Many believe the era in American history known as “Colonial America” started with the first European settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Contrary to popular belief, there were several settlements on the North American lands before the settlement of Jamestown. Because of this, the real date on the beginning Colonial America is debatable. However, we do know that the Colonial American era ends with the call for American Independence in July of 1776.
In 1607 Europeans began to travel to the new world in order to escape religious persecution. While there were other reasons, the main reason was to find religious freedom, or set up their own religion, depending on how you look at it. Of course, everyone learns in school that many of the first settlers did not make it through the first winter. Much of this had to do with lack of supplies, inadequate shelter, and not being used to the weather. However, over time, the settlers came up with a system, more settlers came, and survival became a little easier. It seems that we all hear the same type of stories about Colonial America. You know about the Salem Witch Trials and the not real First Thanksgiving. But there are several Colonial American stories you have probably never heard about or even thought could have occurred in Colonial America. Here are 10 Colonial American stories you may have never heard about.
While you have heard about John Adams, a Founding Father and the second President of the United States of America, there is one big trait of John that many have not heard. John Adams was known to be a blunt man who was asked to write the Declaration of Independence. However, Adams refused, stating Thomas Jefferson would be a better fit because Jefferson was more respected than him. The reason why John Adams was not well liked was not just because he was blunt but because a lot of other Colonial Americans could not handle his crazy mood swings.
John Adams was upfront with the fact that he was not particularly a people person. In one of his letters, he wrote that he could treat everyone with decency and converse with them when necessary. However, Adams also added that there were few people he enjoyed conversing with. While Adams was warm and loving with his family, he was also known for a short temper. This notorious short temper did not lend well to winning friends.
Historians believe that part of Adams’ mood swings coincided with public criticism or lack of recognition for achievements. From a young age, John Adams was determined and strived to succeed. Furthermore, like most people, he liked to be recognized for his achievements. However, not everyone can succeed in everything and when Adams failed, he took it personally and not in good taste. Adams also seemed to be a bit paranoid as he was quick to believe others were plotting to discredit him. Of course, this did not help him in relationships with the public.
Other historians believe John Adams had something else going on. They think he might have had an undiagnosed mental illness or other internal issues. John Adams was known to battle depression from time to time, often occurring when he felt failure or became ill. Some people also believe that he might have had a thyroid imbalance which could have attributed to his mood swings. Whatever the case might be, John Adams became well-known for his outbursts and mood swings in Colonial American society. And Adams knew it too, as he felt his passions made him erupt like a volcano. He also talked about how he could not control these passions, saying it was like they murdered their owner.
Like everyone, John Adams had internal demons he faced often and could not completely control. But even so, John Adams is still a very remarkable man in the Colonial and Revolutionary eras. He was not only a Founding Father and the second President of the United States but also helped negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris and an author. John Adams lived to see the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, dying on that day. It is said, his last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Even though, unknown to Adams, Jefferson had died a few hours before.
Patience Boston was born on December 26, 1711, in Monamoy, Massachusetts. Her mother died when she was about three years old and her father sold her into servitude. The Crow family would teach her how to read and to obey the words of the Lord. It is said that the family taught her about “sinful courses,” such as not honoring the Sabbath and murder. Over time, Patience was known to be very “wicked” because she would not follow the words of the Lord.
Whether the Crow family felt she was following the “sinful courses” willingly or did not understand the teaching is unknown. But what we do know is that Patience would play on the Sabbath day and did not listen to the teachings given by the Crow family members. The older she grew, the worse her “sinful courses” became. It is said that she tried to start the family’s home on fire and would escape into the night. Eventually, Patience was able to leave the Crow family as she completed her servitude. But this did not help her “wicked” ways.
After leaving the Crows, she started to steal. Later, she married an African American servant, which brought her back into the life of servitude. Her husband’s master claimed that because they were married, she must be his servant as well. Over time, she started drinking, committed adultery, and abused her husband. Not too long after, she became pregnant but they lost the baby shortly after birth. Many people of the time believed it was because of her sinful ways.
