These American Towns Were Founded Before the American Revolution

These American Towns Were Founded Before the American Revolution

The United States was founded 244 years ago, but some American towns have been around for more than three centuries, and some longer still.

24/7 Tempo selected 50 towns that were founded before the American Revolution. We chose the towns by reviewing town and state websites, reference sources such as britannica.com, and sources such as thecompletepilgrim.com that provided information about America’s best preserved colonial towns. To be considered, towns needed to have originated in settlements that were founded, chartered, established, or incorporated before 1776. Though this is not a comprehensive list, virtually all of these towns, or the areas where they were established, had been Native American lands before European settlers arrived.

The vast majority of towns that were founded before 1776 are located in a handful of states in the Northeast. Massachusetts and Connecticut have by far the most towns incorporated prior to the Revolutionary War. Some towns on our list are in states west of Louisiana. Here is how each state got its name.

Thirty of the 50 states are home to towns that were founded before the Revolutionary War. Some of the oldest towns on the list, such as Kingston, New York, are also among the most common city names in the United States.

Source: pom-angers / Flickr

1. St. Augustine, Florida
> Founded: 1565
> Population: 15,415

The oldest city in America was founded 11 days after Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in what is now Florida on the feast day of St. Augustine.

Source: kenlund / Flickr

2. Jamestown, Virginia
> Founded: 1607
> Population: 15,196

This is where the first permanent English colony in North America was established. It was named after King James.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
> Founded: 1610
> Population: 84,683

Santa Fe was founded by Spanish conquistadors, including Don Pedro de Peralta. Santa Fe is the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi River.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Hampton, Virginia
> Founded: 1610
> Population: 134,510

Hampton, founded by English settlers, is located at the mouth of the James River.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

5. Albany, New York
> Founded: 1614
> Population: 96,460

Dutch fur traders established Albany, the first European settlement in New York.

Source: flissphil / Flickr

6. Plymouth, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1620
> Population: 7,399

After crossing the Atlantic to escape religious persecution in England, the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. The first Thanksgiving celebration took place here.

Source: pedrosz / Flickr

7. New York, New York
> Founded: 1624
> Population: 8,336,817

Settled by the Dutch in 1624, the English took over the town in 1664 and named it New York.

Source: momentsnotice / Flickr

8. Salem, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1626
> Population: 43,226

Salem, famous for the witch trials in the late 17th century, was founded by English colonial settlers.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

9. Boston, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 692,600

A group of 1,000 Puritan refugees led by John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley helped found what would become the biggest city in Massachusetts.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

10. Cambridge, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 118,927

Cambridge was settled by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Originally called New Towne, the name Cambridge was adopted in 1638.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

11. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 21,927

Portsmouth was a sanctuary for those fleeing religious persecution in Massachusetts.

Source: Lee Cannon / Flickr

12. Lewes, Delaware
> Founded: 1631
> Population: 2,955

Located on Delaware Bay, Lewes was first settled by the Dutch.

Source: jjbers / Flickr

13. Windsor, Connecticut
> Founded: 1633
> Population: 29,044

Windsor was Connecticut’s first English settlement.

Source: jjbers / Flickr

14. Wethersfield, Connecticut
> Founded: 1634
> Population: 26,008

One of Connecticut’s oldest towns settled by the English, Wethersfield was another town where witch trials were held in the 17th century.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

15. Concord, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1635
> Population: 19,323

One of the places where the Revolutionary War began, Concord was settled by English colonists.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

16. Hartford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 122,105

Puritans led by Rev. Thomas Hooker created a settlement on the Connecticut River.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

17. Providence, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 179,883

Roger Williams, banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for radical views, bought land from Native Americans and founded Providence.

Source: KenWiedemann / Getty Images

18. Scituate, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 18,924

Scituate was settled by people from the county of Kent in England. The name “Scituate” is derived from the Native American word Satuit, meaning “cold brook.”

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

19. New Haven, Connecticut
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 130,250

Founded by Puritans, New Haven was one of America’s first planned towns.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

20. Exeter, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 15,317

Exeter founder Reverend John Wheelwright was an exile from Puritan Massachusetts. He bought land for the settlement from Native Americans.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

21. Swedesboro, New Jersey
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 2,585

Swedesboroy, a southern New Jersey town, was founded by a group of Swedes and Finns.

Source: jjbers / Flickr

22. Newport, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 24,334

Newport was founded by English settlers led by Anne Hutchinson, who was driven out of Massachusetts for her religious views.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

23. Guilford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 22,133

Native Americans sold land on which Guilford was founded to Puritans led by Henry Whitfield.

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

24. Fairfield, Connecticut
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 62,045

Fairfield was one of the four earliest towns founded by the English in Connecticut in the 17th century.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

25. Braintree, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1640
> Population: 37,066

Braintree was named after the English town of the same name.

Source: ghostrider / Flickr

26. Stamford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1641
> Population: 129,638

Founded by Puritans, Stamford became a manufacturing hub and is now home to corporations such as Synchrony Financial and Pitney Bowes.

Source: Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons

27. Warwick, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1642
> Population: 81,881

Samuel Gorton founded Warwick after he bought the land from the Narragansett people.

