A Timeline of Colonial America

By Tim Lambert

1585 Walter Raleigh attempts to fund a colony in Virginia. An expedition is led by Richard Grenville.

1586 The colony is abandoned

1587 John White leads another attempt to establish a colony in Virginia. However the colonists mysteriously disappear.

17th Century America

1607 The Virginia Company founds a colony at Jamestown.

1612 John Rolfe begins growing tobacco in Virginia.

1619 The first representative government in North America is created when the House of Burgesses meets. The first slaves arrive in Virginia.

1620 Fleeing religious persecution a group of settlers lands in New England.

1623 The first settlers land in New Hampshire.

1624 The Dutch found a colony they call New Netherland.

1634 Maryland is founded as a haven for Catholics (though not all settlers are Catholic).

1636 The first settlers land in Rhode Island.

1637-38 Pequot War end in destruction of Pequot tribe.

1638 The Swedes found a colony at Fort Christina. (Present day Wilmington).

1647 Alice Young from Windsor, Connecticut is hanged for witchcraft. She is the first person in America to be executed for witchcraft.

1655 The Dutch capture the Swedish colony and make it part of New Netherland.


The first navigation act states that certain goods from the colonies can only be exported to England or to other colonies, not to foreign countries.

1662 Three people are executed at Hartford Connecticut for witchcraft.

1664 The British capture New Netherland from the Dutch and rename it New York.

1670 Charleston, South Carolina is founded

1670, 1673 Further navigation acts are passed.

1679 New Hampshire is made a colony in its own right, separate from Massachusetts.

A Frenchman, De la Salle explores the Great Lakes

1680 The Portuguese found a colony at Sacramento

1681 A Quaker named William Penn founds Pennsylvania. (He names it after his father).

1682 Penn obtains the territory that is now Delaware.

De la Salle claims Louisiana for France.

1692 A witch hunt takes place in Salem.

18th Century America

1700 The population of the North American colonies is around 300,000.

1701 North and South Carolina are separated.

Yale College is founded

1704 Delaware is permitted its own assembly.

1706 In Virginia Grace Sherwood is convicted of witchcraft and jailed for 8 years.

1718 The French found New Orleans.

1732 Georgia is founded.


Benjamin Franklin invents a type of stove.

Coal is discovered in West Virginia.

1746 Princeton is founded.

1750 Thomas Walker discovers the Cumberland Gap.

1752 Benjamin Franklin invents the lightning conductor

1756-1763 The Seven Years War between Britain and France. Britain takes Canada.

1760 The population of the North American colonies has risen to about 1 million.

1763 A royal proclamation called the Great Proclamation bans any further westward advancement. (The British hope to avoid expensive wars with the natives).

1764 The Sugar Act is passed by the British parliament. Duty on molasses from the West Indies is actually reduced but the British make vigorous efforts to stop smuggling and collect all the duty. This causes resentment among Americans.

The Currency Act is passed by the British parliament. It bans American colonies from printing their own money, so restricting trade and causing further resentment.

1765 The Stamp Act imposes tax on legal documents, newspapers and playing cards. This infuriates the Americans who protest and boycott British merchants.

1766 The British repeal the Stamp Act but they pass the Declaratory Act which states that the British parliament is sovereign over all American colonies. This aggravates the Americans.

1767 The British impose duties on lead, glass, paint, oil and tea. The Americans are infuriated and boycott British goods.

1768 The first recorded strike in America by tailors in New York.


The British are forced to back down and by March 1770 the only duty remains on tea. However in Boston on 5 March 1770 some people throw snowballs at British soldiers. The soldiers open fire killing 5 people and wounding 6. This became known as the Boston Massacre. Of the 8 soldiers put on trial 6 are acquitted, two are convicted of manslaughter and branded on the thumb. Their lenient treatment infuriates the Americans.

1773 The ‘Boston Tea Party’. The British East India Company sends 3 shiploads of tea to Boston. On 16 December men dressed as Indians board the ship and dump the tea in the sea.

1774 The British parliament passes the Coercive or Intolerable Acts. The port of Boston is closed. The seat of government of the colony is moved to Salem. The charter of Massachusetts is changed to give the royal governor more power.

In September a Continental Congress meets. It demands repeal of the Coercive Acts and an end to British interference in American affairs.


On 5 February the British declare that the state of Massachusetts is in a state of rebellion.

On 19 April fighting begins when British soldiers try to seize a colonial arms dump near Concord.

In May another Continental Congress meets and agrees to raise an army. George Washington is made its leader.

In August George III declares that all the American colonies are in a state of rebellion


In May Congress decides that royal government should end and government should be ‘under the authority of the people’. Colonies draw up state constitutions to replace their charters.

On 4 July the Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Continental Congress.

Liberty Bell