Eventually, her husband’s mater sold her to a new master. However, this master grew tired of her antics, selling her to someone else. It is unknown how many masters this young woman went through. However, we do know at the age of 23 she was under her last master. By this time, Patience had “some groundless Prejudice” against her last master. In order to get back at him, she told herself she would murder his grandchild. Today we have an account of this crime, thanks to Samuel and Joseph Moody who recorded it.
Her first plan was to take the young child, who she took care of, into the woods and hit him over the head with a branch. However, she was unable to follow through with this plan. She then dropped a stick into a well and asked the little boy to get it. When he reached in for it, she held his head under water. Patience left the child in the well and walked to the house, where she confessed to her crime.
She sat in a prison for about a month until Joseph and Samuel Moody, who were ministers, took her in to try to save her soul. During this time, Patience gave birth to another child, who became sick, which is when Patience converted. She said if Lord wanted, he could take her child before she was hung. But then she also asked the congregation to pray for her child, who did recover. Patience was hung in the mid-1730s.
John Billington was a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620. Billington was about 40 years old and like everyone else had signed the Mayflower Compact. This compact was created to keep the peace between the colonies of the New World. It is believed that Billington was one of the “grumblers” of the Mayflower. Those who signed the document, but didn’t like it, so they signed it under Puritan rule. For Billington, the grumbling did not stop with signing the document. He was one of the least well-liked passengers onboard the Mayflower. He was known for being foul-mouthed and rude.
However, his rude speaking was the least of worries for several passengers. Religiously, Billington was a Catholic, which was not part of the Puritan’s style. Furthermore, Billington became involved in a rebellion against authorities. While uncertain what exactly Billington tried, we do know he challenged the Captain’s authority through a series of speeches. This rebellion was unsuccessful and made Billington even less popular during the 66-day voyage. But the troubles caused by Billington did not end at sea.
Once on land, Billington was punished for the speeches he gave aboard the Mayflower. However, this did not stop Mr. Billington. He further acted out against the Puritan Church through an uprising. But once the uprising was discovered, Billington stated he was innocent and was considered to be. Before this, Billington had wondered off and was taken by the Nauset, Native Americans from Cape Cod. In response, the Puritans had to send out a party in order to get him back.
After all the disturbing behavior that John Billington was causing the colony the Governor, William Bradford, spoke up. Bradford did not like Billington or his family, stating that the whole family was one of the most disrespectful families of the colony. The Governor also wrote a letter to Robert Cushman. In this letter, Bradford told Cushman that Billington still rails against Cushman. The Governor further wrote that this would not change, stating that Billington would live and die that way.
Eventually, an end would come to John Billington’s reign of terror upon the Puritans. A decade after landing in North America, Billington got into an argument with John Newcomer. While the details of this argument are not certain, we know that Newcomer was Billington’s neighbor. It is also stated that these two were enemies and arguments occurred often. We also know that it was in 1630 that Billington shot Newcomer and killed him. After the murder, Billington received a trial. After being found guilty, Billington was sentenced to hang in September of 1630.
Throughout the days of slavery in North America, there were dozens of slave rebellions. While most of these rebellions occurred after the American Revolution, one rebellion happened before the founding of the United States. This rebellion, known as the Stono Rebellion, happened in 1739 and has practically been taken out of America’s history books. The Stono Rebellion is thought to be the largest slave rebellion in Colonial America. Before this rebellion, slave rebellions were practically unknown in the British Colonies. Because of this, the whole colony of South Carolina was shaken to its core.
The exact date of this rebellion is Sunday, September 9, 1739. The rebellion started in the early hours of that day. It consisted of about 20 enslaved Africans, all of who came over on a slave ship about five years prior. They gathered near a bridge by Stono River near the city of Charles Town, which is now known as Charleston. They picked that location because they had been working on building a public road there. While the slaves were usually heavily guarded, this morning there were no guards.
