Pre-United States History Timeline

United States Pre-History

United States Pre-History

This Pre-United States history timeline includes the first inhabitants of what is now the United States, the colonial settlers, and the events that led to the American Revolution.

The United States was first inhabited by Asian nomads who crossed the Bering Land Bridge in present-day Alaska thousands of years before Europeans discovered the continent.

Many years later, Europeans began to explore the continent, and soon settlers began to live in this vast land, eventually establishing what the United States of America is.

Pre-United States History Timeline

Paleo Indian People

Paleo Indian People

16,000 – 8,000 BC – Paleoindian hunter-gatherers migrated across the Bering land-and-ice bridge between Siberia and Alaska.

13,500 BC to 11,000 BC – The Clovis Culture begins in North America. The era was named for distinct stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico.

3,000 BC to 1000 AD – The Woodland Period begins in Eastern America.

986 AD – Norsemen settle Greenland and sees the coast of North America, but doesn’t land.

1000 to 1520 AD – The Mississippian culture begins in North America.

1001 – Leif Ericson explores North America.

c. 1100 – Oraibi, a Hopi village in Navajo County, Arizona, was settled sometime before this time, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements within the United States.

Cahokia People

Cahokia People

c. 1100-1200 – Cahokia, Illinois, near modern-day St. Louis, Missouri, reaches its peak population.

c. 1190 – Construction begins on the Cliff Palace by Ancestral Puebloans in modern-day Colorado.

1492 – Christopher Columbus discovers America.

1497 – John Cabot claims North America for England.

1507 – A new world map by Martin Waldseemuller names the New World “America” continents in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.

1508 – First European colony and oldest known European settlement in a United States territory is founded at Caparra, Puerto Rico, by Ponce de Leon.

1513 – Vasco Núñez de Balboa crosses isthmus of Panama, sees the Pacific Ocean.

1519 – Ferdinand Magellan is the first to go around the world

Alonzo de Pineda explores the Gulf Coast of America

1524 – Giovanni da Verrazzano, working for France, explores coastline from present-day Maine to North Carolina.

Panfilo de Narvaez and Crew Waiting

Panfilo de Narvaez and Crew Waiting

1528 – Panfilo de Narvaez conquers Cuba and explores Florida.

Alvar Cabeza de Vaca explores Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

1534 – Jacques Cartier explores the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and claims modern Quebec, Canada for France.

1539 – Hernando de Soto explores south-eastern North America.

1540 – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explores south-western North America

Discovery of the Grand Canyon by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas

Pedro de Tovar comes in contact with the Hopi people at Oraibi as part of the expedition led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

1541 – Hernando de Soto discovers the Mississippi River, strengthening Spanish claims to North America’s interior.

Explorer Juan Ponce de León of Spain landed on the coast of Florida.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explores Kansas.

1542 – Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo discovers and explores the Californian coast.

1559 – Tristan de Luna explores North America.

1562 – Jean Ribault leaves France with 150 colonists for the New World, establishing Charlesfort on Parris Island in South Carolina, abandoned several years later.

1563 – Francisco de Ibarra explores New Mexico.

1564 – French Fort Caroline was established on the banks of the St. Johns River, Florida. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sacked the fort in 1565.

1565 – Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founds St. Augustine, Florida, the earliest successful Spanish/European settlement in the future continental United States.

1570s – The Iroquois Confederacy was founded.

1576 – Sir Martin Frobisher explores the Baffin Bay and the Hudson Strait.

Sir Francis Drake's Ship

Sir Francis Drake’s Ship

1577 – Sir Francis Drake circumnavigates the world from December 13, 1577, to September 26, 1580.

1579 – Francis Drake claims California’s lands for England and Queen Elizabeth I, landing in Drake’s Bay and naming it New Albion.

1584 – Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, who were in the service of Sir Walter Raleigh,  explore the coast of North Carolina.

March 25, 1585 – Sir Walter Raleigh receives the patent to explore and settle in North America.

June 1585 – Walter Raleigh’s fleet of seven vessels under Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane, with 108 men, reach Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

June 4, 1585 – Virginia colony of Roanoke Island established by Walter Raleigh.

1587 – Virginia Dare was born in Roanoke making her the first known English child born in the New World.

The first Asians to set foot on the United States occurred when Filipino sailors arrived in Spanish ships at Morro Bay, California.

1588 – The first battle of the English against the Spanish Armada begins, leading to their defeat and the lessening of Spain’s influence in the New World and the rise of English influence in the Americas.

Discovery of the word Croatoan at the vanished colony of Roanoke, North Carolina

Discovery of the word Croatoan at the vanished colony of Roanoke, North Carolina.

