucks, and Mohegans. 

The fighting escalates on both sides after the murder of John Sassamon, a literate "praying Indian" who was converted to Christianity, on this date. The Plymouth colonists try to hold three Wampanoags responsible; then the Native Americans retaliate, and the war begins. The conflict is sparked by the Sassamon murder but also involves growing tensions between the two groups and Native American concerns about the unyielding expansion of the colonists into their lands.

Feb 10, 1675

Mary Rowlandson Captured

Mary Rowlandson is taken captive from the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts, during Metacom's (or King Philip's) War. She remains in captivity for three months.

May 2, 1675

Rowlandson Freed

At Mount Wachusett, Massachusetts, Mary Rowlandson is released from her captivity on 20 pounds' ransom. Her two surviving children are also returned later.

Aug 1, 1676

Battle at Mt. Hope

After escaping once, King Philip is hunted down and killed during a battle at Mt. Hope in Massachusetts. His wife and son are sold into slavery.

Sep 1, 1676

King Philip’s War Ends

Metacom's War (a.k.a. King Philip's War) ends in a decisive English victory, resulting in the expulsion of Algonquians from southern New England. This in turn opens the way to English expansion throughout the area. This is a turning point in the history of New England; from here on, Puritans tend to depict Native Americans as the embodiments of human sinfulness. New England therefore holds a serious responsibility; it must conquer the indigenous people or break its covenant with God.

Dec 19, 1676

Increase Mather Publishes War History

Puritan minister Increase Mather publishes A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New England, in which he argues that the war has been a form of divine judgment sent upon the second generation of Puritans for having failed to follow "the blessed design of their Fathers." He says that the new generation has forsaken church protection by seeking material gain over spiritual purity.

Dec 19, 1682

Rowlandson Publishes Captivity Narrative

Mary Rowlandson publishes her captivity narrative, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. This is one of the first American captivity narratives, which will become a significant literary genre. They express moralistic tales for young people, celebrate representatives of commonly held values, and provide sentimental tales of suffering along with the thrill of adventure and nearly constant peril.

Dec 19, 1683

The New England Primer

The New England Primer is published and becomes the most widely-used reading instruction text in American history.

Dec 19, 1691

Plymouth Loses Independence

Plymouth is no longer an independent colony. Having long since been overshadowed by its much larger northern neighbor, it is finally absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Plymouth, the first Puritan colony in New England, has never achieved a population larger than 7,000.

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