Massachusetts History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

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

In 1620 a religious group from England known as the Pilgrims arrived in the Mayflower, landing near Provincetown. They soon moved across Cape Cod, naming their settlement Plymouth, and the history of the new country was born.

This band of remnants of the Church of England were determined to succeed, and in the fall of 1621, along with their new Native American friends, celebrated the first American Thanksgiving. Only half of Plymouth Colony survived their first year on this harsh new land.

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

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

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

  • Topschoolsintheusa: Guides to study in Massachusetts, including geography, climate, economy, and tourism of the state.
  • A2zcamerablog: Offers general information about Massachusetts, covering history, population, economy and county list.
  • Campingship: State outline of Massachusetts, including geography location, state capital, brief history and a list of largest counties by area.

The new found prosperity soon swept through Massachusetts, companies opened, settlements sprang up almost quickly, and sailing ships carried tons of local produce to port cities in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. The economy boomed and the British, seeing a financial opportunity, imposed unpopular taxes on her growing colony. A costly and fatal error in judgment.

The winds of change reflected through the American colonies in the early 1770s and Massachusetts took the lead in resisting British oppression. John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were leaders of revolutionary activity, and their loud cry for independence from England was both assertive and bold.

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

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 used their naval superiority to capture and occupy the 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 agreements with America in 1778 and declared war on Great Britain, her old enemy. French naval involvement proved decisive as the British army finally surrendered at Yorktown in 1781.

Massachusetts timeline


  • (1498) English explorer, John Cabot, sailed along the coast of Massachusetts


  • (1602) Bartholomew Gosnold explored the coast; named Cape Cod due to cod found in the bay
  • (1604) Samuel de Champlain mapped the coast
  • (1607) Three ships arrived from England with 104 men and boys; settlers called the James River after the king; established Jamestown settlement
  • (1614) Captain John Smith charted the coast
  • (1620) Mayflower reached Cape Cod; Pilgrims established a settlement called Plymouth
  • (1621) Pilgrims signed an agreement with the Wampanoag Indians; celebrated first Thanksgiving
  • (1628) John Endicott established a settlement in Salem
  • (1629) Masssachusetts Bay Company incorporated
  • (1630) Boston founded; later named capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • (1634) Boston General is the first public park in the US.
  • (1635) Roger Williams expelled from Massachusetts due to religious disputes
  • (1636) Harvard College founded
  • (1639) First Post Office in the US established in Boston in Richard Fairbanks’ tavern; Mather School, the first free public school founded
  • (1643) New England Confederacy formed to oppose Indian and Dutch attacks
  • (1675) Settlers attacked by Indians during King Philip’s War
  • (1676) King Philip’s War ended
  • (1684) Massachusetts charter annulled
  • (1686) Oxford, first non-Puritan city established; Dominion of New England established
  • (1692) Massachusetts granted new charter, became a royal colony with Maine and Plymouth; witch trials held in Salem


  • (1716) First lighthouse in America, “Boston Light” built in Boston Harbor
  • (1763) The Indian Wars are over
  • (1770) British troops fired on the crowd at the Custom House in Boston, killed five men
  • (1773) Boston Tea Party – Colonists threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest high taxes
  • (1775) First battle of the American Revolution fought at Lexington and Concord; Paul Revere made a famous trip; the first ship of the US Navy entered service
  • (1776) British troops called to evacuate Boston by Colonial troops; first the major victory of the American Revolution; Massachusetts resident, John Hancock, first to sign the Declaration of Independence
  • (1780) John Hancock became the first elected governor; state constitution adopted
  • (1785) Rise of farmers led by Daniel Shay, objected to overtaxation by government systems, unfair treatment of workers
  • (1788) Massachusetts became the sixth state of the S.
  • (1796) John Adams, Quincy, became US President


  • (1820) Massachusetts and Maine seceded
  • (1824) John Quincy Adams, Quincy, chose American President
  • (1826) First American railroad built in Quincy
  • (1831) The Liberator, anti-slavery newspaper, published in Boston
  • (1833) Constitutional amendment separated church and state, Puritanism in government ended
  • (1837) Samuel Morse invented Morse code
  • (1839) Charles Goodyear produced first vulcanized rubber at Woburn
  • (1840) Typewriter invented by Charles Thurber
  • (1845) Elias Howe invented sewing maching in Boston
  • (1846) The use of anesthesia surgery, first demonstrated by the dentist, Dr. William T. G. Morton, at Massachusetts General Hospital
  • (1850) First National Convention of Women’s Rights held at Worcester
  • (1860s) Massachusetts sent over 160,000 troops to fight in the Civil War
  • (1876) Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first telephone in Boston
  • (1877) Helen Magill White became the first woman in the US to earn a Ph.D. at Boston University
  • (1891) First basketball game played in Springfield; machine invented by James Henry Mitchell mass-produced the first Fig Newton Cookies
  • (1897) America’s first subway opened in Boston


  • (1903) First transatlantic broadcast between President Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII of Great Britain at Marconi Station in Wellfleet
  • (1907) First motorized fire wagon designed by Knox Manufacturing Company
  • (1912) Textile workers strike in Lawrence
  • (1923) Calvin Coolidge becomes US President
  • (1925) Edith Noers Rogers first woman elected to US House of Representatives; enacted law on the rights of military personnel
  • (1942) Boston nightclub fire kills 492 people
  • (1947) Percy Spencer invented the microwave; Edwin Land demonstrated the Poloroyd Land to the Camer; Dr. Sidney Farber introduced chemotherapy as a cancer treatment
  • (1954) First medically successful kidney transplant was performed in Boston
  • (1957) Massachusetts Turnpike opened
  • (1960) John F. Kennedy became American President
  • (1961) First nuclear-powered surface ship launched at Quincy
  • (1963) President John F. Kennedy assassinated
  • (1966) Edward W. Brooke, first black elected to US Senate
  • (1974) Federal court ordered integration of Boston schools; whites supported boycotts and demonstrations against the integrated transportation program
  • (1985) Harvard University celebrated its 350th anniversary
  • (1987) Construction started on “Big Dig” in Boston
  • (1988) George H.W. Bush becomes US President


  • (2001) ACT, based in Worcester, created a human embryo clone
  • (2002) Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals made public; resignations and settlements followed
  • (2004) Same-sex marriage rights approved; Boston Red Sox won the World Series; Democratic convention held in Boston
  • (2006) Legislature enacts first plan in US for Massachusetts citizens to get universal health insurance coverage
  • (2007) Water leaks in new “Big Dig” tunnels caused ceiling collapse, killed one; Boston Red Sox win the World Series
  • (2009) Senator Edward Kennedy died
  • (2010) Republican Scott Brown elected seat left free by Senator Kennedy’s death
  • (2011) Boston Bruins won the NHL Stanley Cup
  • (2013) During the Boston Marathon on April 15, two pressure cooker bombs exploded killing 3 people and damaging 264

Massachusetts History