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Northern Colonies Facts You'd Love to Know

United States [1620–86]

By Saul Mcleod, Last Updated: May 23, 2022

The New England colonies were established by English people who wanted to explore new economic opportunities and escape religious persecution in their state. These colonies played an important part in the American revolution. 

Let us take a detailed look at the colonies and how they tackled problems borne of religion, geography, government, etc. 

What Were The New England colonies?

There were a total of 13 colonies in North America. Originally, in the 17th century, there were seven New England colonies. These colonies were:

  1. The Plymouth colony (Later became part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay)

  2. Province of Maine (Merged with Massachusetts Bay)

  3. The Rhode Island colony

  4. The Massachusetts Bay colony.

  5. The New Hampshire colony

  6. The Connecticut colony

  7. The New Haven Colony (Merged with the Connecticut colony)

Massachusetts Colony

Pilgrims and Puritans inhabited the Massachusetts colony. These groups came to the new world with official permission from the King called a charter. 

New Plymouth Colony

The Pilgrims were looking for religious freedom without facing persecution from the Crown. They were separatists who wanted to leave the Anglican Church and find a new religion. 

William Bradford founded the Plymouth colony in 1662. They arrived on a boat called the Mayflower. 

This was the first colony established in New England. Before forming the colony, the English settlers signed an important document called the Mayflower Compact. This document was a set of rules for self-governance amongst the people of the New Plymouth colony.

Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These were members of the Anglican church who wanted to make reforms and create a purer version of the church. They thought of themselves as the social elites. 

John Winthrop led the group of Puritans. He was an authoritarian and only wanted the Puritans to remain in power.

New Hampshire Colony

The New Hampshire colony is situated to the north of Massachusetts. John Mason founded it in 1622. As the colonial population rose, the settlements expanded on the border of the coast while also going deeper inland. 

As the population increased to the north of Massachusetts, it got its charter and became known as New Hampshire. People flocked there in search of economic opportunities in the new world.

Rhode Island Colony

Rhode Island colony is situated to the south of Massachusetts and was founded by a minister named Roger Williams in 1636. He believed that:

  • The church and the government should be separate entities. 

  • The government is a body that maintains law and order, but it should not impose religion forcefully. 

  • Everyone should have the freedom to practice the religion of their choice. For example, in Massachusetts, non-Puritans are not allowed to worship freely.

People came here to practice religious and political freedom. This was also the colony where Anne Hutchinson fled after being exiled from Massachusetts. 

Various Aspects of the New England Colonies

The different aspects of living in the northern colonies that the colonists tackled are:


The New England colonies faced many problems at the beginning. They found the soil thin and rocky, which made it difficult to farm. 

They faced harsh winters and snow. The cold weather was beneficial in limiting the spread of certain diseases, but it also didn’t allow the crops to grow. 

The colonies befriended the Native Americans, who taught them new farming techniques suitable for that soil, as they were familiar with it. The main crops they produced in the north were oats, wheat, and barley. 

Natural Resources

The New England colonies were abundant in natural resources. The forests provided ample timber that was used to build houses and ships. 

As the New England colonies were situated along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, fish and whales also became important resources. 

The settlers also hunted the animals in the forest for their fur and meat. The fur was used for export. 

Trade and Economy

Unlike the southern colonies, these lands were not suitable for farming. That is why colonists had to rely on other sources of income, such as the hunting and lumber industries. The abundance of fish allowed the colonists to export it and collect revenue. 

The New England colonies were associated with the trade of rum and enslaved people. They also imported machinery, glass, and linen from England. 

Learn The Economic Activities in New England Colonies


Religious disparities divided people into groups of Pilgrims and Puritans. This also became the root of many conflicts amongst those groups. The lack of religious tolerance and gender equality also led to the Salem Witch Trials. 

Roger Williams, a young minister, believed that matters of the state and religion should be kept separate. He advocated for the fair treatment of the native Americans and urged the English settlers to stop exploiting and robbing them. 

His beliefs got him expelled from Massachusetts Bay. He travelled in the harsh winter and reached Raynham. There he purchased land and named it Providence Plantations. He established a system where everyone had a voice and freedom of religion.


There were mainly two types of government: Charter and Royal. 

The Crown governed the Royal colonies, and the King appointed all officials. 

Charter colonies operated under permission or charter from the monarchy. Such colonies functioned freely, with colonists electing their leaders. They are generally self-governed and exist independently. 

The New England colonies were religiously biased. Only men were given a seat in the government, and they had to be members of the local church to hold power. 

These are some of the frequently asked questions about the New England colonies.

Who Found the Northern Colonies?

The first colony of Plymouth was founded by the Pilgrims, who were separatists and had different religious views.

They left Great Britain to escape religious persecution. Then came the Puritans, who founded the Massachusetts Bay colony.

What Were the New England Colonies Known For?

The New England colonies were established to find religious freedom and economic opportunities. This was the new world, as seen by the English settlers as a way to be themselves and improve their prospects.


This concludes the interesting facts about the Northern Colonies. By now, you should be familiar with the original New England colonies and all the obstacles faced by the British in the establishment of these colonies.

Cite this Article (Chicago Style)

Mcleod, S. "Southern Colonies Facts You'd Love to Know." World History Blog, May 23, 2022.

About the Author

Saul Mcleod is a qualified psychology teacher with over 17 years' experience of working in further and higher education. He has recently worked as a psychology teaching assistant for The University of Manchester, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology

He previously worked for Wigan and Leigh College, where he was a psychology lecturer for ten years, primarily teaching A-level psychology and sociology.