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Revised 27 December 2010


Most Americans date the history of Massachusetts from the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock December 11, 1620 or December 21, 1620, depending on whose calendar you are using.  These Pilgrims suffered great religious persecution in England, escaped to Leyden Holland, then finally received permission to mount a colony in the new continent.  The rest is history and written up extensively in our books on early America.  Through the initiative of the Massachusetts Bay Company another colony was formed at Salem in 1628 and two years later, in 1630, more than a thousand colonists had arrived founding the towns of Boston, Charleston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Watertown and Newton and later, Cambridge.  Within ten short years, a population of more than 20,000 immigrants, almost entirely of British origin, had landed on these shores and moved into the towns and villages and countryside of what was later to become Massachusetts.  From the disasters and political diatribes of Europe came the people of Ireland, Germany and France, to be joined later by the Italians, Russians, Poles and Portuguese as people flocked to the new continent to share in its wealth, work in its factories, fish its seas and farm its lands.  

Massachusetts became not only a place to come and live, it became a port of entry to other places within the continent.  Families from Dorchester, England settled in Massachusetts, then migrated south to the South Carolina area.  The families of New England created three separate settlements between Charleston and Georgetown.  Fortunately for us, they were fairly prolific record keepers and left a long paper trail of their activities.  

Massachusetts was the birthplace of the first American public school.  The Puritan settlers established the first school in Boston in 1635 in the home of a schoolmaster by the name of Philemon Pormont.  The Massachusetts people created the town meeting form of self-government.  Through Massachusetts, we read our first regular newspapers and saw the first of our private academies.  These industrial souls founded Harvard University at Cambridge in 1636, the first American College.  The very first Thanksgiving Day, now an important American holiday tradition, was born at Plymouth.  The Salem witch hunts was one of their less attractive contributions to American history, but this was, I believe more than redeemed by the martyrdom of Crispus Attucks, the Massachusetts citizen who was the first to be killed in the cause of American independence.  Mr. Crispus was the first to be shot in the Boston Common massacre of 1770.  It was Boston Harbor that set the stage for the famous Tea Party (1773) - an act of defiance against the highly unfair British tax laws--only one of the many unfair laws on the books at that time, and it was in Massachusetts that the opening shots of the conflict that created our United States were heard.

Name Date Created Parent County County Seat
Barnstable 1685 New Plymouth Colony Barnstable & West Harwich
Berkshire 171 Hampshire Pittsfield
Bristol 1685 New Plymouth Colony Tauton, New Bedford, Fall River
Dukes 1695 Martha's Vineyard Edgartown
Essex 1643 Original County Salem
Franklin 1811 Hampshire Greenfield
Hampden 1812 Hampshire Springfield
Middlesex 1643 Original County Cambridge, Lowell
Nantucket 1695 Original County Nantucket
Norfolk 1793 Suffolk Dedham
Plymouth 1685 New Plymouth Colony Plymouth
Suffolk 1643 Original County Boston
Worcester 1731 Suffolk, Middlesex Worcester