If you're history buffs like us, you most likely have wondered what place is really the oldest town , settlement , or city in America. Depending on the source, the answer may very well be different. So which is it? St. Augustine, Albany, Hudson, Lewes, Jamestown or somewhere else? We break down the interpretation of these places which each hold a unique historic distinction in their own claim to being the "oldest".
Initially established in 1607, Jamestown, Virginia is sometimes inaccurately called America's oldest town. It is true that Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in North America in 1607. However in 1699, the government and capital were moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, renamed Williamsburg. People continued to live on Jamestown Island and owned farm lands, but it ceased to be a town. In 1893 the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities took ownership of 22.5 acres on the west side of Jamestown Island. Today Jamestown is not a city, settlement or town. It is a National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System. Today it is preserved by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia.
Hudson, New York has the distinction as the first city in America to be incorporated after the Thirteen Colonies became the United States. This technically makes it the oldest American city. The idea of Hudson started before the Treaty of Paris was signed. A group of men from Nantucket and New Bedford—seafarers, owners of whaling ships—were convinced that King George would not be content to let the American colonies go, and the British would be back to recapture what they’d lost. Hudson was originally inhabited by the Mohican Indians. The first known European to navigate the river was Henry Hudson in 1609. In 1783 two Nantucket merchants bought Claverack Landing, and the whaling trade flourished.
Pensacola, Florida can take credit as America's first European settlement but it is not the oldest in America. That’ is because although, established in 1559, the colony quickly failed. In the spring of 1561 only a military outpost remained. By August of 1561 it was completely abandoned as all the settlers returned to Mexico. It wasn't until 1698 that Spain established another new garrison in Pensacola, where the soldiers began to lay out a colonial town. So the land was abandoned for 139 years before today's existing city of Pensacola was established. To this day the city of Pensacola proudly stakes its claim as America's first settlement which was initially established there in 1559 by the explorer Tristan de Luna.
Albany, New York is one of the oldest surviving European settlements from the original Thirteen Colonies and the longest continuously chartered city in the United States. Fur traders established this first European settlement in 1614 and the city was officially chartered in 1686 under English rule. In 1797, Albany became the official capital of New York State. Since then, Albany has been a center for banking, railroads, and international trade. Albany has a rich history dating back more than 400 years. When Henry Hudson arrived in 1609, the area was already home to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and the Dutch had established a trading post.
Lewes, Delaware is the first town in the first state of the United States. Delaware was one of the 13 Colonies that took part in the American Revolution. On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the US, and has since been known as The First State. Lewes was the first town/city founded in Delaware. Discovered by Henry Hudson on a voyage up the Delaware River in August, 1609, and first settled by the Dutch in 1631, historic Lewes (pronounced Loo-iss) boasts old homes and structures that date back to the late 1600s and early 1700s. Lewes has been the scene of historic battles and has been visited by infamous pirates such as Captain Kidd.
Plymouth was the site of the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the region of modern-day New England in the United States. It is was established by Pilgrims, also known as the Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed on the Mayflower. They were separatist Puritans who had broken away from the Church of England, believing that the Church had not completed the work of the Protestant Reformation. Although never officially incorporated, the town was recognized in 1633 as the seat of Plymouth colony, which was absorbed into Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. The Plymouth Rock is the site where William Bradford and other Pilgrims first set foot on land.
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is both America's oldest city AND oldest non-Indigenous settlement in the United States. 42 years before the English colonized Jamestown and 35 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established at St. Augustine. Founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the city has been nicknamed: ‘Ancient City’ and ‘Old City’". It's claimed that The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park occupies the vicinity where Juan Ponce de Leon first landed. St. Augustine started as a Spanish colony, was handed to Britain in a treaty in 1763, returned to the Spanish in 1783 and became part of new U.S. territory in 1821.
Old Oraibi is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States. Also known as Orayvi, is a Hopi pueblo located on Third Mesa in northeastern Arizona. It dates back to around 1100 AD. The village was founded by a group of Hopi people who migrated from the Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado. They settled on Third Mesa because of its fertile soil and abundant water supply. Oraibi quickly became a major Hopi settlement, and by the 16th century it was one of the largest and most prosperous pueblos in the Southwest. Today, Oraibi is a small community, home to about 600 people.
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