Whether the group of 20 had planned this rebellion knowing they would be unguarded is not known. However, it is believed that on Sundays slaves were allowed to work by themselves, without a white overseer. This has led historians to wonder if Jemmy was left in charge, which would make a revolt much easier. Whatever the case, Jemmy is the only name written down in the reports that speak of this deadly revolt. To start the revolt, the group of 20 went from the Stono River to Hutchinson’s store.
Once they reached the store, the Africans murdered the two men who were running the store. They also took any guns and gunpowder. As they were leaving, they took the severed heads of the white men and placed them on the front steps. No one exactly knows why they did this but it is speculated that it deals with the beheading of runaway slaves. From the store, the crew went to the house of Godfrey. Here they killed Godfrey, his children, took whatever supplies they needed, and then burned the house down. They then headed south to continue their revolt.
When they reached Wallace’s Tavern, they left the innkeeper alone. Historians believe this is because he was kind to slaves. But they killed Wallace’s neighbor and about 20 other individuals and continued to take whatever supplies they needed. Furthermore, they gained more people to join their revolt as they went through the city. It wasn’t until that afternoon when a large group of whites were able to take action against the rebellion. In the end, about 25 whites and 20 blacks were killed. The slaves who escaped during the rebellion were later captured and either sold off or executed.
You might feel this man is best left forgotten in history once you hear his story. Timothy Dexter was born in Malden, Massachusetts on January 22, 1747. Born into a poor family, Timothy had little schooling and began working as a farm laborer at the age of 8. As a teen, Timothy started his apprenticeship as a leather-dresser. Fortunately, for Timothy, his life as a poor man did not last long. In 1769, he moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, settling into a mansion with his rich wife, who had been a widow.
Within society, Timothy was thought to be unintelligent. Before the end of the American Revolutionary War, he took control of all the continental currency he could, which was worth nothing. However, in 1790, when the Constitution was ratified, Congress decided that the continental currency could be traded in for treasury bonds. Because Timothy had collected all the continental dollars he could, he became instantly wealthy. After gaining all this wealth, Dexter felt his peers would respect him more. However, this was not the case. It seemed to be no matter what he tried, his crude behavior would stand in his way of the respect he felt he deserved.
Over time, Timothy Dexter decided he wanted to become Lord Timothy Dexter. Dexter was not a lord by any means, but he felt with his new-found wealth, it was a requirement. He also made several eccentric purchases with his new money. Dexter had a horse carriage specifically made for him, which included his initials. He also purchased several cream-colored horses and a fleet of shipping vessels. However, his most interesting purchase was hiring an artist to carve a series of 40 giant statues on his property. Historians believe this purchase was made in order to create public attention, which he did.
Dexter’s lavish and interesting purchases are not even what he is best known for in American history. Shortly before he died, Dexter decided to fake his death in order to see how people would react. It is reported that the only people who knew about his staged funeral were his family, who he had to bribe to go along with it. While he seemed somewhat happy with the number of people who showed up to his funeral, about 3,000, he was unimpressed by his wife’s reaction. After the funeral, he went home and beat his wife, stating that she did not grieve enough.
Sometimes time changes people, and when it comes to Dexter, this saying is true. Before Dexter officially died on October 26, 1806, he tried to change his ways. One of the ways Timothy did this was by changing his will, where he divided his estate up equally among his family and friends. Furthermore, he left money to be divided up among the poor. Today, your opinions of Dexter are either one side or the other, people either like him or they do not. There seems to be no in-between.
Judah Monis was born on February 4, 1683, in Italy. His family was Portuguese conversos, which meant the family was Jewish in private but Catholic in public. Judah received his education in Jewish academies. He came to New York in the early 1700s and started reading to Jewish congregations. In 1715, Judah opened a small store in the city of New York where he started teaching Hebrew to Jews, Christians, and really anyone who wanted to learn. It was at this moment that Judah realized he loved teaching.
Judah also felt education was very important and wanted to continue. Therefore, he moved to Massachusetts and obtained his Master’s degree at Harvard in 1720. However, in American history, this degree means more than just Judah continuing his education. Once Judah received his Master’s, he became the first Jew in American history to do so. As part of his graduation requirement, Judah needed to write and submit an essay. This is when he submitted his A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue and gave a copy to Harvard.