1590 – Roanoke Colony found deserted.

1598 –  Juan de Archuleta explores Colorado.

1602 – Captain Bartholomew Gosnold is the first Englishman to land on the New England coast, exploring and naming Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.

1605 – The first capital of French Acadia was established as Port-Royal in modern-day Nova Scotia; it lasted until 1613.

George Weymouth explores New England.

1606 – The joint-stock company Virginia Company of London is founded and granted a Royal Charter by James I to settle in the New World.

Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown, Virginia

1607 – Captain John Smith leads colonists to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the Americas’ first permanent English settlement.

The short-lived Popham Colony was founded in Maine by the Virginia Company of Plymouth.

1608 – Quebec, Canada, was founded by Samuel de Champlain.

1609 – Henry Hudson explores the Hudson River and Delaware Bay for the Dutch.

1609-10 – These years are known as the Starving Time at Jamestown, Virginia.

1610 – Santa Fe, New Mexico is established by Spain.

1612 – The Dutch establish a fur trading center with the Native Americans on Manhattan Island.

1614 – The Dutch claim New Netherland. Located on the east coast of America, it included New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, with small outposts in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

John Rolfe successfully harvests tobacco in Jamestown, Virginia, ensuring the colony’s success.

1617-19 – Smallpox kills roughly 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Indians.

Dutch ship landing in Virginia with African Americans in 1619.

Dutch ship landing in Virginia with African Americans in 1619.

1619 – The first African Americans are brought to Jamestown, beginning the practice of slavery in the Virginia colony.

The House of Burgesses was formed in Jamestown, the first democratically elected legislative body in English North America.

1620 – The Mayflower Compact was signed and the Plymouth Colony is founded in what would become Massachusetts by the Plymouth Company.

1622 – Indian massacre of 1622 in Virginia.

1624 – King James I revokes the Virginia Company’s charter, and Virginia becomes a royal colony.

New Amsterdam is founded by the Dutch West India Company, which would later be renamed New York.

1628 – Massachusetts Bay Colony founded.

1630 – Boston, Massachusetts is founded.

1632 – The Province of Maryland was founded.

1636 – The first university in the colonies is founded — Harvard College.

Thomas Hooker founded the Connecticut Colony.

Roger Williams founds the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Pequot War

Pequot War

The Pequot War begins in New England in July 1636 and lasts through September 21, 1638.

1637 – The New Haven Colony was founded in present-day Connecticut.

New Sweden was established around the southern Delaware River by Peter Minuit.

1639 – The Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony is signed and officially adopted.

The English Crown formally recognizes the Virginia Assembly.

1640 – The French and Iroquois Wars escalate to full warfare.

1652 – Rhode Island enacted the first law declaring slavery illegal.

Quakers meeting

Quakers meeting

1656 – First Quakers arrive in New England.

1655 – The Peach Tree War was a large-scale attack on September 15, 1655, by the Susquehannock Indians and allied tribes on several New Netherland settlements along the Hudson River in New York.

1659-1663 – Esopus Wars were two conflicts between the Esopus tribe of Lenape Indians (Delaware) and New Netherland colonists.

1663 – King Charles II grants a charter for a new colony — the Province of Carolina.

1664 – New Amsterdam is captured by the English at the start of the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

New Jersey and New York are established as Proprietary Colonies of England.

1667 – New Netherland is ceded to England under the Treaty of Breda.

1669 – The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina are drawn up.

Appalachian Mountains

Little Tennessee River Crossing, Appalachian Trail

1669-1670 – John Lederer of Virginia explores the Appalachian Mountains.

1670 – Charles Town (Charleston) is founded in present-day South Carolina.

1672-73 – Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette explored the Illinois Country.

1675-76 – King Philip’s War is fought in New England between natives and colonists.

1676 – Bacon’s Rebellion occurs in Virginia against the rule of Governor William Berkeley.

1677 – Colonists in North Carolina rebel against ruling governor Thomas Colepeper.

Edmund Andros, Governor of New York, negotiates the Covenant Chain with the Iroquois.

The Province of Maine was absorbed by Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1679 – War between the Westo tribe and colonial South Carolina destroys the Westo.

The Province of New Hampshire is created out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by royal decree from King Charles II.

William Penn

William Penn

1681 – William Penn receives a royal charter from King Charles II to establish Pennsylvania.

1682 – René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explored the Ohio River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley, and he claimed the entire territory for France as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.

William Penn publishes “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania,” and Philadelphia is founded.

1685 – Fort St. Louis (French colonization of Texas) is established near Arenosa Creek on Matagorda Bay by French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle; the fort was abandoned in 1688.

