Historic Timeline 1614 - 1699


English Navigator Captain John Smith discovers the entrance to the Charles River and names it for Prince Charles, son of the reigning King of England, James I.

Before 1624, Mishawum peninsula was inhabited by Indians led by Sachem Wonohagaham (Sagamore John).

ca. 1624 Thomas Walford (blacksmith) and his family settle at the southerly end of Breed’s Hill, “a little way up from the Charles River.” They are members of an earlier expedition, possibly the Fernando and Robert Gorges expedition of 1623 to Weymouth that failed, with its members dispersing about the area.


Massachusetts Bay Company receives a patent for settlement of the Massachusetts coast from three miles north of the Merrimack River to three miles south of the Charles River.  To secure the claim, about 300 settlers are sent to Salem under the Governorship of John Endicott.


The Company hires Kentish engineer Thomas Graves and sends him to Salem to prepare for the settlement of a larger expedition to come.  Graves leads a band of about 100 settlers to the Mishawum peninsula and directs the construction of the Great House and the laying out of the streets of a new town given the name, Charlestown, after the adjacent river and the reigning King, Charles l.

Thomas Graves builds a fort with “palisadoes and flankers” atop Fort Hill (now Town Hill) for protection from the Indians..

The Mishawum peninsula has three major hills: Bunker’s, Breed’s, and Moulton’s, plus two minor hillocks: Fort (later Town) Hill and School Hill (later site of the Phipps Street Burying Ground).

The territorial extent of Charlestown originally included  the area covered by these towns that were later set off: Malden, Medford, Melrose, Everett, Woburn, Burlington, Winchester, Wilmington, Stoneham, Somerville and parts of Cambridge, Reading and Wakefield.


Governor John Winthrop leads an expedition of about 1,000 Puritan settlers in 11 ships to Charlestown, arriving off Salem in June and landing in Charlestown, on July 12.  Despite hardships and disease, July 8 was declared a day of Thanksgiving for God’s protection from the perils of the sea.

On July 30, the first signatures are appended to a religious covenant and the first church is established under a spreading oak tree on the slope of Fort (Town) Hill with Rev. John Wilson as the first Pastor.

Governor Winthrop and his Court of Assistants meet for the first time in the New World on August 23 and establish a government for the Massachusetts Bay Colony under a self-governing charter, with the Great House as its first seat.

After a few months in Charlestown, a majority of the settlers migrate to the Shawmut peninsula which they name Boston, and elsewhere in the area in search of better water and more space.  After the Governor’s departure to Boston, the Great House is used as a meeting house (church) for the Charlestown congregation.


A severe food shortage is eased by the arrival of a supply ship and the first general Thanksgiving Day is proclaimed for February 22.

A ferry to Boston is established by Edward Converse.


A meeting house is built between the Market Square and Charlestown Neck where the peninsula joins the mainland.

The First Congregational Society of Charlestown is founded with Rev. Thomas James as Pastor.  Upon the arrival of Rev. Zechariah Symmes from England, he is ordained Teacher of the congregation, giving it both a pastor and teacher in accordance with scripture (Ephesians 4:11.)

The Train Band (militia) is organized by Capt. Robert Sedgwick  for protection from the Indians. The Training Field is set aside for the drilling of the militia.

The first ship built in the Bay Colony, “The Blessing of the Bay,” is launched on the Mystic River.


The boundary with Newtowne (later Cambridge) is established.

The Great House is sold to the General Court by the Massachusetts Bay Company.


Charlestown Battery is built at Sconce Point to command the mouth of the Charles River.  It accommodates six cannon left on the beach by Governor Winthrop upon his departure to Boston in 1630.


A windmill for grinding grain is erected atop Fort (Town) Hill by Robert Hawkins causing the hill to become known as “Windmill Hill.”

The Great House is sold to Robert Long and becomes the Three Cranes tavern and inn, named for a London tavern.


The fort atop Windmill Hill is improved with breastworks and platforms for three cannon.

The first free public school is established and a schoolmaster engaged.


Clergyman John Harvard arrives from England, is admitted as an inhabitant and freeman, and becomes Teacher in the Charlestown church.  He builds his house on Country Road (later Market and now Main Street) next to Gravel Lane.  The site is now Harvard Mall.  Gravel Lane (remnants still visible) was so named due to the gravel dug from the hill in the town’s earliest days.  Behind Harvard’s house, his orchard extended up the hill.


John Harvard dies leaving his library and half his estate to the nascent college at Cambridge which is named in his honor the next year.


A new meeting house is built on the slope of Windmill Hill facing the Square.


Penny Ferry across the Mystic River to Malden is established by Phillip Drinker.  Receipts from the Boston Ferry are assigned to Harvard College for its support.


The town’s first shipyard is built by Francis Willoughby.


Woburn is set off from Charlestown.  Other towns are later set off from Woburn: Wilmington (1730), Burlington (1799), and Winchester (1850).


Phipps Street Burying Ground is established on School Hill.  (Previous burials were on Fort (Town) Hill.)

Margaret Jones of Charlestown, the first person in the colony accused of witchcraft, is convicted and hanged in Boston.

The first schoolhouse is built on Windmill Hill.


Malden is set off from Charlestown.  Other towns are later set off from Malden: Melrose (1850) and Everett (1870).


Charlestown has about 150 houses.


Elizabeth Foster is born in Charlestown.  She later marries Isaac Goose (or Vergoose) and moves to Boston. The rhymes sung to her children and grandchildren are copied by a son-in-law and printed as “Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes” in 1719.


A Town House (town hall) is erected on the lower slope of Windmill Hill facing the Square.


The fort atop Windmill Hill is abandoned as cannon-fire would endanger adjacent buildings and set fire to the grass.


Benjamin Thompson, “celebrated” teacher, is engaged to teach in the town school, succeeding the “renowned” Ezekiel Cheever.


The Meeting House is repaired and enlarged.


A Great House addition is built to better accommodate the Long family.

A swing bridge is built crossing the slip through which vessels pass to enter Wapping (Town) Dock.


Samuel Phipps replaces Benjamin Thompson as schoolmaster.


A watch-house is built on Charlestown Common.  (The Common was a pastureland located where the Sullivan  Square MBTA station now lies.)

The Meeting House galleries are rebuilt.



The first dry-dock in the colonies is built by James Russell on the Charlestown waterfront.


The school house is replaced by a new one with a cupola for a bell.


The Massachusetts Bay Colony’s self-rule charter is revoked.  Democratic representative government is suspended.  Royal Governor Andros and the King’s Council rule by decree.


Capt. Sprague of Charlestown leads a revolt against Royal Governor Andros to protest the revoking of the charter.  Governor Andros is imprisoned.  Rebellious Charlestown votes to reinstate self-rule and town meeting democracy.


John Knight is appointed town’s first postmaster.


The first general letter (post) office is opened in Charlestown.


The first “American Revolution” is successful.  A new self-rule charter for the Bay Colony is obtained from England.