Massachusetts – Puritans, Boston, Harvard University, Salem, Plymouth…

When you think of Massachusetts, you may think of the Bee Gees classic song ‘Massachusetts’ that the group released in 1967. It was a strange name for a song, and at the time when they wrote it, they had never been to Massachusetts! Needless to say it is a great song, and millions more people now know where Massachusetts is.

The biggest city in Massachusetts is Boston, the Capitol City of Massachusetts and one of the oldest cities in the United States. The City dates back to its beginnings in 1630 after the Massachusetts Bay Company was formed under Royal Charter in England in 1629 gaining the rights to a land grant to establish a settlement in the ‘New World’ in Massachusetts Bay in New England. (See New England history section on this website).

The Company was made up largely of “Puritans” who set out to form what they believed would be “A model of Christian Charity”, virtuous, God fearing, a “Nation of saints”, where Christian values would be strictly upheld, but only the pious, righteous and “Elect” true believers would be admitted to the “Kingdom of Heaven”. They saw themselves as God’s chosen people, “visible saints”, with non-believers being ‘sinners’ to be alienated and cast aside.
Under Governor John Winthrop (1587-1649), a lawyer by profession, the Puritans believed that if they upheld the values of God, they would also gain blessings and be saved from wars, famines and other misfortunes that might otherwise take place. Initially they first landed at Salem and then headed to Charlestown before settling to where Boston is now located and along the Charles River.

An initial group had come in 1629 governed by John Endicott with the main fleet of eleven ships and their passengers arriving in 1630, and a further six ships arriving later in that same year. Within ten years over 20,000 mostly Puritan settlers would come to settle in and around Boston, with Governor Winthrop remaining Governor for 12 years until 1642.

While the new settlers had brought around 240 cows, 70 horses as well as goats, some dogs and possibly some hogs, many of the early settlers also died from disease, mal nutrition, in childbirth and from the cold. It was by no means an easy task to establish a new settlement in a new land.

At the time there were no tractors, ploughs, harvesters, cars, trucks, roads, trains, hospitals, electricity, phones, shopping malls or other things that today we take for granted. The people had to rely on their own skills, strengths, convictions and belief that they could not only survive, but also prosper and they were right. Over coming years Boston would face many issues but ultimately become a thriving city and along with New York, one of the most important ports on the East Coast, an industrial, financial and transportation hub.

When you look at a map of Boston and the immediate area, you can see a wild jagged coastline of Bays and Peninsulas with inner and outer Boston Harbor connecting to the bigger Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. A number of rivers flow into the inner and outer harbors, the main two rivers, Charles River and Mystic River both flowing into the Inner Harbor, where the main city downtown, port wharves and dock facilities are located. There were some 38 islands in the Harbor, some now forming part of the mainland due to landfilling, while others you can still see and visit forming part of a National Park.
There are many great things about Boston, but one of the best things is that the downtown is a very walkable part of the City, where you can see much of the historic development of the City and its historic buildings and parks. Like old English villages, there is a Marketplace, a Haymarket, a village Common, cobblestone streets and Taverns and churches – creating the look and feel of an old city, which Boston is with now over 385 years of settlement. Wear good walking shoes, as you are bound to need them.

NOTE: To get good value discounts on entry to main sites in Boston and also other big cities – click on Smart Destinations – Under Flights – Tours on this website.

Getting around – most of the big name Tourist Attractions are walkable distance from each other, but there are taxis and buses too, as well as Trolley tours. The subway (T signs) has four lines – Red, Orange, Blue and Silver, and in Cambridge there are 1300 public bikes that you can rent for 24 hour or longer use too. See www.thehubway.com You need to have a helmut.

Logan Airport – this is the International Airport and you can take a Taxi, Shuttle Van, T Blueline subway, Limousine, Hire Car or the Free Silver Busline buses to head to downtown or some other destinations. Check with the Information people at the airport.

South Station –700 Atlantic Avenue. This train station is in a grand building built from Granite in 1899, and it is here that you will find Amtrak trains (Tel: 800 872 7245) leaving for New York and other locations, as well as MBTA Rail and subway to take you to Logan Airport and other destinations in and around Boston. The Bus station is nearby too.

Happy travelling!

Geoff Stuart  

Happy Traveller

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