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Plymouth Colony

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Surnames/tags: Massachusetts United States of America
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Part of the Dominion of New England, 1686–1688

Succeeded by Province of Massachusetts Bay on May 14, 1692

"Plimoth Plantation" (Newe-Plymouth Colony), 1620-1691

Plymouth Colony (sometimes New Plymouth, or Plymouth Bay Colony) was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plimoth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. At its height, Plymouth Colony occupied most of the southeastern portion of the modern state of Massachusetts.

Founded by a group of Separatists and Anglicans, who together later came to be known as the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony was, along with Jamestown, Virginia, one of the earliest successful colonies to be founded by the English in North America and the first sizable permanent English settlement in the New England region. Aided by Squanto, a Native American of the Patuxet people, the colony was able to establish a treaty with Chief Massasoit which helped to ensure the colony's success. It played a central role in King Philip's War, one of the earliest of the Indian Wars. Ultimately, the colony was merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other territories in 1691 to form the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Counties and towns For most of its history, the town was the primary administrative unit and political division of the colony. Plymouth Colony was not formally divided into counties until June 2, 1685, during the reorganization that would lead to the formation of the Dominion of New England. Three counties were formed, composed of the following towns:

Barnstable County on Cape Cod:

  • Barnstable, the shire town (county seat) of the county, first settled in 1639 and incorporated 1650.
  • Eastham, site of the "First Encounter", first settled 1644 and incorporated as the town of Nauset in 1646, name changed to Eastham in 1651.
  • Falmouth, first settled in 1661, and incorporated as Succonesset in 1686.
  • Rochester, settled 1638, incorporated 1686.
  • Sandwich, first settled in 1637 and incorporated in 1639.
  • Yarmouth, incorporated 1639.

Bristol County along the shores of Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay, part of this county would later be ceded to Rhode Island:

  • Taunton, the shire town of the county, incorporated 1639.
  • Bristol, incorporated 1680 and included the former locations of Sowams and Montaup (Mount Hope), which were Massasoit's and King Philip's capitals, respectively. Ceded to Rhode Island in 1746 and is now part of Bristol County, Rhode Island.
  • Dartmouth, incorporated 1664. Dartmouth was the site of a significant massacre by the Indian forces during King Philip's War. It was also the location of a surrender of a group of some 160 of Philip's forces who were later sold into slavery.
  • Freetown, incorporated 1683, originally known as "Freemen's Land" by its first settlers.
  • Little Compton, incorporated as Sakonnet in 1682, ceded to Rhode Island in 1746 and is now part of Newport County, Rhode Island.
  • Rehoboth, first settled 1644 and incorporated 1645. Nearby to, but distinct from the Rehoboth settlement of Roger Williams, which is now the town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
  • Swansea, founded as the township of Wannamoiset in 1667, incorporated as town of Swansea in 1668. It was here that the first English casualty of King Philip's War occurred.

Plymouth County, located along the western shores of Cape Cod Bay:

  • Plymouth, the shire town of the county and capital of the colony. This was the original 1620 settlement of the Mayflower Pilgrims, and continued as the largest and most significant settlement in the colony until its dissolution in 1691.
  • Weymouth, settled as part of Plymouth Colony in 1622 became part of Massachusetts Bay in 1630.
  • Hull, settled as part of Plymouth Colony in 1624 became part of Massachusetts Bay in 1630.
  • Bridgewater, purchased from Massasoit by Myles Standish, and originally named Duxburrow New Plantation, it was incorporated as Bridgewater in 1656.
  • Duxbury, founded by Myles Standish, it was incorporated in 1637. Other notable residents of Duxbury included John Alden, William Brewster, and Governor Thomas Prence.
  • Marshfield, settled 1632, incorporated 1640. Home to Governor Edward Winslow. Also home to Josiah Winslow, who was governor of the colony during King Philip's War, and to Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England.
  • Middleborough, incorporated 1669 as Middleberry. Named for its location as the halfway point on the journey from Plymouth to Mount Hope, the Wampanoag capital.
  • Scituate, settled 1628 and incorporated 1636. The town was the site of a major attack by King Philip's forces in 1676.

See also:


The Mayflower
History of Plymouth plantation

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Categories: Plymouth Colony