Source: Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons

28. Chester, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1644
> Population: 34,056

Originally settled in 1644 by the Swedes, Quakers led by William Penn made Chester a colonial settlement in 1681. It is the oldest city in Pennsylvania.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

29. Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1645
> Population: 5,434

Manchester-by-the-Sea, backdrop to many movies, was founded by English settlers. The name changed in 1990 to distinguish it from other towns named Manchester.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

30. Yonkers, New York
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 200,370

Dutch founder Adrian Van der Donck was the first lawyer in the New Netherlands colony that would become New York in 1664.

Source: jjbers / Flickr

31. New London, Connecticut
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 26,858

New London, founded by English settlers, was Connecticut colony’s first official port.

Source: HABesen / Getty Images

32. Andover, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 36,356

English settlers from Andover, England, settled in this part of Massachusetts. Andover is home to the prestigious prep school Phillips Academy.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

33. Kittery, Maine
> Founded: 1647
> Population: 9,819

Kittery is the first incorporated town in Maine.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

34. Marblehead, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1649
> Population: 20,363

The first non-Native American settlers were British subjects who came to present-day Marblehead from Salem to escape religious oppression from the Puritans.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

35. Annapolis, Maryland
> Founded: 1649
> Population: 39,009

Home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis was settled by the Puritans and originally called Providence.

Source: yodudedan / Flickr

36. New Castle, Delaware
> Founded: 1651
> Population: 5,372

New Castle was founded by the Dutch under Peter Stuyvesant. The original name of the town was Fort Casimir.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

37. Chelmsford, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1655
> Population: 35,391

Chelmsford was founded by colonists from Concord and Woburn. It is located 24 miles north of Boston.

Source: KenWiedemann / Getty Images

38. Stonington borough, Connecticut
> Founded: 1662
> Population: 906

Stonington was founded by Governor John Winthrop, Jr. who obtained a charter from England.

Source: formulanone / Flickr

39. Elizabeth, New Jersey
> Founded: 1664
> Population: 129,216

English immigrants founded the settlement — originally called Elizabethtown — after buying the land from Lenni Lenape Native Americans.

Source: hapinachu / Flickr

40. Greenwich, Connecticut
> Founded: 1665
> Population: 13,429

Settlers from Massachusetts were the first to purchase the patch of land that is now Greenwich, right between the Asamuck and Patomuck rivers.

Source: John Phelan / WIkimedia Commons

41. Lyme, Connecticut
> Founded: 1667
> Population: 2,406

Lyme was named after the coastal town of Lyme Regis in England. The town separated from Saybrook in 1665 and was named Lyme in 1667.

Source: ballance / Flickr

42. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
> Founded: 1668
> Population: 13,420

Founded by French settlers, Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan.

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

43. Charleston, South Carolina
> Founded: 1670
> Population: 137,566

King Charles II of England gave the Carolina territory to eight friends who helped restore the monarchy. The town of Charleston is named after him.

Source: davidberkowitz / Flickr

44. Edgartown, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1671
> Population: 649

Edgartown was settled by English immigrants Thomas Mayhew Sr. and his son Thomas Jr.

Source: robzand / Flickr

45. Nantucket, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1671
> Population: 7,830

Nantucket was populated by the Wampanoag Native American tribe until the land was deeded to Thomas Mayhew Sr. and his son Thomas Jr.

Source: dougtone / Flickr

46. Derby, Connecticut
> Founded: 1675
> Population: 12,755

English fur traders were among the first Europeans in the area of Derby. Native American tribes such as the Paugassetts and the Pootatucks had inhabited the area long before the English.

Source: ghornephoto / Getty Images

47. Peoria, Illinois
> Founded: 1680
> Population: 110,417

French explorers, including Robert Cavalier Sieur de LaSalle, founded Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is the name of the predominant Native American tribes in the Illinois confederacy.

Source: kinglear55 / Flickr

48. Ysleta, Texas
> Founded: 1680
> Population: 9,232

Ysleta, now a section of El Paso, was founded by Franciscan missionaries and Spanish settlers.

Source: S. Greg Panosian / Getty Images

49. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1682
> Population: 1,584,064

William Penn and the Quakers founded Philadelphia as a place of religious tolerance.

Source: Loneburro / Getty Images

50. Presidio, Texas
> Founded: 1683
> Population: 4,051

A Spanish mission was established here after a Native American claimed to have seen a burning cross on the mountain of Presidio.


It’s nearly impossible to track down every town founded before the Revolutionary War, primarily because of a lack of documentation. We are not attempting to provide a comprehensive tally of every town founded before the American War of Independence. From a repository of several hundred towns, we compiled a list of 50 pre-Revolutionary War towns we believe represent the geographic diversity of the American experience.

To be considered, pre-Revolutionary War towns needed to have been chartered, founded, established, or incorporated before 1776 and to have remained in continuous existence. Population figures were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey and are five-year averages. For the towns on this list not tracked by the ACS, we used population figures as of the latest available Census data. Swedesboro, New Jersey, is also referred to as Swedesboro, borough.

To top