100 American Towns Founded Before the American Revolution

February 1, 2019 by Cheyenne Buckingham

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images
The United States is a relatively young nation, but some American towns have been around for more than three centuries, and some longer still.

From Kittery, Maine (founded in 1647) to St. Augustine, Florida (established in 1565), there are towns whose past stretches back much further than the country’s creation.

24/7 Wall St. selected 100 towns that were founded before the American Revolution. To be considered, towns needed to have originated in settlements that were founded, chartered, established, or incorporated before 1776.

These founding dates only include colonial settlements. Many of these towns, or the areas where they were established, had been settled and occupied by Native Americans long before European settlers arrived.

Click here to see 100 towns founded before the American Revolution.
Click here to read our methodology and detailed findings.

Source: GabrielPevide / iStock

1. St. Augustine, Florida
> Founded: 1565
> Population: 13,867

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

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2. Jamestown, Virginia
> Founded: 1607
> Population: 10,333

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

Source: Asaavedra32 / Wikimedia Commons

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
> Founded: 1610
> Population: 82,927

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: tmersh / iStock

4. Hampton, Virginia
> Founded: 1610
> Population: 136,789

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

Source: jerryhopman / iStock

5. Albany, New York
> Founded: 1614
> Population: 98,425

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

Source: stockphoto52 / iStock

6. Plymouth, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1620
> Population: 58,216

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

Source: irene-kos / iStock

7. New York, New York
> Founded: 1624
> Population: 8,461,961

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

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8. Salem, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1626
> Population: 42,804

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

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

9. Boston, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 658,279

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: pkujiahe / iStock

10. Cambridge, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 108,757

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

Source: Thinkstock

11. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1630
> Population: 21,458

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

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Source: Lee Cannon / Flickr

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

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

Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

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

Windsor was Connecticut’s first English settlement.

Source: Michael King / iStock

14. Wethersfield, Connecticut
> Founded: 1634
> Population: 26,396

One of Connecticut’s oldest towns settled by the English. Wethersfield experienced witch-trial hysteria in the 17th century.

Source: Maudib / iStock

15. Concord, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1635
> Population: 17,668

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

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

16. Hartford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 124,320

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

Source: webstar15 / iStock

17. Providence, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 178,851

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

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Source: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism / Flickr

18. Scituate, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1636
> Population: 5,471

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

Source: Kayzure Cox / iStock

19. New Haven, Connecticut
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 130,405

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

Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

20. Exeter, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 9,022

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

 
Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

21. Swedesboro, New Jersey
> Founded: 1638
> Population: 2,606

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

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22. Newport, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 24,570

Founded by English settlers led by strong-willed Anne Hutchinson, who was driven out of Massachusetts for her religious views.

Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

23. Guilford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 22,375

Native Americans sold land to Puritans led by Henry Whitfield.

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24. Fairfield, Connecticut
> Founded: 1639
> Population: 59,404

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

Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

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

Braintree, named after the English town, was called Monoticut, an Algonquian word meaning “abundance.”

Source: stockphoto52 / iStock

26. Stamford, Connecticut
> Founded: 1641
> Population: 127,410

Founded by Puritans, Stamford became a manufacturing hub and is now home to multinational corporations.

Source: cmh2315fl / Flickr

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

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

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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 it a colonial settlement in 1681. Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania.

Source: coleong / iStock

29. Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1645
> Population: 5,136

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: Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons

30. Yonkers, New York
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 199,725

Dutch founder Adrian Van der Donck was the first lawyer in New Netherlands colony that would become New York in 1644.

Source: James_Lane / iStock

31. New London, Connecticut
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 27,218

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

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32. Andover, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1646
> Population: 9,194

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

Source: Mr.TinDC / Flickr

33. Kittery, Maine
> Founded: 1647
> Population: 4,704

Kittery is the first incorporated town in Maine.

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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: AlbertPego / iStock

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: Jack E. Boucher / Wikimedia Commons

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: Doug Kerr / Flickr

37. Chelmsford, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1655
> Population: 33,802

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

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Source: T L Miles / Wikimedia Commons

38. Staten Island, New York
> Founded: 1661
> Population: 475,558

The Dutch established a colony there in 1661. Staten Island derives from the Dutch name, Staaten Eylandt. The English seized the area in 1664 and renamed the Island in honor of the Duke of Richmond.

Source: Kirkikis / iStock

39. Stonington, Connecticut
> Founded: 1662
> Population: 973

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

Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

40. Elizabeth, New Jersey
> Founded: 1664
> Population: 128,042

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

 
Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

41. 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.

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Source: Peter RIntels / Flickr

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

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

Source: AvatarKnowmad / iStock

43. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
> Founded: 1668
> Population: 13,941

Sault Ste. Marie was founded by French settlers and is the oldest city in Michigan.

Source: ovidiuhrubaru / iStock

44. Charleston, South Carolina
> Founded: 1670
> Population: 129,888

King Charles II of England gave the Carolina territory to eight friends who helped restore the monarchy.

Source: Rold_52 / iStock

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

Settled by English immigrants Thomas Mayhew Sr. and his son Thomas Jr.

