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Massachusetts

Map of Massachusetts
Locator Map of Massachusetts

The original inhabitants of Massachusetts (Algonquian Indians) would eventually perish from diseases brought to this land by European explorers in the late 16th century, and from the brutalities of colonial expansion across their ancestral homelands.


mayflower In 1620, a religious group from England known as the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower, landing near Provincetown. They soon relocated across Cape Cod Bay, naming their settlement Plymouth, and the story of a new nation was born.

This group of breakaways from the Church of England were determined to succeed, and in the fall of 1621, along with their new American Indian friends - celebrated the first American Thanksgiving. Only half of the Plymouth Colony survived their first year in this harsh new land.

Other European groups seeking individual religious freedoms crossed the Atlantic Ocean, including the Quakers and Puritans. The Puritans founded the much-larger Massachusetts Bay Colony, with Boston at its heart.

Within this mix of competing beliefs and cultures, racial and social prejudices soon surfaced and for almost 50 years bitter tensions between rival religious groups continued. Controversial witch trials were held and some people were prosecuted and hanged. And worse, wars with the indigenous Indians raged until most were annihilated.

In 1692 the Royal Colony of Massachusetts Bay was formed and a semblance of order was restored. Administered by a royal governor, this collaboration of small towns and religious factions, also included the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, the Province of Maine and what is now Nova Scotia.

A new found prosperity soon swept across Massachusetts, businesses opened, settlements sprang up almost overnight, and sailing ships carried tons of local products to port cities in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. The economy was booming and the British, seeing a financial opportunity, imposed unpopular taxes on its growing colony. A costly and fatal error in judgement.

The winds of change echoed across the American colonies in the early 1770s, and Massachusetts became a leader in resisting British oppression. John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were the leaders of the revolutionary activity, and their loud cry's for independence from England were both assertive and bold.

The American Revolution, or American War of Independence (in essence) began in Massachusetts. The Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Bunker Hill, Concord and Lexington are etched into the history books of that great struggle.

1776 flag On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was proudly signed in Philadelphia. The first to sign that document was Massachusetts resident and President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock.

Throughout the bloody Revolutionary War, the British utilized their naval superiority to capture and occupy coastal cities, but control of the rural areas (where most of the population lived) proved daunting, and difficult.

After a series of inspiring American victories, France signed treaties with America in 1778, and declared war on Britain, its longtime enemy. The French naval involvement proved decisive, as the British army finally surrendered at Yorktown in 1781.

Victory in war was costly for Massachusetts, especially in manpower. In addition, its economy was near collapse as long-established trade with Britain was now over. Regardless, the newly-freed colonists struggled onward; the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified, slavery was outlawed and religious persecutions ended.

Massachusetts joined the Union on February 6, 1788, becoming the sixth state to ratify the new United States Constitution. It ratified that Constitution only on the condition that certain amendments concerning individual rights be added.

In the early 1800's economic growth accelerated once again. Port cities (large and small) boomed as Massachusetts became a national and world leader in tool manufacturing, textiles and productive farming techniques. Railroads, country roads and innovative canals continually drove that momentum to the marketplace.

Irish immigrants arrived in the 1840's, and the workforce population exploded. Boston surged into the spotlight as New England's transportation hub, and as a national leader in university education, finance, law, medicine and publishing.

abe lincoln As a hotbed of abolitionist activities (a political movement that sought to end the practice of slavery) Massachusetts was among the first states to respond to President Lincoln's call for troops during America's Civil War (1861-1865). It also supplied ammunition, guns, shoes and other necessities for the war effort.

At the turn of the 20th century, Boston was America's second most important port and the state had a strong industrial economy. Then the Great Depression of the 1930's reared its ugly head, proving financially disastrous across Massachusetts, and all of America. Its two main industries (shoes and textiles) all but collapsed as many manufacturers, attracted by lower labor costs, built new mills in the south.

jfk World War II literally revived the state's economy as it was transformed from a manufacturing hub into a high-tech and service industry center. In 1960, John F Kennedy, the junior senator from Massachusetts was elected the country's 35th President, and the state was once again in the international spotlight.

In summary, Massachusetts is both an idyllic and majestic slice of land, and a major contributor to the culture and economic history of the world. The first American college, library, newspaper, printing press and public park were established here, and it's the home state of four American Presidents.

From the fishing village of Gloucester to the tip of Cape Cod, and from the seaport culture of Boston - across the state to its western border, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the cornerstone of America.

"I shall enter on no encomium upon Massachusetts; she needs none. There she is. Behold her, and judge for yourselves. There is her history; the world knows it by heart. The past, at least, is secure. There is Boston and Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill; and there they will remain forever."
Daniel Webster, 1830

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