Judah loved teaching and now, with his new degree, he could become a professor. And as luck had it, Harvard was looking for a Hebrew Professor. However, there was one problem for Judah. Harvard required that all professors be practicing Christians. While Judah grew up practicing Christianity in public, he was technically Jewish. Judah had a very little problem converting to Christianity, however, not everyone agreed with Judah’s decision. In fact, Judah received criticism from both Jews and Christians for different reasons.
Christians did not fully believe that Judah was 100 percent into Christianity. On the other side of the debate, the Jewish community felt betrayed. The controversy became so bad for Judah that he ended up writing about three books in order to defend his conversion. Even with his books, Judah still dealt with the controversy and passive aggressiveness from the church and Harvard. Both entities would often cite Judah as the “converted Jew” or the “Christianized Jew.” Judah did receive the job as a professor at Harvard, but his struggles still continued.
The book Judah wrote would require students to copy it word for word, which often took about a month. Furthermore, while Harvard felt he did a good job as a professor, Judah had trouble convincing Harvard to purchase a copy of the Hebrew Grammar book from London. Furthermore, throughout his time at Harvard, his responsibilities slowly diminished. They diminished so much that by 1760, Judah was only teaching one class per week. This lack of work, his declining health, and his wife’s death all contributed to his retirement that same year. Judah would live four years in retirement, dying in April of 1764.
King Philip’s War of 1675-1676 is one of the wars of Colonial American that has gone to the back of the history books. Also known as Metacom’s Rebellion, this was a last-ditch effort by Southern New England’s Native Americans to drive out English settlers. In American history, the Civil War remains the deadliest war. However, King Philip’s War can take the title of the deadliest in terms of per capita losses. Pokunoket chief Metacom, or King Philip by the settlers, was the leader of this Native American uprising that lasted around fourteen months.
While unsure of all the events that caused the war, we do know one reason. The rapid growth of settlers in the 1670s started to force Native Americans out of their lands. Once this happened, the relationship between the settlers and Native Americans became extremely rocky. In trying to keep as much peace as possible, some settlers met with King Philip and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. King Philip agreed and all went well until one day when a Christian Native American, who was the informer for the settlers was murdered. In response, the settlers tried and executed three Native Americans.
The action taken to this response was to attach the settlers. On June 24, 1675, the tribe attacked through a series of raids of English settlements. An unknown number of colonists were murdered during this time. In response, the colonists destroyed Native American villages. Within months, all the colonies and several Native American tribes were at war. The war raged on with an unknown amount of casualties. Eventually, King Philip’s wife and son were captured. Not too long after that, in August of 1676, King Philip’s secret hiding place was discovered. A Native American, who was on the English side, captured the King and assassinated him. His head was then publicly displayed on a stake in Plymouth.
The war did several things for the colonists and Native Americans. First, the settlers and Native Americans’ relationship was never the same. Many Native American tribes moved out of the New England area. The war was extremely costly for the settlers and over one-tenth of New England’s military-age population died during the war. On the plus side, the war united the settlers of New England unlike any event before. This was because England refused to send troops or help with the war. Therefore, the settlers had to work together. This action was one of the first acts which laid the groundwork for American identity.
Anne Hutchinson was born in England during the year 1591. In 1634, she followed John Cotton to the New World and became a Puritan settler. During Anne’s time in the colonies, North American soil was not known as the land of the free and Puritans had strict religious rules to follow. After settling into her new home, Anne began to hold weekly meetings. In these meetings, she would rave about Cotton’s preaching and tell people that her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, and herself were true Christians. She would also demand religious freedom and talk about scripture that the Puritan Church did not agree with.
After a few years, Anne Hutchinson’s weekly meetings grew to include about 80 men and women. At this point, the city officers knew they could not let, what they called foolishness, go on any longer. Anne was brought to trial with John Winthrop as leading judge. While John Cotton was not convicted of heresy, Anne did not fare so well. The General Court of Massachusetts convicted her of heresy, banned from the colony, and all ties with the Puritan church were broken.
