American Church History:  1600s

What happened in this century?

  • The English move into and settle the American colonies.  Some were settled for religious reasons, others are not.

  • New Spain and New France were further developed.

Contact Mark Nickens, Ph.D. in Church History, at  Questions, comments, and observations are welcome.


2011 Mark Nickens


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1603        Elizabeth I, Queen of England, died.  Since she left no heirs, King James VI of Scotland became king and was known as King James I of England.

1604        At a conference with Puritans, King James I decided to refuse their request for church reform and decided to create a new edition of the Bible, the King James Version.  This was completed in 1611.

More info:  To read about the confrontation with the Puritans, go here.

1607        Jamestown, Virginia was founded.  It is the first permanent English settlement.  Jamestown was not founded for religious reasons, but economic ones:  nevertheless, a Church of England priest, Robert Hunt, accompanied the expedition.

1608        New France:  Samuel de Champlain co-founded Quebec.

1609        Europe:  John Smyth baptized himself and others in his church.  He is widely considered the first Baptist.

1609        Europe:  Arminius died in the Netherlands.  He did not accept Calvin's thoughts and developed an alternative theology, popularly known as "free will."  For his importance, see "1618."

1611       Publication of the King James Bible.

1612       New Spain:  San Agustin de la Isleta Mission was founded by Spanish Catholic Franciscans in present-day Bernalillo County, New Mexico.  By 1629 it had become the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio.

1618       Europe:  The Synod of Dort is called in the Netherlands by the Dutch Reformed Church.  The cause was the tension between Arminius' followers (free will) and Calvin's followers (predestination).  The Synod rejected Arminius' thoughts and approved Calvin's theology.  The Synod approved what are known as the Five Points of Calvinism.  To read more about the Synod and find out why there are five points, go here.

1619       The first permanent African slaves were brought to Virginia (app. 20 men).  (Spanish explorers brought African slaves in the 1500s, but their colonies were short-lived and none existed by 1619.)

1620       Puritans established the Plymouth Colony.  This colony was settled because the Puritans, who wanted to purify the Church of England, which they thought resembled the Catholic Church too much, wanted to escape persecution and harassment. 

More info:  To find out why Puritans are called Pilgrims, go here.

1625       New France:  Jesuits first arrive in Quebec.

c. early 1600s       The Spanish build the Patale Mission in the panhandle of present-day Florida.  This mission would evangelize (to Catholicism) Native Americans until it was defeated by the English in 1704.

1627       New France:  Cardinal Richelieu, in France, reorganized Quebec partly in order to bring the Catholics into dominance.  Also, Samuel de Champlain was made governor of New France.

1630       New Spain:  By this year, the New Mexico area had 60,000 Native American Christians served by 50 priests/friars in 25 mission centers or churches. 

1632       The colony of Maryland was established in England, although the first colonists would not arrive in Maryland until 1634.  The Calverts (who received the land from the king) wanted to establish a colony where Catholics felt welcome.  While many Catholics did settle in Maryland, and even attained many of the higher political offices, Protestants also settled in large numbers there.  Jesuits began missionary work among the Native Americans. 

1634       New Spain:  Alonso de Benavides, a Franciscan friar, reported to the Pope that ten Franciscans had been killed in his area.

1636        Harvard University was founded by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Originally the University was Puritan in nature.

1639       Roger Williams founded the first Baptist Church in the USA in Rhode Island. 

1640       The first printed book in the American colonies was book of Psalms, intended as a hymnbook, by the Puritans of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

1642       New France:  The Jesuits helped found Ville-Marie, which would later become known as Montreal.

1640s       New France:  The Jesuits move into the Great Lakes area (New France) and attempt to evangelize the Native Americans.  Many Jesuits are killed.

c. 1650       New Spain:  The Apache began raids on the Christian areas of present-day New Mexico. 

c. 1650s       By this time, 35 Franciscans lived in Florida.

1656       The Halfway Covenant was developed to settle the first major church/theology problem in America:  what do you do with those non-church members who want their infants baptized?  Learn more here

1673       New France:  Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit, explored the upper Mississippi River Valley.

1680       New Spain:  Pope (pronounced Poe-pay), a Native American, helped lead a revolt against the Spanish in present-day New Mexico.  the Native Americans sought to return to their previous way of life and religion (rejecting Christianity).  1000 Spanish sought refuge in the Governor's Palace in Santa Fe, and then escaped and fled to El Paso, in present-day Texas.  400 Spanish, including 21 priests, died in the conflict. 

1681       William Penn acquired land from the English King Charles II and created Pennsylvania.  Penn was a Quaker (Friend) and his colony established religious freedom as one of its principles.  Many Christians from smaller denominations migrated to Pennsylvania because of this religious freedom; the most popularly known group were the Amish. 

1688       Four Friends (Quakers) from Germantown, PN, issued "A Minute Against Slavery, Addressed to Germantown Monthly Meeting, 1688."  This may be the first protest of African slavery in the Colonies.

1692       New Spain:  Don Diego de Vargas, the Governor of New Mexico, returned to Santa Fe with a small army, surrounding the city and demanding the Pueblos to surrender, swear allegiance to the King of Spain, and become Catholic; all demands were met.

1692       The Salem Witch Trials occurred. 

1693       New Spain:  Some of the Pueblos in New Mexico changed their minds and recaptured Santa Fe.  De Vargas returned with a Spanish force and retook the city; hundreds of Pueblo Native Americans were killed or executed. 

1693 also        The College of William and Mary was founded.  The Church of England in Virginia founded the school.

1695       New Spain:  The Pueblos revolted again and killed 5 missionaries, but the Spanish repulsed the attack.  Although small battles were fought over the next several years, by 1700 the Spanish were firmly in control of the region.  Nevertheless, Christianity did not establish a firm foothold among the Native Americans. 



Noll, Mark.  A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.  ISBN:  0802806511.