Special Report

102 American Towns Founded Before the American Revolution

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The United States was founded about 245 years ago, but some American towns have been around for more than three centuries, and some longer still.

24/7 Tempo selected 100 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. Virtually all of these towns, or the areas where they were established, had been Native American lands before European settlers arrived.

Click here to see 102 towns founded before the American Revolution
Click here to read our methodology

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 towns, 20 are in Massachusetts and 16 in Connecticut. Fewer than 10 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.

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

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: 15,196

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Windsor was Connecticut’s first English settlement.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.”

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

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

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.

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

Swedesboroy, 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: 24,334

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

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

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

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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.

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

Kittery is the first incorporated town in Maine.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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51. Princeton, New Jersey
> Founded: 1683
> Population: 31,187

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.

52. Waterbury, Connecticut
> Founded: 1686
> Population: 107,568

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

53. Falmouth, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1686
> Population: 30,993

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

54. Danbury, Connecticut
> Founded: 1687
> Population: 84,694

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

55. Kingston, New York
> Founded: 1688
> Population: 22,793

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

56. Newark, New Jersey
> Founded: 1693
> Population: 282,011

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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57. Biloxi, Mississippi
> Founded: 1699
> Population: 46,212

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

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

Lebanon was formed by a consolidation of various tracts of land, some of which held by Native Americans.The town was the first settlement in the Connecticut Colony that received a biblical name.

59. Mobile, Alabama
> Founded: 1702
> Population: 188,720

The French established a continuing presence in the area 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.

60. Groton, Connecticut
> Founded: 1705
> Population: 8,911

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

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61. Bath, North Carolina
> Founded: 1705
> Population: 218

French Protestants from Virginia were the first Europeans to settle in Bath.

62. 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.

63. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Founded: 1706
> Population: 560,513

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

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

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

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

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

66. New Bern, North Carolina
> Founded: 1710
> Population: 29,994

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

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67. Pembroke, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1711
> Population: 17,837

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

68. Beaufort, South Carolina
> Founded: 1711
> Population: 192,122

Beaufort is the second-oldest city in South Carolina, after Charleston. Captain Jean Ribaut of France was exploring the coast from Florida to South Carolina, when he eventually landed in Beaufort in 1562. The French, Spanish, and other groups unsuccessfully tried to colonize the area. Finally, the British founded the city in 1711.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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72. Natchez, Mississippi
> Founded: 1716
> Population: 14,615

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

73. New Orleans, Louisiana
> Founded: 1718
> Population: 390,144

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

74. San Antonio, Texas
> Founded: 1718
> Population: 1,547,253

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.

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

Trenton is named after one of its leading landowners, William Trent, and was first called “Trent-towne.”

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

Settled by colonists, Walpole was named after pro-colonist British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole at the time.

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

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

78. Methuen, Massachusetts
> Founded: 1725
> Population: 50,706

People first settled in Methuen in 1642 when the area was still part of Haverhill. The town was officially incorporated in 1725 and named in honor of Sir Paul Methuen, a member of the King’s Privy Council and a friend of acting Provincial Governor William Dummer. Methuen was organized as a city in 1917.

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

Pilgrims used to land in Provincetown Harbor before traveling to Plymouth. The first permanent settlement in Provincetown was established nearly 100 years after the Pilgrims began landing there.

80. Georgetown, South Carolina
> Founded: 1729
> Population: 62,680

Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina. Its history goes back to 1526 when it was probably the site of the first European settlement in North America. The first permanent settlers were English and they were involved in the Indian trade. Georgetown was founded in 1729 and became an official port of entry in 1732.

81. Vincennes, Indiana
> Founded: 1732
> Population: 16,862

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

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

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

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

Ste. Genevieve was founded by French-Canadians. It was part of the region held by the French in North America.

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84. Richmond, Virginia
> Founded: 1737
> Population: 230,436

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

85. 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 there.

86. 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.

87. Nashua, New Hampshire
> Founded: 1746
> Population: 89,355

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.

88. Bennington, Vermont
> Founded: 1749
> Population: 14,964

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

89. Alexandria, Virginia
> Founded: 1749
> Population: 159,428

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonists from Connecticut were granted a charter to create Hanover, a town that would become the home of Dartmouth College.

93. Shepherdstown, West Virginia
> Founded: 1762
> Population: 1,734

Colonial settlers migrating into Shenandoah Valley founded Shepherdstown.

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

Founded by colonial settlers, Romney claims to be West Virginia’s oldest town.

95. Allentown, Pennsylvania
> Founded: 1762
> Population: 121,442

William Allen, chief justice of colonial Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, founded Allentown, which he originally named Northamptontown.

96. Charlotte, North Carolina
> Founded: 1768
> Population: 885,708

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

97. San Diego, California
> Founded: 1769
> Population: 1,423,851

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

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

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

99. 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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100. Harrodsburg, Kentucky
> Founded: 1774
> Population: 8,409

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

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

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

102. 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.

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 102 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 12 towns on this list not tracked by the ACS, we used population figures as of the latest available Census data. Lexington, Kentucky, is more commonly referenced as Lexington-Fayette urban county, Kentucky. Swedesboro, New Jersey, is also referred to as Swedesboro, borough.

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