Massachusetts Bay Colony Timeline

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The Massachusetts Bay colony was settled by a group of non-Separatist Puritans from England in 1630. The group were members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which was a joint stock trading company that formed in 1628 to trade furs and fish from New England.

Massachusetts Bay became the most successful colony in Massachusetts and later absorbed nearby colonies such as the Province of New Hampshire, the Province of Maine and Plymouth Colony.

The following is a timeline of the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

1498 – John Cabot explores the east coast of North America and claims it for England.

1602 – Bartholomew Gosnold explores the east coast and names Cape Cod.

1614 – Captain John Smith explores and maps the New England coast.

1623 – Gloucester is settled by the Dorchester Company.

1625 – Boston is settled by William Blackstone, a member of Captain Robert Gorge’s 1623 expedition to New England.

1626 – Gloucester is abandoned by the Dorchester Company and the remaining members, led by Roger Conant, relocate to Salem.

1628 – Early in the year, a new group of investors known as the New England Company for a Plantation in Massachusetts Bay is established.

On March 20, the Council for New England issues a land grant to the New England Company for the land between the Charles River and the Merrimack River in Massachusetts.

John Endecott and the New England Company takes over control of Salem, Massachusetts from the members of the Dorchester Company by order of the Council for New England.

The original Massachusetts Bay Colony seal
The original Massachusetts Bay Colony seal

1629 – On February 27, the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is confirmed. The charter changes the name of the New England Company to “the Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.”

On March 4, the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter passed the seals.

On March 18, the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is signed by King Charles I. The charter omits the clause requiring the company to hold its business meetings in England.

On August 28, the Massachusetts Bay Company holds a series of meetings in Cambridge, England to debate whether to move the entire company to New England.

On October 16, the Massachusetts Bay Company votes to move the government and charter to New England.

On October 20, John Winthrop is elected the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1630 – In April, the Massachusetts Bay colonists set sail with a fleet of 11 ships from Southampton for New England. This marks the beginning of the Great Puritan Migration in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

On June 12, the Massachusetts Bay colonists reach the coast of Massachusetts and land at Salem. The existing colony at Salem is unable to accommodate the 700-800 new colonists so the Massachusetts Bay colonists resettle in Charlestown.

In August, the colonists are invited by William Blackstone, the last remaining member of the failed Dorchester colony, to live with him on the Shawmut peninsula, which is now modern day Boston.

In September, the colonists officially name their settlement Boston after Boston, England.

1632 – The colonists officially make Boston the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1634 – William Blackstone sells his 50 acre farm in Boston to the colonists, which they use as a community common now known as Boston Common, and leaves for Rhode Island.

1635 – On October 9, Roger Williams is found guilty of spreading “newe & dangerous opinions” and is banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1636 – In January, Roger Williams flees the Massachusetts Bay Colony for Rhode Island after the Antinomian controversy breaks out.

On September 8, Harvard College is established in Cambridge.

1637 – On November 7, Anne Hutchinson is brought to trial by the Massachusetts Bay Colony for sedition.

1639 – On November 6, the first post office is established in the colony in Boston.

1640 -1642 – The Great Puritan Migration comes to an end after the outbreak of the English Civil War and the establishment of the Long Parliament.

1641 – On December 10, the Massachusetts Bay Colony becomes the first colony to legalize slavery.

1642 – Gloucester is taken over by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony passes a law requiring that children be taught “to read & understand the principles of religion & the capitall lawes of this country.”

1643 – The colony joins the New England Confederation.

1647 – The legislature passes a law requiring that all towns establish and maintain public schools.

1648 – The colony tries and executes an accused witch, Margaret Jones, for the first time.

1652 – A mint is established in the colony, despite the fact that it is illegal and violates the terms of the charter.

1659 – On May 11, the Massachusetts Bay Colony legislature bans Christmas.

1665 – King Charles II sends a royal commission to New England to investigate violations of the Navigation Acts. The commission discovers the illegal mint and orders it to shut down. The Massachusetts General Court refuses.

1675 – King Philip’s War breaks out in Massachusetts and Rhode Island which devastates the colony’s economy and destroys 1,200 homes and 12 settlements. King Charles II establishes the Lords of Trade to help regulate trade in the colonies.

1676 – In June, the Lords of Trade send a courtier named Edward Randolph to New England to request that Massachusetts send two representatives to London to discuss claims on its land by proprietors in Maine and New Hampshire.