After being banned from the Colony of Massachusetts, Anne walked to Rhode Island. It was here that Anne, with the help of family, established a colony with others who had been banned. While the colony continued to grow, Anne could no longer stay there once her husband passed away. After his death, Anne and her six children moved to Dutch, New York. It was here that Anne finally felt they could live without being under English control. Unfortunately, this freedom did not last long. In August of 1643, Anne and all but possibly one of her children were killed in a Native American Raid.
The story goes that while Anne was nice to the Native Americans, her settlement was destroyed through a series of events now called the Kieft’s War. When the Native Americans came to Anne’s settlement, they drug her and five of her children out, killed them, and burned the house down. The story continued to say that Anne’s one daughter, who was out picking berries, might have lived through the raid because of her hair. Anne’s daughter had red hair which was something unusual for the Native American tribe, therefore, she might have been captured and went to go live with them.
William Beadle was born in England about 1730. While historians are unsure when Beadle and his wife came to the New World, it is known that they moved to Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1773. It is also believed that before William and his wife moved, they had two children. A boy who was born around 1771 and a girl, who would have been born the following year. It is also recorded that two more daughters were born after the family moved to Wethersfield.
The William Beadle story is one of those, it is not always what it seems stories. Once the family settled in Wethersfield, William opened a mercantile and became a highly successful merchant. In fact, it is believed that he was one of the most successful in his colony. Other Colonists believed that the family lived an ideal life. However, once the American Revolutionary War started, the worth of the continental dollar began decreasing. But this did not stop patriotic William Beadle from continuing to accept the money. Unfortunately, this also led to Beadle’s downfall. The more the continental money depreciated, the less money Beadle’s mercantile made.
With the loss income of his store, Beadle fell far from being one of the wealthiest merchants around. Eventually, this loss bothered him so much he nearly stopped talking to his wife and their four children. It is also noted that during the last year of his life, he always brought an ax to bed with him. Furthermore, he started caring his carving knife and sleeping next to the knife. Eventually, his eating and sleeping patterns decreased.
Near the end of his life, Beadle wrote a letter asking if it was his time to die. However, no one could have predicted what William Beadle would do that fateful morning. One morning in December of 1783, William Beadle killed his wife and their four children. After he murdered his entire family, Beadle slit his own throat, taking his own life. The William Beadle murder and suicide is the first document case of such in the history of the United States of America.
Today when you think of the name Ethan Allen you probably think of the furniture store. However, while the store is named after this Ethan Allen, he had nothing to do with furniture. In fact, Ethan Allen was a revolutionary hero. On top of that, Ethan Allen was also the founder of Vermont, a politician, land speculator, and wore many other hats. Ethan Allen was born during the year 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Throughout his life, Ethan was known as a rebel-rouser, or someone who liked to stir up large groups of people for his own entertainment.
With being known as a rebel-rouser his whole life, it is no surprise that Ethan would fight in every war during his life. He first joined the military during the French and Indian war. After this war, Ethan settled in what is now known as Vermont. However, during Ethan’s time, New York and New Hampshire were claiming the land as their own. In 1770, New York ruled that New Hampshire Grants were invalid and therefore the land did not belong to them. In response, a group known as the Green Mountain Boys came together to stop New York from taking their land. The leader of this group was Ethan.
Once the American Revolution started in 1775, the Green Mountain Boys turned to supporting the American Colonies. Ethan Allen, along with Benedict Arnold, led the group in capturing Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Believing they could do more, the group tried to capture Montreal but failed. This failure led to the capture of Ethan and being sent off to spend two years in the Cornwall, England prison. After his release, Ethan returned to Vermont, which was not part of the United States or British America. In response, Ethan tried to negotiate with Canada, however, this only made him untrustworthy to everyone else. Ethan died in his Vermont home in 1789, two years before Vermont joined the United States.