Boston History Timeline

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Boston is famous for its history. The city’s geological features were carved by glaciers over 20,000 years ago and it has been occupied by humans for more than 12,000 years.

The area was once home to the Massachuset tribe before being settled by colonists in the 17th century and becoming the birthplace of the American Revolution in the 18th century.

Since then, Boston has grown and transformed over the centuries into the modern, yet still historic, city it is today.

The following is a timeline of the history of Boston:

Around 25,000 years ago:

The Laurentide Ice Sheet, which formed in Canada around 75,000 years ago, reaches New England and creates many geological features in Boston, such as Boston Harbor, known as the Boston basin, and the Boston Harbor islands, as well as numerous glacial drumlins such as Camp Hill, Parker Hill, Meeting House Hill, Monterey Hills, Beacon Hill, Mt. Vernon, Fort Hill, Pemberton Hill, Copp’s Hill, Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights

Around 21,000 years ago:

The climate warms and the ice sheet retreats, dropping the rock dust and clay it is carrying which is carried into the ocean by melting water and settles in Boston harbor, forming a thick layer of Boston blue clay

Between 12,200 and 11,600 years ago:

The ice sheet makes a short readvance and pushes some of the Boston blue clay at the bottom of Boston harbor into a low ridge, forming Boston neck, a small land bridge that once connected Boston to the mainland, creating the Shawmut peninsula. The glacier then fully retreats, leaving Boston ice free and open to nomadic paleoindians who begin to frequent the Boston basin

Between 8,000 and 6,500 B.P.:

Around 29 sites are established by Archaic peoples in the Greater Boston area, including on the Boston Harbor islands

Between 3,000 to 500 B.P.:

The number of sites established by Woodland peoples in the Greater Boston area decreases as these indigenous people begin to move to Cape Cod and other low-lying coastal areas

The Woodland peoples who remain in the greater Boston area eventually form the Massachuset tribe who name their village Shawmut

1605:

On July 17, French explorer Samuel de Champlain visits Boston Harbor and the harbor islands

1616-1619:

An epidemic breaks out in the Native-American villages in coastal New England. Shawmut village is hit hard by the epidemic and its population is greatly reduced

1623:

After the Gorges colony fails in Weymouth, colonist Reverend William Blackstone moves to Boston and settles on what is now modern-day Boston Common

1630:

In April, members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, led by John Winthrop, leave their homes in Boston, England and sail from Southampton towards the New World

On June 12, the Winthrop fleet lands in Salem, Mass but the existing colony there doesn’t have enough space for the new colonists so they continue on to Charlestown

Blackstone invites Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony to live on Shawmut peninsula, which is modern-day Boston

Trimount, or Boston as it was, illustration published in Gleason's pictorial, circa 1850
Trimount, or Boston as it was, illustration published in Gleason’s Pictorial, circa 1850

On September 7, the Massachusetts Bay colonists officially name their new settlement Boston

A Puritan burying ground is established on Tremont Street, now known as the King’s Chapel Burying Ground

1632:

Boston is officially named the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

1634:

On September 18, Anne Hutchinson arrives in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settles in Boston where she and her husband build a house on the corner what is now modern-day Washington Street and State Street

The Massachusetts Bay Colony purchases Boston Common from William Blackstone for use as common land

1637:

On November 7, Anne Hutchinson is brought to trial for sedition

1639:

On November 6, the first post office is established in Boston

1640:

The population of Boston is 1,200

1643:

On February 26, the first slaves imported directly from Africa to Massachusetts arrive in Boston

On May 10, Salem Witch Trials victim Samuel Wardwell is born in Boston

1645:

The Boston Latin School opens on School Street

1649:

On March 26, John Winthrop dies of natural causes and is buried in King’s Chapel Burying Ground

1659:

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is established on Hull Street

1660:

On June 1, Mary Dyer is hanged on Boston Common for defying a law banning Quakers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Granary Burying Ground is established on Tremont Street

1663:

On February 12, Cotton Mather is born in Boston

1674:

The first bank in Boston is established

1676:

Boston has 4,000 residents

1682:

On November 28, Salem Witch Trials afflicted girl Betty Parris is born in Boston

1686:

On December 20, Sir Edmund Andros arrives in Boston and takes control of the Dominion of New England

1688:

A small wooden Anglican church, King’s Chapel, is built in a corner of an old Puritan burying ground on Tremont Street

1689:

On April 18, news of the Glorious Revolution in England sparks the Boston Revolt during which the Dominion of New England is overthrown

1690:

