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Exploration and Settlement of Massachusetts

The first Europeans to view what would become the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may have been the Norse around the year A.D. 1000, but the historical record is murky. Other early explorers or the area included the following:

  • John Cabot, an Italian in the employ of Henry VII of England, sailed along the coast of Massachusetts on his second voyage in search of a Northwest Passage in 1498
  • Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian sailing for France, surveyed the North American coast from Maryland to Cape Cod in 1524
  • Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602 brought his ship, the Concord, into Provincetown harbor; he also named Cape Cod in response to a bountiful catch made in the surrounding waters
  • Martin Pring in 1603 discovered Penobscot Bay in Maine
  • George Weymouth (sometimes Waymouth) in 1605 explored the coast of Maine, which for many years was part of Massachusetts; Weymouth appears to have been responsible for taking the native Squanto to England
  • Samuel de Champlain, the famed French explorer of Canada, charted the coastline from Canada to Cape Cod on the second of his 11 voyages from 1604 to 1606
  • John Smith, an earlier founder of Jamestown, mapped the area from Penobscot Bay top Cape Cod and named the area New England.
Settlement efforts by the English began in earnest in 1620 with the establishment of Plymouth Colony by a group of religious separatists. An ill-fated commercial venture was established at Cape Ann in 1625; some of its settlers moved on the following year to found Naumkeag, which would later be called Salem. Other early settlements developed at Mount Wollaston, Wessagusset (later Weymouth) and Nantasket. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in 1630, became the dominant force in the area.