Four colonies in early America were considered middle colonies due to their central location. Though they became British territory in the mid-17th century, they initially belonged to other nations, mainly the Dutch. Over time, as the Dutch relinquished control, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware became part of the original 13 colonies.

One Colony Becomes Two

Henry Hudson claimed New York and New Jersey for the Dutch in the early 1600s, naming the colony New Netherland. After fighting three wars with England, the Dutch gave up their rule in 1664 and the British took over. They renamed part of the colony New York after the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret were given the area now called New Jersey, which they named after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel where Carteret had been governor.

Colonies Founded on Religious Tolerance

Pennsylvania is named after the man who founded it, William Penn. Penn, a Quaker, arrived in 1682 with a charter from King Charles II. He established friendly terms with the local Indians, even repaying them for the land he took. Penn, who called his colony a "Holy Experiment," founded it as a place of religious tolerance where people could settle and live their lives without persecution for their beliefs. Delaware was claimed at different times by the Dutch and the Swedish before becoming a British colony in 1664. In 1682, the Duke of York placed the colony under the newly arrived William Penn.