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Massachusetts State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1498—English explorer John Cabot sails along Massachusetts coast

1620—Pilgrims built the Plymouth Colony

1630—Puritans founded Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston

1635—Harvard, the nation’s first college, is founded

1676—The end of King Philip’s War

1691—Both colonies in Massachusetts are united under England

1692—Witchcraft trials held in Salem

1770—The Boston Massacre

1773—The Boston Tea Party

1775—Battles at Lexington and Concord start the Revolutionary War

1780—The Massachusetts Constitution if adopted

1788—Massachusetts becomes the 6th state

1815—Francis Lowell opens the first textile mill in Waltham

1876—Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone

1912—Textile workers go on strike in Lawrence

1959—The first nuclear surface ship, Long Beach, is launched at Quincy

1974—Federal court orders the integration of Boston public schools

When Europeans first explored Massachusetts, about 30,000 Indians from the Algonquian tribes lived in the area.  When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, many had already died of diseases brought to America from the Europeans.  Only 7,000 Native Americans remained in Massachusetts at that time.

Englishman John Cabot sighted the coast of Massachusetts in 1498.  In 1605, Samuel de Champlain charted maps of the New England coastline.  John Smith sailed up the coast of Massachusetts in 1614.

Two main groups came to America in search of religious freedom.  In December of 1620, Pilgrims sailed across Cape Cod Bay and settled Plymouth Colony.  They suffered greatly their first winter and about half the settlers died.  The following year, the Indians taught them how to plant corn and beans.  When winter came they had enough food, and better shelter.  The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 and gave thanks to God for delivering them from hardship.  Many Pilgrims continued to come in following years.

The second group, the Puritans led by John Winthrop, founded Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston in 1630.  This group established political freedom in 1641 with a document called The Body of Liberties.  They allowed only their religious beliefs into the colony.

In 1662, King Philip became chief of the Wampanoag Indian tribe when his father died.  He feared the white settlers would overtake Indian land.  To protect his people, in 1675 King Philip’s War began.  Hundreds of people died as settlements and villages were burned.  Colonists killed King Philip in 1676 and ended the war.

The French and Indian Wars (1689-1763) brought continued battles on the north and west boundaries of Massachusetts.  A peace treaty was signed in the Netherlands in 1713, which allowed considerable growth in the central and western areas of Massachusetts.  However, wars broke out again in 1740 until victory for Britain in 1763.

To pay for the wars, Britain placed heavy taxes upon the colonists.  The Stamp Act of 1765 led to the phrase “no taxation without representation.”  British soldiers stationed in Boston killed several colonists while fighting a mob.  This became known as the Boston Massacre.  The Boston Tea Party in 1773 brought more punishment upon the colonists, but this only unified them.  On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode across Massachusetts to warn that the British were coming.  The next day, colonists fought the opening battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington.

Much of the early fighting took place in Massachusetts.  During March of 1776, Washington drove the British out of Boston with the first major American victory in the war.  Most of the fighting then moved south.

Massachusetts ratified the Constitution and became the 6th state of the Union on Feb. 6, 1788.  They insisted on an amendment of individual rights.  The Bill of Rights went into effect in 1791.

With France and Britain at war, President Thomas Jefferson passed the Embargo Act in 1807.  This stopped all exports to other countries and forced manufacturing within the United States.  The first textile mill in the nation was built in 1814 in Waltham.  By 1860, Massachusetts led the nation in production of textiles and shoes.

Many people in Massachusetts led the antislavery movement in the 1830s.  The New England Anti-Slavery Society in Boston helped slaves to escape to Canada.  Strong support was given to the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865); over 145,000 people served from Massachusetts.

After the war, the textile industry grew and other industries expanded.  Many immigrants came to work in factories with poor working conditions.  In 1912, workers in Lawrence went on a strike that brought national attention.  Working conditions improved after that.

After World War I, many companies moved south from the state.  The Great Depression caused many to lose jobs.  By 1931, less than half of all workers in Massachusetts had full-time jobs.  World War II brought change to the economy in 1939.  Hug quantities of war materials were produced in the state’s factories.  Industries changed to research and electrical equipment production.  In 1960, a nuclear power plant started operating in Rowe.

Massachusetts’ economy has been improving steadily since the 1970s.  Textile production has gone down, but high-technology industries are expanding.  The state is one of the top leaders in the nation for military research, education, banking, government assistance and medical care.  Tourism is also expanding.

Today, leaders are striving to improve air and water pollution, housing shortages, and racial issues.