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A Brief History of Boston

Boston, Massachusetts is without a doubt, one of the oldest cities in the United States. It's got a rich, deep history that many Americans hold close to their hearts.

While it would take multiple college courses to fully go into Boston's rich history, here at PLAY, we've put together a brief, bite-sized history overview of Boston, MA.

Boston's Earliest Settlers

In 1620, English PuritansLink opens in a new tab (also known as Puritan Separatists or "Pilgrims") left their homeland of Plymouth. When they arrived at the New World, they originally wanted to make port right around the Cape Cod area, but the shallow shoals in the area made it too difficult for the ship to get close enough, and so they eventually showed up in what is now known as Provincetown, Massachusetts. While at first, they had a difficult time with the harsh winter weather, they eventually adapted and learned to build a robust community.

Just 10 years later, the second group of Puritans arrived. They originally go to Salem that June but were having trouble getting a consistent source of clean water, so they migrated down the coast until they eventually came across the single and only inhabitant of the Shawmut Peninsula -- Reverend William Blackstone. William Blackstone had sailed away from England years before in search of a simple, quiet life. The story goes that he happily welcomed the Puritans and let them drink from the fresh spring freely. When the Puritans eventually settled in and took over, they gave Blackstone 50 acres for his kindness to them, all of which he re-sold just 4 years afterward.

Notable Events

1630

  • Boston's first church is established by Puritan leader John WinthropLink opens in a new tab and his settlement.
  • King's Chapen Burying Ground -- the first cemetery in Boston -- was founded.

1634

  • Boston's very first tavern was opened by Samuel Cole.

1635

  • The first ever American public school, Boston Latin School, was opened.

1636

1680

  • Paul Revere's original home was built.

1689

  • The still-standing structure of what's known as King's Chapel was built.

1691

  • William and Mary Chartered the "Province of Massachusetts Bay". The meaning of Massachusetts translates to "at the great hill".

1713

1729

  • For the purpose of being a Puritan meeting house, the Old South Meeting House was constructed and built. It would go on to be an essential meeting house in the Boston area.

1754-1763

  • This was the time of the French and Indian War, which involved a fight for domination over America, parts of India, and the Caribbean. England emerged victorious, but not without an enormous blow to their economy due to the crippling costs of war debts. this debt ended up causing heavily levied taxes on colonists and was a major progenitor to the Revolutionary War.

1764

  • The first notion of "no taxation without representation" took place, with the Sugar Act. There wasn't a representative from the original colonies that agreed to any of the taxes imposed.

1765

  • What was known as The Stamp Act, was emplaced. This was the first major tax that was put on American colonists, meaning all printed items were taxed. This resulted in riots in Boston.

1766

1767

  • Taxes on tea, lead, paint, and glass were levied with The Townshend Acts. This was intended to pay for various costs in the English military and to compensate royal colony officials.

1768

  • The ship known as The Liberty -- owned by John Hancock -- was seized due to suspicion of smuggling goods, although the stories from royal officials as to why the ship was seized changed several times. This led to even more distrust between the colonists and England, and John Hancock's support grew in Boston.
  • To respond to the riots and pushback from the Townshend Acts, British Troops showed up in the Boston Harbor. They held several encampments in the Boston Common.

1770

  • Five colonists died in an event that would forever be regarded as "The Boston Massacre." What started out as an argument between a British officer and wigmaker's apprentice over a bill that was being left unpaid turned into a mob of angry colonists gathering around the British soldiers. Someone eventually threw a club and hit a soldier, which caused his musket to discharge, this caused several other men to fire, eventually leaving 5 dead. As a result, England repealed the Townshend Acts, but the tea tax remained.

1773

  • Parliament officially passed the Tea Act of 1773.
  • Known as the Boston Tea Party, on December 16, over five-thousand people from the New England area forced their way to the Old South Meeting House to discuss East India Company tea. Hutchinson refused the Sons of Liberty passage of their vessels, resulting in hundreds of men barely disguised as Native Americans with mohawks heading to Boston Harbor and dumping 340 containers of tea into the ocean.

1774

  • In order to retaliate the tea being destroyed, England passed The Intolerable Acts, which closed off the Boston Harbor.

1775

  • Paul Revere on April 18 rode around the settlements warning colonists of the Britain’s arrival.
  • Fighting officially began on April 19 in Lexington Green, which officially set off the Revolutionary War.

1776

  • After an 11-month siege of Boston (where the British eventually evacuated), The Declaration of Independence is officially adopted.

Today

Today, you can see the long-fought battle for America's independence by following the Freedom Trail in Boston. The deep and significant history is all over the city, with numerous museums and sites for you to explore.

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May 27, 2022