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. On our list of 100, 20 towns are in Massachusetts and 16 in Connecticut. Fewer than 10 towns on our list founded before 1776 are in states west of Louisiana.
Only 30 states are home to towns that were founded before the Revolutionary War, and all 30 states are represented in 24/7 Wall St.’s selection of 100 towns. For each town we listed the date when it was founded, established, chartered, or incorporated.
While the definitions of these terms can be ambiguous depending on the source, the date when a town was founded, established, or chartered all appear to precede the date when the place was incorporated as a town.
Towns got their start in different ways. Some towns, such as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Providence, Rhode Island, were founded as refuges for those fleeing political and religious persecution in Europe and the American colonies. Other towns got their start as trading posts that eventually received charters from English royalty. Of course, there are a slew of towns founded for a variety of reasons and by a variety of people. For example, San Antonio, Texas, was founded by the Alamo Mission.
All these towns are unique, and all have contributed to the great mosaic called the United States of America. Here are 100 American towns founded before the American Revolution.
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 100 pre-Revolutionary War towns that we believe represent the diversity of the American experience.
To be considered, pre-Revolutionary War towns needed to have been chartered, founded, established, or incorporated before 1776 and 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 12 towns on this list not tracked by the ACS, we used population figures as of the 2010 Census, the latest available. Lexington, Kentucky, is more commonly referenced as Lexington-Fayette urban county, Kentucky. Swedesboro, New Jersey is also referred to as Swedesboro, borough. Braintree, New Jersey is referred to as the Town of Braintree. Westminster, Vermont also appears as Westminster village.
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