In September, Randolph travels the New England colonies looking for violations of the charter’s terms. He writes a lengthy report detailing many violations, including the illegal mint and various colonial laws the contradict English laws.

1677 – In May, Randolph writes a brief report to the Committee of Foreign Affairs listing eight accusations against the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In July, the Lords of Trade launch a formal investigation into Randolph’s charges and decide that Massachusetts can keep the mint and their charter if they apologize to the king, use the king’s image on their coins and begin to administer oaths of allegiance to the king in the colony. The Massachusetts agents agree to the terms but the Massachusetts General Court refuses.

1679 – Randolph is sent to the colony as a full-time tax collector and customs official.

1681 – The ban on Christmas is repealed.

In April, Randolph sends a letter to the king informing him of continued violations of the charter in Massachusetts and requests a writ of Quo warranto be issued.

In October, the colony receives a letter from the king that lists the colony’s many violations, requests two new agents be sent to London and states that a writ of Quo warranto will be issued against the charter.

1682 – In August, two Massachusetts agents arrive in London but without authority to revise the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter.

1683 – In March, the Lords of Trade ask the Massachusetts General Court to grant the agents the authority to revise the charter. The General Court refuses.

In June, Randolph submits a petition to the Lords of Trade accusing Massachusetts of 17 acts of high misdemeanor, with the illegal mint being the first among them. They issue a writ of Quo warranto against the charter but King Charles II informs Massachusetts that the charter might survive if the Crown were invited to revise it.

In December, the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court votes to reject King Charles’s proposal.

1684 – In April, a writ of Scire facias is issued against the Massachusetts Bay Company but representatives from Massachusetts do not appear in court at the appointed time.

In June, another writ of Scire facias is issued and requires the colony to respond within six weeks, even though it takes longer than six weeks for the writ to reach them. A judgment is made by Court of Chancery against Massachusetts but it is set aside until the agents can appear and enter a plea.

In either September or October, the Massachusetts agents appear in the Court of Chancery but refuse to enter a plea.

In October, the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is revoked.

1686 – The Dominion of New England is established and the colony is forced to merge with the other New England colonies into one single royal colony.

1688 – King William’s War breaks out between England and France.

1689 – On April 18, the Boston Revolt takes place during which Dominion of New England is overthrown.

1690 – The first newspaper, Publick Occurrences: Both Foreign and Domestick, is established in the colony.

1691 – A new charter is issued and the colony is converted into a royal colony known as the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

1692 – The Salem Witch Trials begin in Salem Village. A total of 19 people are hanged, one person is pressed to death and five others die in jail.

1693 – The Salem Witch Trials come to an end.

1699 – King William’s War comes to an end.

1702 – Queen Anne’s War breaks out between England and France.

1713 – Queen Anne’s War comes to an end.

1744 – King George’s War breaks out between England and France.

1748 – King George’s War comes to an end.

1763 – The American Revolution begins.

1775 – On April 19, the Shot Heard Round the World takes place in Concord, Massachusetts, which marks the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

1775 – On April 19, the Siege of Boston takes place.

1776 – On March 17, the Siege of Boston ends and the British troops evacuate from Boston.

1780 – Massachusetts officially becomes a state.

1783 – On September 7, the Revolutionary War comes to an end when the Treaty of Paris is signed.

Sources:
Winthrop, John. Winthrop’s Journal “History of New England,” 1630- 1649. Vol I, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908.
Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Vol. I 1628-1641, William White, 1853, archive.org/details/recordsofgoverno01mass/page/n7
Moe, Barbara. The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: A Primary Source Investigation into the 1629 Charter. Rosen Publishing Group, 2003.
“Massachusetts City and Towns Incorporation and Settlement Dates.” Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cisctlist/ctlistalph.htm
“Brief History with Timeline.” Chelmsfordgov.com, www.chelmsfordgov.com/CHCwebsite/PDF_files/Brief_History_with_Timeline.pdf
“Dedham’s History.” Town of Dedham, www.dedham-ma.gov/services/dedham-historical-society
Karr, Ronald Dale. “The Missing Clause: Myth and the Massachusetts Bay Charter of 1629.” The New England Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 1, 2004, pp. 89–107. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1559688.
“Explorers and Settlers.” National Park Service, www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/explorers/intro24.htm

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer 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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