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In December of 1606, three ships—the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery—travelled the Atlantic Ocean from England to find a new home in Virginia. Arriving in the new world with 104 men and boys, these new settlers called their town Jamestown, after King James I of England. Under the guidance of Captain John Smith, the early settlers worked hard and made their town a thriving one. Native Americans such as Pocahontas helped by bringing necessary supplies and materials vital to survive. By 1608 the colony’s population had grown to 500 people. However, the winter of 1609, aptly called the “Starving Time,” was so fierce that only 60 settlers survived.

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At odds with the Church of England, Pilgrims set sail across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower to start a new life in North America. They originally planned to land in Virginia, but a navigation error led them to current-day Cape Cod. There at Plymouth, they wrote the Mayflower Compact as a set of rules to which they would all adhere. Thanks to the help of Squanto, a native who facilitated communication between the Pilgrims and Massasoit, leader of the local tribe, the Pilgrims were able to survive the brutal winter. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Pilgrims joining with the Native Americans and thanking God for their good fortune.

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In 1623, John Mason, David Thomas, and Edward and Thomas Hilton each received a land grant from King James to settle in New Hampshire. Captain John Smith first called New Hampshire “North Virginia,” but King Charles renamed it “New England.” It would eventually grow to be a part of Massachusetts. In 1677 it became a separate colony.

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Fleeing persecution in England, Lord Baltimore (or Sir George Calvert) negotiated with King Charles I to get land located on the Chesapeake Bay. He envisioned Maryland as a haven for Catholics to worship freely. Unfortunately, he died during negotiations, and the second Lord of Baltimore, his son Cecilius, would benefit and help settle the colony in Maryland. Arriving in 1634, they lived in peace with Protestants and got help from local Native Americans. The colony thrived on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Under the leadership of Thomas Hooker, early settlers from Massachusetts headed to the Connecticut River Valley to farm in more fertile land. Legend has it that their journey took longer than expected, requiring the settlers to subsist on milk from the 160 cows they brought with them. In 1639, representatives from towns in Connecticut drafted the Fundamental Orders, which helped establish a connecting government within their small municipalities. King Charles II in 1662 granted Connecticut colonial status.

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Roger Williams arrived in Massachusetts in 1631. Williams soon began to question the legitimacy of the Massachusetts government, specifically some of their religious tenets, and he was banished in 1636. After a long ordeal, Williams bought land from the Narragansett Indians and founded Providence, Rhode Island as a place where all religions would be welcome to practice openly.

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Ownership of what we call Delaware today changed several times in colonial America. Peter Minuit first settled Delaware in 1624 for the Dutch. Then it was known as New Sweden because the Swedish settled down. Trouble still arose when it came to English hands as Lord Baltimore, the Duke of York, and William Penn all sought to move in. Eventually, the dispute was resolved by surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who drew the border that stands today. The colony was eventually renamed after the governor of Jamestown, Lord De La Warr.

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North Carolina was almost the first colony when 100 people from England settled on Roanoke Island in 1587. However, within three years those people who had not already returned to England simply disappeared. It was here that the first American, Virginia Dare, was born on American soil in 1587. This long lost settlement is known today as the Lost Colony.

Later, in 1663, King Charles II granted land to eight men in England—the territory between Virginia and Florida. The new colony was largely settled by outcasts and dissenters from aristocratic Virginia, and by people looking to enjoy broader religious freedoms and the independence of settling small family farms.

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Considered a part of the “Carolina colony” with North Carolina until 1729, South Carolina’s capital city of Charleston eventually became one of the most prosperous ports in the New World. Its founders (eight nobles with a Royal Charter from King Charles) originally hoped to find wealth by growing three expensive products: wine, silk, and olive oil. When the soil and climate proved unsuitable, they found riches in rice, indigo, and tobacco. South Carolina’s plantation economy was largely dependent on slave labor, and by 1750 it is estimated that two out of every three people living there were slaves.

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King Charles II gave his brother James, Duke of York, the charter for New York. He then mistakenly gave the land known today as New Jersey to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Carteret would name this area New Jersey after the isle of Jersey in the English Channel, where he was born in 1664.

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New York was founded by Dutch settlers, led by Peter Minuit, who temporarily settled there while they were trading fur in the early 17th century. The settlers called this area New Amsterdam. They lost the land to the British in 1664. King Charles II later gave it to his brother James, the Duke of York. Of course, one of the most enduring stories associated with this colony was the purchase of Manhattan from Native Americans for 60 Dutch gilders.

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  • Old Fort Niagara: Starting off as a French fort in 1721, Old Fort Niagara provides a glimpse of the difficulties of defending the Great Lakes region of North America. For more information, visit http://oldfortniagara.org.
  • Peter Minuit Plaza: At 12:00 every night, the entire plaza is lit with multi-colored lights as a tribute to Peter Minuit, whose name means “midnight.” For more information, visit http://www.thebattery.org/projects/peter-minuit-plaza.
  • Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum: Go back to the early days of Dutch settlers in what is today Brooklyn, New York. For more information, visit http://www.wyckoffassociation.org.

William Penn was a Quaker who was granted land in 1681 by King Charles II. He would be the sole landowner of Pennsylvania, which translates to “Penn’s Wood.” Penn would go around Europe to promote Pennsylvania, trying to get people to move there. He was successful, as Pennsylvania would come to welcome people from England, Ireland, and Germany. A little-known fact about Penn is that he lost his fortune settling the colony and spent a year in debtors’ prison in England.

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Georgia was founded because of the fear that the Spanish would make their way up from Florida and start to create territories in South Carolina. In 1732, King Charles II granted a charter for a new colony to British General James Oglethorpe, who hoped he could attract debtors looking for a new start. Finding it difficult to attract settlers to this new colony, Oglethorpe could not make it flourish, and gave the legitimacy back to the King of England. In 1736, John and Charles Wesley came to Georgia from England on a religious mission.

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