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Identify some of the major leaders and groups responsible for the founding of the original colonies in North America.
Topics on the Page
Lost Colony of Roanoke
B. Lord Baltimore in Maryland
C. William Penn in Pennsylvania
D. John Smith in Virginia
Virtual Jamestown and the Jamestown Colony
Important Person Page on
E. Roger Williams in Rhode Island
See also Anne Hutchinson
F. John Winthrop in Massachusetts
For a Massachusetts-based lesson plan, see
Lord Jeffrey Amherst and SmallPox Blankets
New England Colonies
North & South Carolina
to view an interactive timeline of the 13 original colonies
The Thirteen American Colonies
provides an easy-to-read overview with definitions of key terms from English-Online.
examines life in 1628 in colonial America; this site is from the PBS Experiential History series on houses in American history.
The Secret in the Cellar: A Written in Bone Forensic Mystery from Colonial America
, a web comic from the Smithsonian that allows students to act as forensic anthropologists who seek to discover the reasons for the death of a 17th-century skeleton. The game offers a window into the nature of daily life in colonial America.
for a "Pilgrim Rap" from Horrible Histories.
Crash Course video
about the colonial period, specifically how states were established.
for an NPR audio-clip on the legacy of the long march of the Navajo Indians.
Religion in Colonial America
from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Image shows a US stamp,1937, honoring Virginia Dare, 1st child born in an English colony in North America.
Lost Colony of Roanoke
Historical Background on the Lost Colony of Roanoke
The Colony at Roanoke
account by Ralph Lane, 1586
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site: History and Culture
from the National Park Service. For added historical perspective, see
The Freedmen's Colony on Roanoke Island
where African Americans gained freedom during the Civil War.
Have We Found the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island?
from National Geographic (December 2013).
has games for students to learn about the background of colonial America. This website has flashcards to definitions, quizzes, hangman, and other games to help students learn this material in a new way (10).
Major Leaders of North American Colonies
(aka George Calvert) In Maryland
was a revolutionary in the fact that he was the first to dream of a colony in America where Catholics and Protestants could live and work together.
He was born in Yorkshire, England and studied at Trinity College at Oxford. In 1625, Calvert announced to James I that he had become a Catholic, and therefore had to resign. However, King James, I liked Calvert intensely and decided to give him another title.
Sir George Calvert then became the First Baron of Baltimore, a town on the southern coast of Ireland. Now that Lord Baltimore had money, he could invest in his dream about the exploration of the New World.
He wanted to help create English colonies in America, so he invested money in both the New England and Virginia companies. Eventually, he drew a map for King Charles I, showing a territory that he wanted just north of the colony of Virginia, in present-day Maryland.
George Calvert died in 1632, just before he was able to establish a charter for his new colony, named Maryland. Calvert’s eldest son, Cecil, the Second Lord Baltimore, helped to bring his father’s dream colony to life.
to watch a video about the Maryland Act of Tolerance which guaranteed religious freedom to both Protestants and Catholics.George Calvert,
Lord Baltimore wanted to create a place for Catholics to be given the same religious freedom as the Puritans did when they established their own colony but died before this became a reality. Lord Baltimore gave his charter his son, Cecil Calvert.
This colony was established in 1634 on the northern bank of the Potomac River, which gave the colony fertile land
The greatest attraction to this colony was religious tolerance and all Christians were welcome
Read this article
to learn more about Maryland's establishment and Lord Baltimore (6)
William Penn was born on October 24, 1644. His father was an English admiral, Sir William Penn.
Young William grew up during a turbulent time of revolution. For a short time, he was a soldier and so successful a one that he thought of making a career in the army. But, seeing the effects of violence and persecution first hand, he began to dream of a society in which war would have no place, and in which a man might freely worship according to his own conscience.
He joined the Quakers, who were pacifists, and threw his energies with theirs into political battles for freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right to trial by jury.
In 1681, the time came for William Penn to make his dreams come true. King Charles II gave Penn a huge tract of land in North America and named it, in honor of the Admiral, Pennsylvania. Here he would set up a society of Quakers where he could practice his beliefs freely.
Penn gave freedom of religious worship to the settlers. This attracted Quakers that were facing persecution in Britain but also settlers from other countries, such as German Quakers, English and Irish Catholics, Lutherans from Catholic German states, German Mennonites, Swiss Amish, and French Huguenots.