On September 25, the first newspaper in the colonies, Publick Occurrences, is published in Boston

1706:

On January 17, Benjamin Franklin is born in Boston

1711:

The Pierce Hitchburn House is built in North Square

1713:

The Old State House is built on Washington Street

1718:

The Old Corner Bookstore is built on the corner of Washington and School Street

1722:

On September 27, Samuel Adams is born in Boston

1723:

The Old North Church is built on Salem Street

1726:

On August 7, politician James Bowdoin is born in Boston

1729:

The Old South Meeting House is built on Washington Street

1730:

Boston has over 13,000 residents

1731:

On March 11, Massachusetts Attorney General Robert Treat Paine is born in Boston

1734:

In late December, Paul Revere is born in Boston

1738:

In July, painter John Singleton Copley is born in Boston

1740:

Peter Faneuil begins construction on Faneuil Hall on Market Street

1741:

On June 11, Joseph Warren is born in Boston

1742:

In September, Faneuil Hall opens on Market Street

1748:

The small wooden King’s Chapel on Tremont Street is replaced with the granite building that still stands there today

1750:

Boston has over 15,000 residents

On July 25, Henry Knox is born in Boston

1754:

The Central Burying Ground is established on Boylston Street

1755:

The city builds a long wharf and a dam across the North Cove, creating a pond the colonists called Mill Pond

1761:

On July 11, Phillis Wheatley is purchased as a slave in Boston

1765:

On August 14, the Stamp Act Riot takes place in Boston

1770:

On February 22, an 11-year-old boy named Christopher Seider is shot and killed by Ebenezer Richardson, a British customs official, during a protest

On March 5, the Boston Massacre takes place on King Street

On March 8, a funeral procession is held for four of the Boston Massacre victims, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell and Samuel Gray, and they are laid to rest in Granary Burying Ground

On March 14, Patrick Carr, dies of his wounds sustained during the Boston Massacre

On March 17, Patrick Carr is laid to rest in Granary Burying Ground with the other Boston Massacre victims

In October and November, the trials of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre are held at the Queen Street Courthouse. The majority of the soldiers are acquitted but two are convicted of manslaughter

Boston and vicinity, map published in A Pictorial School History of the United States, circa 1877
Boston and vicinity, map published in A Pictorial School History of the United States, circa 1877

On December 14, the two British soldiers convicted in the Boston Massacre trial are branded on the thumb with the letter M for manslaughter

Paul Revere purchases a house in the North End of Boston, now known as the Paul Revere House

1773:

On December 16, the Boston Tea Party takes place in Boston harbor

1774:

On March 25, Parliament passes the Boston Port Act which orders Boston Harbor to close, effective June 1, until the colonists pay for the tea they destroyed during the Boston Tea Party

1775:

On April 19, the Siege of Boston begins after the battles of Lexington and Concord take place

On April 22, British General Thomas Gage meets with town officials to work out a deal that would allow civilians to leave or enter Boston during the siege

On May 21, the Battle of Grape Island takes place during the Siege of Boston

On June 17, the Battle of Bunker Hill takes place in Charlestown

On July 8, a skirmish occurs at Boston Neck

On July 21, the Battle of Brewster Island takes place during the Siege of Boston

In August, British troops cut down the Liberty Tree

1776:

On March 17, the Siege of Boston comes to an end

On August 14, a Liberty Pole is erected near the stump of the Liberty Tree to commemorate that Stamp Act Riot of 1765

1781:

On January 14, Abraham Lincoln’s first cousin, once removed, marries Paul Revere’s eldest daughter in Boston

1791:

The Massachusetts Historical Society is founded

On April 27, Samuel Morse is born in Boston

1794:

On April 11, Senator Edward Everett is born in Boston

1795:

On July 4, the Masonic cornerstone ceremony takes place, with Paul Revere presiding, as construction begins on the Massachusetts State House

1798:

Construction on the Massachusetts State House is complete

1800:

The population of Boston is 25,000

In the early 1800s, Mount Vernon is cut down and the soil is used to create the land where Charles street is located along the river

1801:

On November 10, physician Samuel Gridley Howe is born in Boston

1802:

On March 26, Revolutionary War veteran Deborah Sampson performs in Boston

1803:

On May 25, Ralph Waldo Emerson is born in Boston

1806:

The African Meeting House is built on Joy Street

1807:

Construction workers begin cutting down Beacon Hill and Copp’s Hill and use the soil to fill in Mill Pond in what is now the modern-day Bullfinch triangle neighborhood

On August 18, writer Charles Francis Adams Sr is born in Boston

1809:

