Plymouth was the first settlement in what became the Massachusetts Bay colony. A group of Puritans attempting to escape religious persecution in England founded the Plymouth settlement in 1620. These settlers become known as “Pilgrims”. The Pilgrims underwent a few years of hardships before finally becoming established. Their limited success encouraged others to follow in their footsteps. Settlements were established at Weymouth and Mt. Wollaston (now known as Quincy and at Salem). In June of 1630, John Winthrop led 900 settlers to Boston on 11 ships, under the auspices of the newly reorganized Massachusetts Bay Colony. Boston became the capital of the colony. Winthrop became its governor. During the course of the voyage Winthrop is said to have given his famous “City upon the Hill” speech. In this speech Winthrop called for the new settlement to be an example to others. The colony was ruled by the Massachusetts Bay Company, and was in fact, a Puritan theocracy.
In 1634, not long after the colony was established it found itself at war with the Native Americans, in what became known as “The Pequot-Indian War”. That war ended when the Indians were vanquished. In 1635, Roger Williams was banished from the colony because of his religious views. Williams later founded Rhode Island. In 1641, New Hampshire became part of the Massachusetts Bay colony. In 1643, a temporary confederation was established with Connecticut.
The first witch was hanged in the colony in 1648. The woman’s name was Margaret Jones. In 1659, William Leddra was hanged for practicing the Quaker religion. In 1680, New Hampshire separated from the Massachusetts Bay colony. In 1684, King Charles revoked the independent charter of the colony. New York and Connecticut were made part of what was called “The dominion of the North East”. When James II was overthrown that unpopular combination fell apart. The Governor, Andros was arrested and forced to flee back to England. In 1692, the town of Salem became the center of the “witch hysteria”. The hysteria led to what became known as “The Salem Witch Trials”.
In 1711, the great Boston fire took place. 400 buildings were destroyed.
The early settlers were primarily farmers, settling the lands outside Boston. They created small villages built around a community commons and a meetinghouse. The meetinghouse was the center of the village life, with the preacher holding a long Sunday prayer service. The Bay Colony and the Puritans were known for the importance they placed in education. The Boston Latin School was established in 1635. Harvard was founded a year later. In 1647, a law was passed mandating that every town with 50 or more families must have a school. The Massachusetts colony was also known for its religious intolerance. Only the Puritan form of Christianity was permitted in the colony for most of its existence.