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46. 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: Doug Kerr / Flickr

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

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

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48. Peoria, Illinois
> Founded: 1680
> Population: 115,990

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: pabradyphoto / iStock

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

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

Source: jamegaw / iStock

50. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1682
> Population: 1,559,938

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

Source: Yuan Yufei / Wikimedia Commons

51. 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.

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52. Princeton, New Jersey
> Founded: 1683
> Population: 30,168

Representatives of East Jersey and West Jersey met at a tavern to establish their boundary in 1683. From these negotiations emerged various counties and towns, including the western border of Princeton Township.

Source: Flickr / bootbearwdc

53. Waterbury, Connecticut
> Founded: 1686
> Population: 109,211

Waterbury took its official name in 1686 when it was admitted as the 28th town in the colony of Connecticut.

Source: Maudib / iStock

54. Falmouth, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1686
> Population: 3,730

Quakers led by Isaac Robinson settled the area. Falmouth takes its name from a town in England.

55. Danbury, Connecticut
> Founded: 1687
> Population: 83,890

English settlers migrated from Norwalk to Danbury, which was nicknamed Beantown for the proliferation of beans and other vegetables that grew there.

Source: Juliancolton / Wikimedia Commons

56. Kingston, New York
> Founded: 1688
> Population: 23,506

The Dutch and English battled for control of the region and the English prevailed. A grant establishing Kingston was approved in 1688.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

57. Newark, New Jersey
> Founded: 1693
> Population: 280,139

New Jersey’s largest city was founded by Puritan settlers who left Connecticut and bought land from the Hackensack Native Americans.

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Source: Detroit Publishing Co. / Wikimedia Commons

58. Biloxi, Mississippi
> Founded: 1699
> Population: 45,271

French explorers led by Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville landed on the mainland at present-day Biloxi and established a settlement.

Source: JJBers / Flickr

59. Lebanon, Connecticut
> Founded: 1700
> Population: 7,308

Lebanon was formed by a consolidation of various tracts of land, some of which were held by Native Americans, that were incorporated into one town.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

60. Mobile, Alabama
> Founded: 1702
> Population: 193,717

The French established a continuing presence in 1702. Mobile was the oldest permanent settlement in the original Colony of French Louisiana and was its first capital before the French lost the city following the French and Indian War.

Source: jaypetersen / iStock

61. Groton, Connecticut
> Founded: 1705
> Population: 9,240

Groton was first settled by the English as part of New London. It became its own incorporated town in 1705.

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62. Bath, North Carolina
> Founded: 1705
> Population: 249

Spanish colonists were given permission by King Philip V of Spain to establish a city.

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63. Brookline, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1705
> Population: 59,180

Brookline, the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, was founded by English settlers. It separated from Boston in 1705.

Source: flocu / iStock

64. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Founded: 1706
> Population: 556,859

Spanish colonists were given permission by King Philip of Spain to establish a city.

Source: Geraldshields11 / Wikimedia Commons

65. Chestertown, Maryland
> Founded: 1706
> Population: 5,122

A British act promoting trade helped create Chestertown in the early 18th century.

Source: zrfphoto / iStock

66. Beaufort, North Carolina
> Founded: 1709
> Population: 4,039

Beaufort, founded by the English, was once the stomping ground of the pirate Blackbeard.

Source: JillLang / iStock

67. New Bern, North Carolina
> Founded: 1710
> Population: 30,075

New Bern, the birthplace of the soft drink Pepsi Cola, was founded by Baron Christopher de Graffenried of Switzerland.

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Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

68. Pembroke, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1711
> Population: 18,166

English settlers founded Pembroke, which claims to be the first colonial town to publicly rebel against the British Empire.

Source: jejim / iStock

69. Lexington, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1713
> Population: 32,936

Lexington, where the Revolution began, was carved out of the agricultural region called Cambridge by colonists.

Source: Doug Kerr / Flickr

70. Oxford, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1713
> Population: 5,927

Oxford was initially settled by the French Protestant Huguenots. It is also the birthplace of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

71. Natchitoches, Louisiana
> Founded: 1714
> Population: 18,402

French settlers led by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded the city, near the Natchitoches Native American village on the Red River.

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72. Natchez, Mississippi
> Founded: 1716
> Population: 15,345

First settled by the French, Natchez is the oldest city established along the Mississippi River.

Source: Konoplytska / iStock

73. New Orleans, Louisiana
> Founded: 1718
> Population: 382,922

New Orleans, the “Crescent City” because it was built on a sharp bend of the Mississippi River, was founded by French settlers.

Source: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

74. San Antonio, Texas
> Founded: 1718
> Population: 1,439,358

San Antonio got its name from Spanish settlers in 1691, but the city was not founded until 1718, when its first mission and first presidio were established.

Source: Thinkstock

75. Trenton, New Jersey
> Founded: 1719
> Population: 84,559

The city is named after one its leading landowners, William Trent, and was called “Trent-towne.”

Source: cmh2315fl / Flickr

76. Walpole, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1724
> Population: 6,209

Walpole was settled by colonists and was named after pro-colonist British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole.

