Timelines of Early American History

Learning about early American history, from the first visits by early explorers up to the time of the civil war, can be a challenge for many kids. It's tricky to keep all those dates and events straight. Especially for younger students, it can be hard to comprehend how all the various points in history fit together. Creating a timeline is a great way to help your kids make sense of history, and to visualize just how far apart various historical events really are. Here are some dates and events to get you started on building a timeline of early American history with your students.

Prior to 1497: The area that will become the United States is home to as many as 10 million Native Americans. As European explorers and settlers arrive in the New World, those numbers begin a rapid decline.

1497: Italian Explorer John Cabot (real name Giovanni Caboto) explores the Northeast coast of America.

1513: Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon explores the Florida coast in search of the Fountain of Youth.

1585: Sir Walter Raleigh establishes the first English colony on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

1589: Roanoke colony mysteriously vanishes.

1607: Jamestown Settlement is founded by John Smith in Jamestown, Virginia.

1619: The House of Burgesses, the first representative government in the American Colonies, is formed.

1620: The Mayflower arrives at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1675: King Philip's War begins.

1692: Salem witch trials begin in Massachusetts.

1699: French settle in Louisiana.

1754: The French and Indian War begins.

1765: The Stamp Act is passed by the British Parliament, taxing the American colonists.

1773: The Boston Tea Party takes place in Boston Harbor.

1775: The American Revolution begins.

1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed.

1781: The British surrender at Yorktown, essentially ending the Revolutionary War.

1787: The US Constitution is written.

1803: The Louisiana Purchase is signed, granting the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

1804: Slavery is outlawed in the Northern states.

1804: Lewis and Clark begin their expedition.

1812: The War of 1812 occurs between the United States and Britain.

1820: Missouri and Maine are added to the Union.

1836: The Battle of the Alamo is fought in Texas.

1838: The "Trail of Tears"  forces thousands of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee and Seminole peoples from their homelands.

1846: The Mexican-American War begins.

1848: The Gold Rush begins, and hundreds of thousands of people make their way to California is search of gold.

1860: Abraham Lincoln becomes the 16th president of the United States. In the months between Lincoln's election and his swearing-in as president, six Southern states secede, triggering the Civil War.

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