Special Report

This Is the Oldest City in America

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18. Salem, Massachusetts
> Founded in: 1626

Though it is now best known for its infamous witch trials, Salem, Massachusetts, is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in America. In 1626, Roger Conant led a group of colonists to the area that would later become Salem. He had previously lived in earlier New World settlements Plymouth, Nantasket, and Cape Ann but did not like either the conditions or the society in each of those places.

Conant initially settled the city in 1626. At the time, the Native American name for the area was Naumkeag. Settlers soon changed the name to Salem, which is derived from the Hebrew word for peace.

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17. Quincy, Massachusetts (tied)
> Founded in: 1625

Quincy, Massachusetts, was first settled in 1625. The area that would become Quincy was initially split off from the town of Braintree.

Quincy has gone through a number of different names in its past. When it was first settled in 1625, the city went by the name of Mount Wollaston, after Captain Wollaston who helped settle the area. The name was changed to Merry Mount shortly after, a name that stuck until 1792. That year, the city was finally renamed Quincy in honor of Colonel John Quincy — a family member of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

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16. New York, New York
> Founded in: 1624

America’s largest city is also one of its oldest — nearly 400 years old. Unlike many of the oldest cities in the country, New York City was not founded by Native Americans or English settlers, but rather by Dutch settlers in 1624, though the actual year the city was founded is debated.

The Dutch settlers arrived along the Hudson River in either 1623 or 1624, on what is today known as Governors Island — a part of the city located in the river, west of Brooklyn and south of Manhattan. Still, the New York City seal features the year 1625, when the Dutch moved from Governors Island to Manhattan.

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15. Dover, New Hampshire (tied)
> Founded in: 1623

Dover is New Hampshire’s first settlement, and one of the nation’s oldest cities, tracing its history back nearly four centuries to 1623. Brothers William and Edward Hilton were fishmongers from London, England who settled the area because it was near two different rivers.

In 1623, the brothers referred to the area as Cochecho Plantation, using the Abenaki Tribe name for the area. A decade later, English Puritans purchased the land and renamed it Bristol. In 1637, the area was incorporated and named Dover — possibly as a shot at the Puritans in the area — after lawyer Robert Dover, who was opposed to Puritans.

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14. Gloucester, Massachusetts (tied)
> Founded in: 1623

Gloucester, Massachusetts, has been a continuously inhabited settlement since 1623, but it has been on the map for even longer. Explorer Samuel de Champlain first came across Gloucester Harbor and mapped the area in either 1605 or 1606.

Gloucester is on the northern end of Massachusetts Bay, about 25 miles northeast of Boston. The area has thrived as a fishing and maritime center and was officially incorporated as a town in 1642.