1686 – Henri de Tonti established the Arkansas Post as the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley.

1688-97 – King William’s War was fought between New France and New England and their respective Indian allies.

1689 – The Boston Revolt and Leisler’s Rebellion.

Toleration Act 1688 is passed by Parliament, which gives limited Freedom of Religion to all British citizens.

1690 – Spanish authorities, concerned that France posed a competitive threat, constructed several missions in East Texas.

Witch Trial

Witch Trial

1692 – Salem Witch Trials occur in Massachusetts.

1696 – Cahokia, Illinois was established by French missionaries from Quebec, Canada, and is one of the region’s earliest permanent settlements.

1699 – The capital of Virginia was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg, and Jamestown was slowly abandoned.

Free African Americans were ordered to leave the Colony of Virginia.

1700 – José Romo de Vivar becomes one of the earliest Spanish settlers in present-day Arizona.

1701 – The Collegiate school at Saybrook is founded in Connecticut. It will later be renamed Yale College.

The Delaware Colony was granted a charter, separating it from Pennsylvania.1702 – East Jersey and West Jersey become crown colonies.

Mobile, Alabama, is founded.

1703 – Kaskaskia, Illinois is established as a small mission station for the French.

Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses

Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses

1705 – The House of Burgesses passes the Virginia Slave Codes.

1706 – Albuquerque, New Mexico is founded and named for the viceroy of New Spain, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque.

1710 – Francis Nicholson takes Port Royal.

1711-15 – North Carolina fights the Tuscarora War with the Tuscarora people.

1712 – Carolina colony was divided into North and South Carolina.

New York Slave Revolt of 1712.

1713 – The Treaty of Utrecht is signed, bringing an end to Queen Anne’s War, the second in a series of French and Indian Wars.

1714 – Natchitoches is established by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, making it the oldest permanent European settlement in present-day Louisiana.

1715 – The Yamasee War begins in South Carolina.

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

1718 – Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) was built as the first Spanish mission along the San Antonio River.

The French founds new Orleans, Louisiana.

Blackbeard, the pirate, is killed in battle by lieutenant Robert Maynard in the waters off of the Province of North Carolina.

1722 – Father Rale’s War, also known as Dummer’s War, begins. This was a series of battles between New England and the Wabanaki Confederacy, allied with New France. It lasts until 1725.

1723 – The Colony of Virginia passes an act to deal with slave conspiracies.

The French establish Fort Orleans along the Missouri River near Brunswick, Missouri.

1729 – The Province of Carolina proprietors sell out to Crown.

The city of Baltimore, Maryland, was founded.

James Edward Oglethorpe, Founder of Georgia

James Oglethorpe

1732 – General James Oglethorpe founds the Province of Georgia.

1739 – The Stono Rebellion, a slave revolt in the Province of South Carolina, is crushed.

1740 – The Plantation Act is passed to encourage immigration to the colonies.

James Oglethorpe fails to take St. Augustine, Florida.

South Carolina enacts the Negro Act that made it illegal for slaves to move abroad, assemble in groups, raise food, earn money, and learn to write English.

1741 – The New York Conspiracy is suppressed. This was a plot by slaves and poor whites in New York to revolt and level New York City with fires.

1744 – King George’s War, the third of the four French and Indian Wars, begins. It lasts until 1748.

The mail-order catalog was conceptualized and invented by Benjamin Franklin.

1746 – Princeton University in present-day New Jersey is founded.

Trading with Native Americans

Trading with Native Americans

1747 – Englishmen and Virginians founded the Ohio Company to promote trade with Native American tribes and secure English control of the Ohio River Valley.

1749 – Province of Georgia overturns its ban on slavery.

c. 1750 – The population of the Thirteen Colonies is roughly 1.5 million.

1750 – Thomas Walker passes through the Cumberland Gap.

1754 – The French and Indian War begins and lasts until 1763.

Columbia University was founded as King’s College in present-day New York City.

1758 – The first black Baptist church is founded in Lunenburg, Virginia.

1760 – A huge fire destroyed much of Boston, Massachusetts.

February 10, 1763 – The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Canada east of the Mississippi River is added to the British empire.

Pontiac’s Rebellion against the British begins and lasts until 1766.

October 7, 1763 – The Proclamation of 1763 issued by King George III after the French and Indian War organizes the North American empire and stabilizes relations with Native Americans. No British settlements are allowed west of the Appalachian Mountains, and settlers already in these areas must return east.

NextAmerican Revolution Timeline 1764 – 1783

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2021.

Also See:

American History Photo Galleries

American Revolution

Exploration of America

Native American Timeline

Settling of America – New England Settlements


Library of Congress
World Atlas