On January 19, Edgar Allan Poe is born in Boston

1811:

On January 6, Charles Sumner is born in Boston

1813:

On June 1, the Battle of Boston Harbor takes place during the War of 1812

1814:

The Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation build a damn across the Back Bay

1818:

On May 10, Paul Revere dies of natural causes and is buried in Granary Burying Ground in Boston

1819:

St. Paul’s Church is built on Tremont Street

Construction begins on the Leverett Street Jail on Leverett Street

1820:

On September 2, journalist Lucretia Peabody Hale is born in Boston

1822:

The Leverett Street Jail opens on Leverett Street

On March 19, Boston is incorporated as a city

1823:

The Massachusetts General Hospital opens at the Bullfinch Building on Fruit Street

On September 16, historian Francis Parkman is born in Boston

1825:

On August 21 – 24, French commander and Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette visits Boston during his tour of the United States

1826:

On August 26, Quincy Market opens on Market Street

The Union Oyster House opens under its original name Atwood’s Oyster House on Union Street

1828:

Removal of Copp’s Hill and Beacon Hill is completed and Mill Pond is filled in. Only Copp’s Hill Burying ground remains

1829:

On January 24, composer and pianist William Mason is born in Boston

1833:

The city begins cutting down Fort Hill to fill in the wharves on the South Cove, including Griffin’s wharf where the Boston Tea Party took place, in order to build railroads tracks there

1835:

Boston & Lowell Railroad company cuts down Pemberton Hill and fills in tidal flats near Causeway Street to build railroad tracks

On June 11, Spanish pirate Don Pedro Gibert, and four of his crew members, are executed in Boston. Pedro becomes the last pirate executed in Boston

1836:

On February 24, painter Winslow Homer is born in Boston

1837:

Old West Church is built on Cambridge Street

On October 10, Robert Gould Shaw is born in Boston

1838:

On February 16, historian Henry Adams is born in Boston

1841:

On March 8, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr is born in Boston

1842:

The Bunker Hill Monument is established at Monument Square in Charlestown

1845:

The project to cut down Fort Hill and fill in the wharves is completed and adds 300 more acres and 60 percent more land to Boston

On April 16, nurse Mary Eliza Mahoney is born in Boston

1846:

On October 16, a Boston dentist demonstrates ether for the first time at Massachusetts General Hospital

1847:

On February 18, 1847, Bostonians hold a meeting at Faneuil Hall in response to the news of the Irish famine

1848:

Construction of the Charles Street Jail begins on Charles Street

The Boston Public Library is founded

1849:

A new Custom House is built in a new location on State Street

1850:

On August 30, 1850, John Webster is publicly hanged at the Leverett Street Jail for the murder of Dr. George Parkman

1851:

The Charles Street Jail is completed on Charles Street

1854:

On March 20, the Boston Public Library opens in a former school house on Mason Street

On March 31, serial killer Jane Toppan is born in Boston

On May 24, fugitive slave Anthony Burns is captured in Boston

1855:

On October 8, the Parker House Hotel opens on School Street

1856:

On September 3, architect Louis Sullivan is born in Boston

1857:

The city begins filling in the Back Bay by bringing 3,500 railroad cars of gravel from Needham and other areas each day for nearly 50 years

On March 23, culinary expert Fannie Farmer is born in Boston

1858:

The Boston Public Library relocates to a larger building on Boylston Street

1862:

Construction begins on Old City Hall on School Street

1865:

Construction on Old City Hall is completed

1867:

On January 8, social activist Emily Greene Balch is born in Boston

1863:

On April 9, John Wilkes Booth purchases property on Commonwealth Ave in Boston

On July 14, the Boston Draft Riots occur on Prince Street in the North End during the Civil War

1864:

On July 26, John Wilkes Booth meets with his fellow conspirators at the Parker House Hotel to hatch a plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln

1865:

On February 2, Governor Andrew orders a 100 gun salute on Boston Common in celebration of the newly passed 13th amendment

On April 5, John Wilkes Booth arrives in Boston for a short trip during which he is seen at a local firing range practicing his pistol shooting just 10 days before assassinating President Lincoln

On April 17, after being detained in Boston by federal marshals following Lincoln’s assassination, Edwin Booth, brother to John Wilkes Booth, is released and allowed to return to New York City

The West Cove is filled in, adding 203 new acres and 40 percent more land to Boston

1867:

On November 19, Charles Dickens arrives in Boston during a two-year reading tour of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and other stories

1872:

