Who Were the Southern Colonies First Settled By?

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The 13 original colonies that would later form the United States of America were very different from one another. However, geographic similarities were often used to group colonies together; the New England, Middle and Southern Colonies were three such groupings. The Southern Colonies were made up of Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. These colonies all have unique stories regarding their settlement by Europeans.

1 Virginia

The first permanent English settlement in North America was formed in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. This colony followed the failed colony of Roanoke, which was founded in 1584. The early settlers were English and sent by the London Company; they were largely composed of men who were seeking their fortunes in the New World. Their de facto leader was John Smith, who led the colonists during many times of hardship, including the "Starving Time" winter of 1609-10. Early colonists mistakenly believed that gold could be found in Virginia, and many of these early settlers could not cope with the diseases and the alien terrain of the colony. However, after learning to deal with the environment of Virginia, many early settlers prospered by growing cash crops, including tobacco, which was first cultivated by John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas.

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2 Maryland

The Colony of Maryland was founded in 1634 by Lord Baltimore. The first settlers were English Catholics who sought to escape persecution in Protestant England. Settlers first landed at St. Clement's Island and were led by Leonard Calvert, the brother of Lord Baltimore. Maryland served as a rare instance of religious tolerance in the colonies -- many of the first settlers were not just Catholics, but Anglicans, Puritans and Quakers from England and the existing colonies.

3 North and South Carolina

The first settlers of the Carolinas were colonists from Virginia. These colonials were seeking free and fertile land and ventured outside the recognized boundaries of Virginia. This caused problems in 1663, when King Charles granted land south of Virginia to a group of friends, which they named "Carolina" in his honor. To settle disputes between this group and the group of settlers originally from Virginia, Carolina was split into North and South Carolina. People first settled around favorable seaport areas. In North Carolina, this place was present-day Wilmington, while South Carolina colonists settled around present-day Charleston.

4 Georgia

Georgia was the last colony to be settled; it was founded in 1733 by James Oglethorpe. Like the other Southern Colonies, Georgia was first settled in a favorable seaport: the site of present-day Savannah. Georgia was originally designed as a place where English criminals, debtors and other undesirables could be sent. This form of colonization was unique to the 13 colonies. Later, settlers from the Carolinas would eventually make their living in Georgia, settling in the less-developed interior of the colony.

Taylor Thorn brings expertise in English literature and sociological theory, as well as DIY home renovation and decoration. She graduated from Drury University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and writing with minors in gender studies and global studies.