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Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > Charlestown

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  • 1614: Captain John Smith explores a river that he names "Charles River."
  • 1625: Mishawum (Charlestown) is settled by Thomas Walford after he receives a small portion of the tract granted to Robert Gorges by Plymouth Colony with the blessing of King James.
  • 1629: The original territory includes three hills: Bunker, Breed's, and Town. Much of Middlesex county is situated within Charlestown's original borders: Malden, Everett, Woburn, Stoneham, Burlington, Somerville, and parts of Medford, Cambridge, Reading, and Wakefield. The semi-circular street grid layout is conceived by engineer Thomas Graves. Town records list the original settlers as follows: Reverend Francis Bright, Engineer Thomas Graves, Ralph Sprague, Richard Sprague, William Sprague, John Meech, Simon Hoyte, Abraham Palmer, Walter Palmer, Nicholas Stowers, John Stickline, and original settler Thomas Walford.
  • 1630: John Winthrop lands with his followers in Charlestown where they establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They establish the first church in Charlestown (and fourth in New England) under Reverend John Wilson, ruling elder Increase Nowell, and deacons George Gager and William Aspinwall.
  • 1631: A fort is constructed on Moulton's Point.
  • 1632: The Great House at Market (City) Square is the first meetinghouse in town. Thirty-five people are dismissed from the church and subsequently follow Reverend Thomas James Pastor (b. 1592) who founds a second congregation.
  • 1641: Francis Willoughby builds Charlestown's first shipyard.
  • 1677: James Russell builds a dry dock near the present day Navy Yard, the first dry dock in the United States.
  • 1678: The First Baptist Church is constructed.
  • 1752: A smallpox epidemic rages through town.
  • 1765: Charlestown is the principal port in the colony. The town manufactures rum, sugar loaves, candles, and leather and exports fur, lumber, pipe staves, pottery, and building frames.
  • 1775: On the night of April 18, Paul Revere is rowed to Charlestown where he borrows a horse from Deacon Larkin and begins his famous ride. Before he leaves Boston, he tells church sexton Robert Newman to hang a lantern signal in the (Old North Church) steeple to warn Charlestown patriots of the coming of the British march to Lexington and Concord. The town is burnt by the British during the June 17th Battle of Bunker Hill. After the battle, the British build a fort on the top of Bunker Hill. On the eve of the battle the town has a population of 2,000 with 300-400 buildings. The population evacuates during the British occupation.

  • 1781: After the surrender of the British, people begin returning to town.
  • 1786: The Charles River Bridge becomes the first bridge linking Charlestown and Boston.
  • 1787: Malden Bridge opens.
  • 1790: Population stands at 1,000.
  • 1794: First monument on the site of the battle is erected by King Solomon's Lodge of Masons to fallen Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren who was killed during the battle.
  • 1799: Captain Joseph Cordis' pasture is laid out as Cordis Street. Several houses from the Federal period can still be seen on this street.
  • 1800: The United States Navy constructs one of the United States' first shipyards at Moulton's Point.
  • 1801: Construction begins on the First Baptist Church.
  • 1802: The Chelsea Bridge opens.
  • 1803: The Middlesex Canal opens.
  • 1804-1815: Captain Archibald McNeil subdivides his land into Washington, Union, Richmond (Old Rutherford Ave.), and Lawrence Streets.
  • 1814: Population stands at 5,000, with 670 buildings.
  • 1826-1842: Construction of the Bunker Hill Monument takes place.
  • 1828: St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church is established. Many of the parishioners work at the Navy Yard and East Cambridge glass works.
  • 1830s: The Charlestown Wharf Company fills in the flats around Lynde's Point.
  • 1830-1860s: The slopes of Breed's and Bunker Hills are developed.
  • 1834: August 11, The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown is burned down by a mob incited by a rash of anti-Catholic newspaper articles, venomous sermons of Reverend Lyman Beecher, and stories of Rebecca Reed, a woman who was supposedly held prisoner in the Ursuline Convent.
  • 1837: The Fitchburg Railroad links to the Charlestown Navy Yard.
  • 1843: Philanthropist Judah Touro (1775-1850), a nephew of Moses Michael Hays, is instrumental in erecting and financing the Bunker Hill Monument. He is also the first Jewish settler of New Orleans and fights with General Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. After his death, he leaves large sums of money to the Boston Female Society, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Asylum for Orphan Boys.
  • 1847: Charlestown becomes a city.
  • 1855: Lumber and ice are the town's chief exports.
  • 1857: Establishment of the Davidson Rubber Company.
  • 1860-1865: Charlestown Navy Yard plays an important role in the Civil War. The town erects a monument to its fallen soldiers and sailors of the war in Winthrop Square.
  • 1862: St. Francis De Sales Church is built on top of Bunker Hill.
  • 1865: 22% of the population is foreign born; of that, 75% is Irish.
  • 1874: Charlestown is annexed to Boston.
  • 1875-1885: Miller's River and Charles River Bay are filled.
  • 1875: The Hoosac Tunnel is opened thereby connecting the Fitchburg Railroad with the west.
  • 1901: Construction of the Charlestown Elevated line takes place.

Further Reading

  • Frothingham, Richard Jr., The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Images of America Series. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1997.





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