Source: Charles Houchin / Wikimedia Commons

77. Kaskaskia, Illinois
> Founded: 1725
> Population: 20

The French incorporated the town that was given special rights by King Louis XV. Kaskaskia is located on Kaskaskia Island.

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78. Provincetown, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1727
> Population: 2,680

Pilgrims landed in Provincetown Harbor and stayed in the area for five weeks before traveling on to Plymouth. The first permanent settlement in Provincetown was established nearly 100 years later.

Source: kirstenalana / iStock

79. Vincennes, Indiana
> Founded: 1732
> Population: 18,098

French fur traders founded Vincennes, the oldest city in Indiana.

Source: Ebyabe / Wikimedia Commons

80. Savannah, Georgia
> Founded: 1733
> Population: 144,717

English settlers led by General James Oglethorpe founded Savannah, which became Georgia’s first city.

Source: Andrew Balet / Wikimedia Commons

81. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
> Founded: 1735
> Population: 4,447

Ste. Genevieve was founded by French-Canadians. It was part of the “Illinois Country” that was in the region of the territory held by the French in North America.

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82. Richmond, Virginia
> Founded: 1737
> Population: 216,773

Richmond, named after a suburb of London, was founded in 1737 by Colonel William Byrd II after visiting the site four years earlier.

Source: Tim Kiser / Wikimedia Commons

83. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1741
> Population: 75,110

A small group of Moravians, a Protestant denomination seeking religious freedom, settled on the banks of the Lehigh River and established a town.

Source: Pi.1415926535 / Wikimedia Commons

84. Coventry, Rhode Island
> Founded: 1741
> Population: 35,014

Colonists led by Samuel Gorton purchased land from the Miantonomi Native Americans and incorporated the land into a township named for Coventry, England.

Source: Jon Platek / Wikimedia Commons

85. Nashua, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1746
> Population: 87,279

The first settlers in Nashua were colonial English land speculators and soldiers. There was much fighting between the colonists and Native Americans in this region.

Source: Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons

86. Bennington, Vermont
> Founded: 1749
> Population: 8,945

Bennington was the first Vermont town to receive a town grant when it was chartered by Governor Benning Wentworth. Bennington was the first town settled west of the Green Mountains.

Source: Phototreat / iStock

87. Alexandria, Virginia
> Founded: 1749
> Population: 151,473

Scottish and English merchants wanted to improve shipping in the region and they petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to create a town, which became Alexandria.

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Source: Putneypics / Wikimedia Commons

88. Westminster, Vermont
> Founded: 1751
> Population: 307

Westminster, founded by English colonists, was part of New York before it became part of Vermont. It is the oldest town in Vermont.

Source: Samturgeon / Wikimedia Commons

89. Grafton, Vermont
> Founded: 1754
> Population: 679

The town was founded in 1754 and was originally called Thomlinson, after English business agent John Thomlinson. It was later changed to Grafton.

Source: ErikaMitchell / iStock

90. Hanover, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1761
> Population: 8,482

Colonists from Connecticut were granted a charter for about seven square miles to create a town that would become the home of Dartmouth College.

Source: Acroterion / Wikimedia Commons

91. Shepherdstown, West Virginia
> Founded: 1762
> Population: 1,578

Colonial settlers migrating into Shenandoah Valley founded Shepherdstown.

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Source: Justin A. Wilcox / Wikimedia Commons

92. Romney, West Virginia
> Founded: 1762
> Population: 2,301

Romney was founded by colonial settlers and is West Virginia’s oldest town.

Source: AnnaCrossan / iStock

93. Allentown, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1762
> Population: 119,624

Allentown was originally called Northamptontown by its founder William Allen, chief justice of colonial Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

Source: JillLang / iStock

94. Charlotte, North Carolina
> Founded: 1768
> Population: 808,834

Colonists named the town after King George III’s wife, Charlotte, who was born in what is now Germany.

Source: Thinkstock

95. San Diego, California
> Founded: 1769
> Population: 1,374,812

San Diego was founded by Spanish missionaries and it was the first settlement by Europeans in what would become California.

Source: Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

96. Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
> Founded: 1770s
> Population: 5,771

Prairie du Chien was founded by French missionaries, explorers, and fur traders.

Source: Scott Saghirian / Wikimedia Commons

97. Ellicott, Maryland
> Founded: 1772
> Population: 70,780

Brothers Joseph, Andrew, and John Ellicott who were Quakers founded Ellicott’s Mills after buying property west of Baltimore.

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Source: FloNight / Wikimedia Commons

98. Harrodsburg, Kentucky
> Founded: 1774
> Population: 8,409

Harrodsburg was founded by James Harrod, and claims to be the oldest permanent English settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Source: Packbj / Wikimedia Commons

99. Tucson, Arizona
> Founded: 1775
> Population: 527,586

Tucson was founded by Irishman Hugh O’Conor for the Spanish crown. The settlement was originally called San Agustin de Toixon, a name shortened and modified to Tucson.

Source: JackieNix / iStock

100. Lexington, Kentucky
> Founded: 1775
> Population: 311,529

American colonists gave the town its name in honor of the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, the first battle of the American Revolution.

Detailed Findings

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.

Methodology

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.