Penn wanted Native Americans and European settlers to work together
Pennsylvania was an experiment in a more democratic form of government that was usually seen in Europe at this time. Pennsylvania's first constitution was entitled the "Frame of Government" to give settlers more power in the government and divided the government into three parts to prevent corruption
Read this article
to learn more about how William Penn governed his colony and his commitment to democracy and religious tolerance (7).
William Penn also made up his own form of government for Pennsylvania, which later was supplanted, but still impressive
Frame of Government of Pennsylvania
For more, see
Our First Friends, The Early Quakers
from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. See also,
The Quakers of the Middle Colonies
from Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, PA.
to read about Quaker activism for both women's right and the abolition of slavery.
Jamestown was settled in 1607 by a group colonists led by Captain
. Smith and the Jamestown colonists were seeking gold and silver under directions from their sponsors, the Virginia Company of London. They also hoped to find the Northwest Passage, a route across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean and China. Born in 1580 in Willoughby, England, John Smith left home at age 16 after his father died.
His American adventures began at this time. Apparently unsettled in England, Smith became actively involved with the Virginia Company and their plans to colonize Virginia.
The expedition, composed of three main ships, set sail in December 1606, and finally reached Virginia in April 1607, after withstanding a lengthy voyage of over four months. Smith was chosen to govern the colony when they landed. On May 13, 1607, the settlers landed at Jamestown ready to begin the task of surviving in a new environment.
The harsh winter, lack of fresh water, and the spread of diseases made life in Jamestown difficult for most of the settlers. Attacks by the native Indians made life extremely difficult. The natives, hoping that the settlers would leave, raided their camps, stealing pistols, gunpowder and other necessary supplies for survival in a harsh environment.
John Smith became the leader of the colonists and tried to keep the colony afloat. Eventually, Smith was injured in a gunpowder accident and was forced to return to England, never to return to Virginia again.
John Smith was more open-minded and tolerant of the Native Americans than many other British colonists
John Smith learned the language of the Native Americans and was able to communicate and negotiate with them without the help of an interpreter
John Smith was captured by Powhatan, the chief of many tribes in that area, but was later able to make negotiations with him that allowed Jamestown to thrive. However, Powhatan and the settlers' alliance did dissolve by the time John Smith left Virginia
describes John Smith's relationship with Native Americans and has suggestions for open-ended questions to ask students (7).
Smith kept a ledger documenting life in early colonial Jamestown and it can be viewed
See Important Historical Person Page on
are excerpts from
Virginia Women: The First Two Hundred Years
by Anne Firor Scott and Suzane Lebsock
Virtual Jamestown and the Jamestown Colony
Click on the following link for
interactive material on Jamestown
, including 3D representations of a native village and colonial fort plus interactive maps on John Smith's voyages.
is an interactive book for the iPad from iTunes.
about remnants from the lost library of Jamestown.
"Loading a Cargo of Tobacco" 1910
Jamestown, New Research
National Geographic Magazine
Charles Mann has summarized new research on the impact that European settlers had on native peoples
The Jamestown Colony is known for two important historical developments:
English America's first representative government
First English colony to use captured Africans as slaves
Moreover, notes Charles Mann, "the colonists did not come to the Americas alone. Instead, they were accompanied by a great parade of insects, plants, mammals, and microorganisms" (National Geographic, May 2007, p. 37). In addition, the English settlers "replaced or degraded so much of the native ecosystem that they made it harder and harder for the Indians to survive in their native lands" (p. 44). The great impact came from the roles played by tobacco, honeybees, and domestic animals, each of which fundamentally changed the ecological balance of native life.
is credited with expanding the tobacco trade and transforming the economy of the Virginia colony.
from the National Park Service site on Historic Jamestown.
For more, see
Rolfe's Tobacco Crop Launched a Country
from the Henrico Citizen newspaper, December 19, 2011.
Burning of Jamestown during Bacon's Rebellion (1676)
For more, see
Bacon's Rebellion from the National Park Service
by Nathaniel Bacon
Bacon's Rebellion and the Defeat of the Saponi Tribes at Occoneechee Island
in Rhode Island
was born in London around 1603. He entered Pembroke College at Cambridge University from where he graduated in 1627. Soon after, he left Cambridge and became Chaplain to a wealthy family. As time went on he was becoming a controversial figure because of his ideas on freedom of worship. In 1630, ten years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Roger thought it best to leave England.
