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NEW ENGLAND – History

New England is the area north of New York, encompassing the States of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. It is here in New England that you will find the famous city of Boston, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Providence and Newport, Rhode Island and Bar Harbor in Maine – and no doubt you have heard these names in films, the news, in books and other ways over the years.


The whole area is also famous for its Fall between September and mid-October – when the Autumn leaves change color, creating a spectacular display of red, gold, yellow and orange leaves, and almost equally famous is the Lobster Bisque and other seafood that you find along the coastal towns.


Welcome to New England!

A little History –

Spain can claim to be the first European Colonial Power to establish a settlement or colony in North America, this being San Miguel de Gualdape, Georgia in 1526, but it only lasted a year, so St Augustine, Florida claims the title as the ‘First Settlement in the United States’, given that it has been continuously settled since that year. (See Florida History on this website). The French too established a settlement at Charlesbourg-Royal in Canada in 1541, but it too only lasted until 1543, though Port Royal was established by the French in 1605 in Nova Scotia (Acadia), but it was then destroyed by the British in 1613, and the Arcadians were forced to flee. (See History of New Orleans on this website).

The first British Colony in the United States was at Roanoke Island (North Carolina) in 1584, but it also didn’t survive and after a struggle it was Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 that became the first successful British Settlement in the United States, with Tobacco becoming the crop to enable it to prosper and survive.

While many 100’s of Native American tribes lived in all areas of the United States, the Colonial Powers took the view that they had the right of God, their King, Queen or Government to claim ownership over the land that they found, and by raising their Country’s flag, making a short speech, thanking God and documenting the occasion, that they could claim sovereignty over land, even from “Sea to Sea” (Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific), or as far as the eye could see including all riches whether known or unknown. ( For interest – google the story of the Hudson Bay Company in Canada.)

The Native American Tribes were simply viewed as ‘murderous heathen savages’, with no rights. The Native Americans certainly fought back and the whole history of the conflicts, massacres, wars and battles between Native American Tribes and the newly arriving European settlers is one full of both sadness and bloodshed. There was also the silent killer – Diseases to which the Native Americans had no resistance.

These were very tough times, and it was a battle for survival for both Native Americans but also for settlers too.

It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to leave Plymouth in England behind on September 6th, 1620 and sail with 102 passengers on board and a crew of around 30 sailors on the 100 foot long Square rigged sailing ship called the ‘Mayflower’ to spend 66 days at sea, then to arrive on November 9th on the coastline of a strange new world, to be called New England.

Two months at sea, sea sickness, one of your fellow passengers dying at sea just before reaching land, cramped conditions, and an unknown future in a foreign land, with a cold winter weather about to take hold. This was a journey that only the bravest or most desperate of people would undertake, or those people who put all their trust in God to look after them. So it was that the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ arrived in the New World to establish a new settlement in what they named as Provincetown, and then moving a little way further on to Plymouth, named after the Port in England, from which they has departed in September. By the end of December, a further four of their fellow passengers would also die.

In New England the average temperature in November is 38⁰ F (3⁰C) but in December it goes down to 25⁰F (-4⁰C) and in January and February it is even colder.

Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying that “One of the brightest gems in New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is only one thing certain about it, you are certain there will be plenty of weather”. Wind, Rain, snow, freezing temperatures – they are all here, and the thought that seeds of crops might grow, or animals, chickens and people survive in the middle of winter would have been a forlorn hope. Trying to build shelter and stay warm would equally have been a daunting task, but with the help and food of the Wampanoag Tribe, whose land they settled on the ‘Pilgrims’ survived, and over coming years, more ships and English settlers would follow.

In 1630 eleven ships set sail from England bound for Massachusetts Bay (today’s Boston) with a religious group calling themselves “Puritans”, intent on creating a new Society, a “model of Christian Charity”. There were the first new settlers to arrive in Boston, numbering around 1000 people. This was the start of the ‘Great Migration’.

The New England area now has close to 400 years of settlement and the cities, towns, villages and countryside still retain much of its English character and Heritage, what has become recognized as Classic American architecture and style. To the north of New England are the French Canadian cities in Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada where the French language is spoken, and in southern and western parts of the United States, there is strong Spanish influence, but here in New England, the overwhelming influence on life has been English, although it was here also that the seeds of the American Revolution began too, when the American child, that was now a teenager rebelled against the English ‘motherland’.

In the 1600’s, the British established 13 colonies in North America – Virginia in 1607, the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ Plymouth Colony in 1620 and, New Hampshire in 1623, Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, Maryland 1634, Connecticut 1635, Rhode Island 1636, Delaware 1638, North Carolina 1653, South Carolina 1663, New Jersey 1664, New York 1664, Pennsylvania 1682 and Georgia 1732.

The British viewed their colonies as their possessions, their purpose being to deliver wealth through trade to Britain. The cost of running colonies was huge, and when wars were involved the costs were even greater. By taxing the colonies, where possible monopolising a trade, and using British Law to impose restrictions on goods that might compete with British made goods, they could ensure that any wealth that was accumulated stayed under British control.

On December 16, 1773 an American owned ship carrying British East India Company tea from India was in Boston Harbor, when a small party of Americans, calling themselves the ‘Sons of Liberty’, but disguised as Native Americans, raided the ship and threw the tea overboard, proclaiming that there should be no taxation without representation. This act of defiance became known as the ‘Boston Tea Party’, and the British immediately retaliated by closing Boston Port and placing the city under Military Rule. Tensions simmered and then became outright battles and war between the British and American colonists, who became known as the Patriots. There were of course those who remained ‘Royalists’, but in the end, the four yearlong Revolutionary Wars (1763-1787) led to the United States Declaration of Independence, signed on the 4th of July, 1776. It would take until September 3rd, 1783 for the ‘Treaty of Paris’ to be signed for the Revolutionary Wars to officially end, with the American Constitution adopted in 1787.

The New England region continued to prosper during the 1700’s and 1800’s with a strong conservative Family and Christian work ethic, strong belief in education, anti-slavery advocacy and fishing, agriculture, manufacturing, trade and commerce establishing a New England society that believed that with hard work, everyone could succeed in achieving the ‘American Dream’. Harvard College had been established in 1636, a college that would rival Oxford and Cambridge Universities in reputation and eminence, and Yale University began in 1701 and in many ways New England became a competitor to England itself. The rich American Industrialist and the word ‘Tycoon’ exemplified by tycoons like J.P Morgan, born in Hartford, Connecticut (1837-1913) who showed the way, and some of the big old mansions are testament to some of that wealth.

There are many names of famous people associated with New England from Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, to Paul Revere, from Benjamin Franklin to the Kennedy family who put Martha’s Vineyard on the map.

One of the great things about America is the diversity of regions and way of life. New England is vastly different to Montana, New Orleans, Chicago, Texas, California and other regions, but it too has changed with the advent of cars, shopping centers, expressways and communication changes. While agriculture, shipping and industrial businesses may have declined in importance, new industries have emerged in education, Technology, health, finance, food, holiday accommodation and Tourism, but the whole of New England still retains its character with a strong regard for its heritage, culture and history.

There’s a lot to see here. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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