New England Colonies Facts For Kids

  • The New England colonies were the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
  • The New England colonies got organized around the Puritan religion and family farming.
  • The New England colonies were also known for their shipbuilding and whaling industries.


The founders of the New England colonies had a far different goal than the Jamestown settlers.

The true goal of the New England settlers was spiritual. People were tired of the Church of England, and they thought it was too formal and not how God wanted things to be.

So they decided to start their church where things would be done the way they believed God wanted them to be done.

The First Years in America – New England Colonies Facts

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The New World was a great place to find opportunities. The land was untouched and ready for people to use it.

It is possible to raise children without the corrupt old English religious ideas, which would give them a chance to create a perfect society.

Some people in 1620 had the idea of starting a new nation, and this would be different than the society that already existed at Jamestown.

This was a fundamental goal for them, and their efforts would change the way people in New England lived.

Nearly half of the New England settlers in 1620 died from diseases. But despite this, the colonists’ health and economic position improved.

The Pilgrims soon made peace treaties with the Indians in the area, allowing them to focus on building a solid and stable economy.

Pilgrims stopped trying to solve expensive and time-consuming problems defending the colony from attack.

Even though they didn’t have any wealthy pursuits, the Pilgrims were self-sufficient after only five years in America.

Life as a Puritan in the New England Colonies

The Puritans had strict religious beliefs. They believed that their lives should be focused on work and prayer.

The Puritans were very hardworking people, and they did not celebrate parties, listen to music, or keep holidays.

They believed in living plainly- simple clothes and homes. They went to church often. Houses were built around the Meeting House, and this was a common public place where they held church, meetings, and school.

It was important for children to learn how to read the Bible. The Puritans believed in education, and it was them who founded Harvard University.

Women learned how to read and played an important role in the Puritan household.

Life as a Pilgrim in the New England Colonies

Even though the Pilgrims were always a minority in Plymouth, they had complete control over the government of their colony during the first four decades of settlement.

Before disembarking from the  Mayflower in 1620, the Pilgrim founders demanded that all the adult males aboard sign a contract promising obedience to the laws and ordinances drafted by the leaders.

Although the Mayflower Compact is seen as an important step in developing democratic government in America, the agreement was one-sided because the settlers promised obedience, and the Pilgrim founders promised very little in return.

Even though nearly all the men in the colony were allowed to vote for deputies to a provincial assembly and a governor, only a few men controlled the colony for at least the first years.

The people of Plymouth gradually gained more power in their church and civic life. This happened over time as they became more involved in the decisions made by their community.

The Plymouth settlers were different from other people in the area because they were quiet and orderly.

The Geography of the New England Colonies

The New England colonies were flat near the coastline, where there were good harbors.

As you traveled further inland, the land became more hilly and mountainous. The forests were dense, making farming difficult because the soil was rocky.

The New England colonies had very cold winters and warm summers. The crops they grew were corn, beans, and squash during a short 5-month growing season.

The Economy of the New England Colonies

The founders of Plymouth in Massachusetts were financed by private investors looking to make a profit.

The forests in the New England colonies were a valuable resource for the colonists. The trees provided wood that the colonists could use to build homes, buildings, and ships.

Lumber became an important part of the shipbuilding industry because it could build ships for the colonies. These ships were then exported to England.

Many colonists fished since the New England colonies were located near the coast. Whale oil was a vital resource used for lamps, and it could also be sold.

The New England colonies focused on the shipbuilding and fishing industries, which meant they had to import farm products from other colonies and England.

The Politics of the New England Colonies

The Puritans were looking for religious freedom outside of England, and they wanted to make the Church of England better.

They came to the New World because they wanted to practice their religion without being treated badly.

This led them to leave England and create the New England colonies with a strong tie between the church and government.

The civil government of the colony was strict and followed the rules closely.

John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay, believed that it was the duty of governors to not act as the direct representatives of their constituents but to decide what measures were in the best interests of all people in society.

When they arrived in Massachusetts, many of the settlers thought that all church members should be able to vote. These people were called “freemen.” They got the right to vote once each year for a governor and a Council of Assistants.

The General Court passed a new plan to let each town’s freemen select two or three delegates and assistants. These people would sit together in the General Court and be responsible for all the legislation.

The government of Massachusetts Bay also ruled the early settlers of the states of New Hampshire and Maine.

New Hampshire was then entirely cut off from Massachusetts, although it wasn’t almost 100 years later that it received its king governor. 

Maine remained under the authority of Massachusetts until 1820.

The New England colonies differed from the Chesapeake colonies because they had different economies and environments.

Both regions had forms of government that were unusual for the time, and they were more democratic than other forms of government at the time.

They also had a policy of excluding Native Americans from their societies.

The Religion of the New England Colonies

The English government persecuted the Pilgrims because they wanted to separate from the Anglican Church. They were also called Separatists.

The Puritans, who wanted to purify the Church of England, were subjected to the same degree of persecution.

Both the Pilgrims and Puritans were Calvinists, and Calvin maintained that neither the Catholic nor Anglican teachings addressed God’s will.

John Winthrop was a spiritual leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He served as governor of the colony.

The Society of the New England Colonies

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was known for its authoritarian tendencies, but a spirit of a community still developed there.

The same spirit that led the residents of Massachusetts to report their neighbors for not following the true principles of Puritan morality also led them to be very concerned about their neighbors’ needs.

Even though people who disagreed with the mainstream beliefs got mistreated, they still felt a sense of community and attachment to their homes.

Connecticut and Rhode Island

Many people in New England refused to live under the rules of the wealthy people in Massachusetts. So, Connecticut and Rhode Island were created where these people could live without the rules.

Reverend Thomas Hooker arrived in Massachusetts Bay in 1633. He objected to the colony’s restrictive policy on who could join the church and the leader’s power over the people.

Hooker and his followers didn’t like Massachusetts’s religious and political structure. They wanted to go to a new place where they could have their way. So they started moving to the Connecticut valley in 1635.

The founders of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersford were successful. Then the separate colony of New Haven was founded, and Connecticut and Rhode Island merged under one charter.

Roger Williams

Roger Williams, the man who helped found Rhode Island, was banished from Massachusetts because he refused to follow the rules set by the government there.

Williams’ beliefs about religion were different from the people’s beliefs in charge of Massachusetts. He thought that only certain people could be part of the church, and this idea led to him not allowing anyone into the church.

He stopped using purity as a criterion for church membership because he recognized that no church could ensure the purity of its congregation. He opened church membership to nearly everyone in the community.

Williams showed that he wanted the Puritan church to be separate from the Church of England.

Finally, he disputed the right of the Massachusetts leaders to occupy land without first purchasing it from the Native Americans.

Williams’s unpopular views forced him to flee Massachusetts Bay for Providence.

William Coddington and Samuel Gorton

William Coddington, another person who disagreed with the government in Massachusetts, settled his congregation in Newport.

Samuel Gorton, a minister who was banished from Massachusetts Bay because he disagreed with the ruling group, settled in Warwick.

The three communities of Newport, Portsmouth, and Middletown joined together with a fourth in Portsmouth to form Providence Plantation Colony in Narragansett Bay.