He arrived at Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where he became at odds with the structured Puritans. When he was about to be deported back to England, Roger fled southwest out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was befriended by local Indians. Roger purchased land from these Indians and named his settlement Providence in thanks to God. He is credited with the
founding of the Rhode Island colony
Roger Williams is an interesting figure because he did not simply take land from the Native Americans. The following primary source shows how his ideals differed from others at the time:
Roger Williams, from The Bloody Tenent of Persecution (1644)
Read how Roger Williams gave us Thanksgiving as we know it
from the Boston Globe.
Read about Roger Williams's relationship with the local Indian tribes
from the Smithsonian Magazine.
Check out these
on Roger Williams from the National Park Services.
was born in Alford, England in 1591. Living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony under John Winthrop she was banished to Rhode Island in 1638 on charges of blasphemy and sedition. These charges were brought up because of her questioning puritanical teachings. She argued that it contradictory to teach salvation being dependent on both and individuals good works and divine grace. The Puritan response was to claim that good works are the only evidence of salvation
rather than the grounds of salvation.
for a transcript of the trial.
for a video on the trial of Anne Hutchinson.
For more on the Pilgrims and Puritans,
see Grade 3.4
There is an important historical distinction between the Pilgrims (religious separatists who arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 intending to make a complete break with the Church of England) and Puritans (religious reformers who wanted to improve the Church by taking away unneeded features).
Everything You Never Learned in School about the Mayflower
, WGBH News (August 7, 2015).
was born in Suffolk, England in 1588.
Educated at Cambridge University he practiced law in London but was persecuted for his Puritan religious practices and beliefs. Winthrop views did not coincide with traditional Catholicism.
He also believed that the government was too tolerant towards those who were guilty of adultery, drunkenness, and breaching the Sabbath.
Winthrop was given a charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and arrived with seven hundred settlers in 1630.
He served as governor of Massachusetts for at least 12 terms and was considered to be a good leader.
Winthrop was the man who banished Roger Williams from the colony.
In 1645 Winthrop became the first president of the Confederation of New England.
“History of New England”
was published after his death in 1649.
A Puritan, John Winthrop is known for his sermon "
A Model of Christian Charity
" (also known as the City on the Hill sermon).
John Winthrop describes life in Boston, 1634
from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
with an excerpt of Winthrop's defense of taking Native American land with accompanying discussion questions.
from the Boston Globe detailing how Winthrop kept Native Americans as slaves.
shows that Winthrop wanted all of the free people of the Massachusetts Bay Province to participate in the government. Winthrop created local self-governments in the towns of this colony and this video also talks about the economy of the Massachusetts Bay Province (9).
Early seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1629-1684.
For an alternative perspective on the Pilgrims, see
Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History
, Nick Bunker, Alfred Knopf, 2010.
As Russell Shorto noted in his review of the book ("Founding Entrepreneurs," The New York Times Book Review, May 23, 2010, p. 21) the decision of the Pilgrims to leave England had "both religious and financial motivations.
The Pilgrims' voyage to America was a business venture whose backers—few of them especially religious—expected a return on their investment. And like millions after them, the Pilgrims themselves had a real-world American dream in mind, which was centered on the North America beaver.
In the 1620s, a single beaver pelt fetched the same amount of money required to rent nine acres of English farmland for a year. For a time, the Pilgrims capitalized on that raw material; in the 1630s, they shipped 2,000 beaver pelts to England."
to test your knowledge of important people in the 13 original colonies.
is a lesson plan, video, and quiz on the role of women in Colonial America
Which of the following is most characteristic of the literacy works of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather during the colonial period?
a) The justification for governing the colonies democratically.
b) A celebration of experimentation and innovation as American traits.
c) Need for strict adherence to Puritan religious beliefs and moral codes
d) Admiration for a fearless sense of discovery and joy
CORRECT ANSWER: C
 (2003). Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Retrieved April 4, 2007, from Our Country Web site:
 Powell, J William Penn, America's First Great Champion for Liberty and Peace. Retrieved April 4, 2007, from The Freeman Web site:
 Montgommery, D (1994). Captain John Smith. Retrieved April 4, 2007, from Colonial Williamsburg Web site:
 Behling, S (1997). Roger Williams. Retrieved April 4, 2007, Web site:
 McCarter, J John Winthrop: FIrst Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Retrieved April 4, 2007, Web site:
Image IDs from left to right
Wikipedia, "George Calvert".
Wikimedia Commons, "Lely, William Penn".
Wikimedia Commons, "John Smith BAH".
Pocahontas in Jamestown
Wikimedia Commons, "Pocahontas at Jamestown".
Roger Williams Statue
Wikimedia Commons, "Roger Williams statue by Franklin Simmons".
Wikimedia Commons, "John Winthrop gravure".
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