On March 4, the Boston Globe publishes its first edition

On November 9, the Great Boston Fire begins in a warehouse basement on Sumner Street

1873:

Trinity Church is rebuilt on Clarendon Street after it was destroyed during the Great Boston Fire of 1872

City of Boston, chromolithography published by Currier & Ives, circa 1873
City of Boston, chromolithography published by Currier & Ives, circa 1873

Old South Church is built on Boylston Street

1876:

On July 4, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts opens to the public

1880:

On February 27, journalist Angelina Weld Grimke is born in Boston

On April 22, the City of Boston grants the Boston Public Library a plot of land at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets

1882:

The project to fill in the Back Bay is completed after nearly 50 years of construction. The project almost doubles the size of Boston

1885:

On January 5, Boston swears in first Irish-born mayor

1887:

A marker is placed on the corner of State and Exchange Street to mark the exact spot where Cripus Attucks fell during the Boston Massacre

1888:

The Boston Massacre Monument is erected on Boston Common

1889:

Construction begins on the Ames Boston Hotel on Court Street

1891:

The Copley Square Hotel is built in the Back Bay

1893:

The Ames Boston Hotel is completed on Court Street

1893:

North Union Station opens on Causeway Street

1895:

On April 18, workers building the Boston subway discover human remains under Boylston street

The Boston Public Library relocates to its new home on the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets

1897:

On March 4, a gas explosion on Tremont street kills 10 people and causes extensive damage to nearby buildings

On May 31, the Shaw Memorial is unveiled on Boston Common

On September 1, the Boston Subway opens

The Buckminster Hotel is built on Beacon Street

1899:

In March, the newly constructed Massachusetts Historical Society building opens on Boylston Street

1900:

Symphony Hall is built on Massachusetts Avenue

The Lenox Hotel is built on Boylston Street

1901:

On March 17, 1901, Boston celebrates its first Evacuation Day

1903:

On February 23, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opens in Boston

1911:

On February 8, poet Elizabeth Bishop is born in Boston

1912:

On April 20, Fenway Park opens to the public and hosts its first official game

On December 24, one of the first public Christmas trees in America is lit on Boston Common

The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel is built on James Avenue on the original site of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

1917:

On March 1, poet Robert Lowell is born in Boston

1918:

On August 27, the 1918 flu epidemic begins in Boston

1919:

On January 15, the Great Molasses Flood takes place in Boston

The Black Sox Scandal takes place at the Buckminster Hotel

1922:

The first Federal Reserve Ban of Boston is built on Franklin Street

1925:

On June 27, the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston is moved

1926:

On December 9, physicist Henry Way Kendall is born in Boston

1932:

On October 27, Sylvia Plath is born in Boston

Downtown Boston in 1930
Downtown Boston in 1930

1940:

On September 22, the Paul Revere Statue is unveiled in Boston

1962:

On June 14, police find the first victim of the Boston strangler

1984:

On August 8, the 1629 Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is stolen from a display case at the Old Statehouse

1985:

In March, the stolen 1629 Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is found during a drug raid at an apartment in Dorchester

1990:

On March 18, thirteen works of art are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

1991:

In September, construction begins on the Big Dig

2001:

On September 11, two commercial planes take off from Logan Airport and are hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers in New York City during the September 11 terrorist attacks

2002:

On October 4, the newly constructed Leonard P. Zakim bridge is dedicated

2007:

On December 31, construction on the Big Dig is completed

2013:

On April 15, the Boston Marathon Bombing takes place on Boylston Street

Sources:
Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. “Timeline of the American Revolution.” History of Massachusetts Blog, November 10, 2011, historyofmassachusetts.org/timeline-of-the-american-revolution/
Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. “Timeline of the War of 1812.” History of Massachusetts Blog, Jan. 25, 2018, historyofmassachusetts.org/war-of-1812-timeline/
Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. “Massachusetts Bay Colony Timeline.” History of Massachusetts Blog, Dec. 14, 2019, historyofmassachusetts.org/massachusetts-bay-colony-timeline/
“Boston’s Last Pirates.” Boston Public Library, bpl.org/blogs/post/bostons-last-pirates
“History of Faneuil Hall.” Faneuil Hall Marketplace, faneuilhallmarketplace.com/the-history-of-faneuil-hall/
“Union Oyster House History.” Union Oyster House, unionoysterhouse.com/pages/history.html
“1154 Boylston Street in Photographs.” Massachusetts Historical Society, masshist.org/features/online/photographs/1154
“BPL History.” Boston Public Library, bpl.org/bpl-history

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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