American History Timeline 1601 - 1625

Painting of Pocahontas saving John Smith from 1607

 MPI / Getty Images

The first quarter of the 17th century was a turbulent period for the English colonies in North America. In England, Queen Elizabeth I died, and James I succeeded her, with a much more aggressive expansionist policy, a far more controlling hand over the new colonies; and competition from the French and Dutch kept things interesting.


1601: British adventurer and navigator Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618) a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who had spearheaded the futile search for El Dorado (1595), and established the failed English colony on Roanoke Island in the Americas (1585), is imprisoned in the Tower of London for a plot against King James I (ruled 1603–1667).

1602: Captain Bartholomew Gosnold (1571–1607) is the first Englishman to land on the New England coast, exploring and naming Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard.

1605: Port-Royal, Nova Scotia established by French explorers Pierre Dugua de Monts (1558–1628) and Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635), and is abandoned in 1607.


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

December: A group of 105 settlers from the Virginia Company sets sail for the Americas on three ships (the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery).


May 14: The settlers land and found the colony of Jamestown, under the patent of the London Company.

Captain John Smith (1580–1631) meets the 13-year-old Powhatan princess named Pocahontas (ca. 1594–1617).


Captain John Smith's memoir of Jamestown colony, "A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of That Collony," is published in London.


April 6: English explorer Henry Hudson (1565–1611), commissioned by the Dutch East India Company, leaves London for his first successful voyage to the Americas, where he will explore the Delaware Bay and Hudson River.


February 28: Thomas West, 12th Baron De la Warr (1576–1618), is made Governor of Virginia by the Virginia Company, and arrives for a brief stay in June.

April 17: Henry Hudson sets sail for America again and discovers Hudson Bay in northern Canada, but find themselves iced in over the winter.

Port-Royal re-established by Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt (1557–1615).


June: After a harsh winter spent iced in to James Bay and a mutiny aboard ship, explorer Henry Hudson, his son, and several sick crew members are put off his ship and never heard of again.


Captain John Smith publishes the first detailed map of the Chesapeake Bay region including what is today Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC called A Map of Virginia. It will remain in active use for the next seven decades.

The Dutch establish a fur trading center with the Indigenous peoples on Manhattan Island, part of explorations led by Adriaen Block (1567–1627) and Henrik Christiansen (d. 1619).

The Indigenous peoples' domestic crop tobacco first cultivated by English colonists in Virginia.


English colonists led by captain and adventurer Samuel Argall (1572–1626) in Virginia destroy the French settlements at Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

Adriaen Block's ship catches fire and is destroyed at the mouth of the Hudson River, and the first ship on the Americas is built to replace it.


While imprisoned in the Tower of London (1603–1616), Sir Walter Raleigh writes and publishes The History of the World.

April 5: Pocahontas marries Jamestown colonist John Rolfe (1585–1622).


Sir Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower of London, but not pardoned by James I, who ordered him to return to the Americas in exchange for his freedom.

April 21: John Rolfe, Pocahontas, and their young son travel to England. Pocahontas is given the title Lady Rebecca.

English navigator and explorer William Baffin (1584–1622) discovers Baffin Bay while searching for the hypothetical water route to Asia known as the Northwest Passage.

Captain John Smith publishes "A Description of New England," including commentaries from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean.

A smallpox epidemic decimates the New England Indigenous population, the first known outbreak of the "Great Dying."


March: Pocahontas dies in Gravesend, United Kingdom, falling ill after starting the trip home. Her death would end the uneasy truce between Jamestown and the Powhatans.


January 2: Sir Walter Raleigh sets sail for Guyana promising to respect Spanish rights in the region. Contrary to orders, his men destroyed the Spanish village of San Tome de Guyana.

October 29: Raleigh returns to England and is executed, for treasonous actions against King James I originally assigned to him in 1603.


April: The first representative colonial assembly, the House of Burgesses, was formed in Virginia, the firs democratically elected legislative body in English North America.

August: The first enslaved persons arrive in English North America. Twenty Africans captured by Portuguese traders of enslaved people are brought to Virginia on a Dutch Man-of-War battleship.


November 11: The Mayflower Compact was signed, shortly after the ship arrived in Provincetown Harbor.

Plymouth Colony is founded in what would be Massachusetts, by the Plymouth Company, a joint stock company founded by James I in 1606.

John Carver (ca 1584–1621), one of the Mayflower pilgrims, is named the first governor of Plymouth Colony.


Sir Francis Wyatt (1588–1644) becomes the new governor of Virginia and travels to Jamestown colony to serve.

James I grants Scottish courtier William Alexander (1627–1760) a charter to set up a Scottish colony in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

April: John Carver dies.

June 3: The Dutch West Indies Company is chartered by the Netherlands government, a charter, intially intended to take Brazil from the Portuguese.


William Bradford (1590–1657) succeeds Carver as the governor of Plymouth Colony, a role that he plays off and on for the remainder of his life.

March 22: Jamestown is attacked by Powhatan relatives of Pocahontas. Some 350 settlers are killed and the colony is plunged into war for a decade.


The Dutch Republic's colony known as New Netherland is organized in the Hudson, Delaware, and Connecticut river valleys from what is today New York state to Delaware.

A second Scottish ship sent by William Alexander lands in Newfoundland, picks up the colonists, surveys the coast of Nova Scotia, and then gives up the whole idea and heads home.

First English settlement in New Hampshire is founded by Scotsman David Thomson (1593–1628).


James I revokes the Virginia Company's charter, making Virginia a Crown Colony; Sir Francis Wyatt remains Governor of Virginia.

Captain John Smith publishes "A General Historie(sic) of Virginia, the Summer Isles and New England."

New Amsterdam is established by the Dutch West India Company; Peter Minuet will buy Manhattan Island from the local Manhattan tribe two years later.


King James I dies and is succeeded by Charles I.


Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., ed. "The Almanac of American History." Barnes & Nobles Books: Greenwich, CT, 1993.

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Kelly, Martin. "American History Timeline 1601 - 1625." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). American History Timeline 1601 - 1625. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "American History Timeline 1601 - 1625." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).