10 Oldest Cities In Massachusetts

We scoured the internet to determine the towns and cities in Massachusetts that have been around the longest.

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You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.

That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.

That’s older than America for those playing at home.

So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Massachusetts? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?

Because even if your Massachusetts city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.

And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.

These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Bay State according to their ‘date of foundation’:

  1. Hingham
  2. Westfield (Photos)
  3. Attleboro (Photos)
  4. Worcester (Photos)
  5. Foxborough
  6. Boston (Photos)
  7. Holyoke (Photos)
  8. Springfield (Photos)
  9. Revere (Photos)
  10. Dedham

For being 385 years old, Hingham doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Massachusetts? That would be Northampton — a brand spanking 113 years old.

Read on for a look at the oldest places in Massachusetts or feel free to check out the best places to live in Massachusetts or the safest.

How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Massachusetts… Or Is It Settled?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.

So what did we do instead?

Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!

For the majority of cities in Massachusetts, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):

  • Founded
  • Settled
  • Incorporated
  • Approved
  • Chartered

And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.

If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.

All in all, we were able to collect data on 99 out of 118 in Massachusetts with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 83.9% completion rate.

We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Hingham turning out to be the matriarch of Massachusetts at the ripe old age of 385.

Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.

1. Hingham

Population: 5,954
Founded: 1633
Age: 385
The town of Hingham was dubbed ‘Bare Cove’ by the first colonizing English in 1633, but two years later was incorporated as a town under the name ‘Hingham’. The land on which Hingham was settled was deeded to the English by the Wampanoag sachem Wompatuck in 1655. The town was within Suffolk County from its founding in 1643 until 1803; and Plymouth County from 1803 to the present. The eastern part of the town split off to become Cohasset in 1770. The town was named for Hingham, a village in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia, whence most of the first colonists came, including Abraham Lincoln’s ancestor Samuel Lincoln (1622–90), his first American ancestor, who came to Massachusetts in 1637. A statue of President Lincoln adorns the area adjacent to downtown Hingham Square.

2. Westfield

Westfield, Massachusetts

Population: 41,667
Founded: 1669
Age: 349
The area was originally inhabited by the Pocomtuc tribe, and was called Woronoco (meaning ‘the winding land’). Trading houses were built in 1639–40 by settlers from the Connecticut Colony. Massachusetts asserted jurisdiction, and prevailed after a boundary survey. In 1647, Massachusetts made Woronoco part of Springfield. Land was incrementally purchased from the Native Americans and granted by the Springfield town meeting to English settlers, beginning in 1658. The area of Woronoco or ‘Streamfield’ began to be permanently settled in the 1660s. In 1669, ‘Westfield’ was incorporated as an independent town; in 1920, it would be re-incorporated as a city.

3. Attleboro

Attleboro, Massachusetts

Population: 44,326
Founded: 1694
Age: 324
In 1634, English settlers first arrived in the territory that is now Attleboro. It was later incorporated from Rehoboth in 1694 as the town of Attleborough. It included the towns of Cumberland, Rhode Island, until 1747 and North Attleborough, Massachusetts, until 1887. The town was reincorporated in 1914 as the City of Attleboro, with the ‘-ugh’ removed from the name, although North Attleborough kept it. Like many towns in Massachusetts, it was named for a British town.

4. Worcester

Worcester, Massachusetts

Population: 184,743
Founded: 1722
Age: 296
The area was first inhabited by members of the Nipmuc tribe. The native people called the region Quinsigamond and built a settlement on Pakachoag Hill in Auburn. In 1673 English settlers John Eliot and Daniel Gookin led an expedition to Quinsigamond to establish a new Christian Indian ‘praying town’ and identify a new location for an English settlement. On July 13, 1674, Gookin obtained a deed to eight square miles of land in Quinsigamond from the Nipmuc people and English traders and settlers began to inhabit the region.

In 1675, King Philip’s War broke out throughout New England with the Nipmuc Indians coming to the aid of Indian leader King Philip. The English settlers completely abandoned the Quinsigamond area and the empty buildings were burned by the Indian forces. The town was again abandoned during Queen Anne’s War in 1702. Finally in 1713, Worcester was permanently resettled for a third time by Jonas Rice. Named after the city of Worcester, England, the town was incorporated on June 14, 1722. On April 2, 1731, Worcester was chosen as the county seat of the newly founded Worcester County government. Between 1755 and 1758, future U.S. president John Adams worked as a schoolteacher and studied law in Worcester.

5. Foxborough

Population: 5,633
Founded: 1778
Age: 240
Settled in 1704 and incorporated in 1778, the town of Foxborough was named for Charles James Fox, a Whig member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of the Colonies in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

6. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts

Population: 669,158
Founded: 1822
Age: 196
Boston’s early European settlers had first called the area Trimountaine (after its ‘three mountains,’ only traces of which remain today) but later renamed it Boston after Boston, Lincolnshire, England, the origin of several prominent colonists. The renaming on September 7, 1630 (Old Style)[b] was by Puritan colonists from England who had moved over from Charlestown earlier that year in quest of fresh water. Their settlement was initially limited to the Shawmut Peninsula, at that time surrounded by the Massachusetts Bay and Charles River and connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The peninsula is thought to have been inhabited as early as 5000 BC.

In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor John Winthrop led the signing of the Cambridge Agreement, a key founding document of the city. Puritan ethics and their focus on education influenced its early history; America’s first public school was founded in Boston in 1635. Over the next 130 years, the city participated in four French and Indian Wars, until the British defeated the French and their Indian allies in North America. Boston was the largest town in British America until Philadelphia grew larger in the mid-18th century.

7. Holyoke

Holyoke, Massachusetts

Population: 40,362
Founded: 1850
Age: 168
Englishmen first arrived in the Connecticut River Valley in 1633—a post was established at Windsor, Connecticut, by traders from the Plymouth Plantation. In 1636, Massachusetts Bay Colony assistant treasurer and Puritan iconoclast William Pynchon led a group of settlers from Roxbury, Massachusetts, to establish Springfield on land that scouts had vetted the previous year. They considered it the most advantageous land in the Connecticut River Valley for farming and trading. This settlement, on fertile farmland just north of the Connecticut River’s first major falls (at Enfield Falls), the place where seagoing vessels necessarily had to transfer their cargo into smaller shallops to continue northward on the Connecticut River, quickly became a successful settlement—largely due to its advantageous position on the Bay Path to Boston, the Massachusetts Path to Albany, and beside the Connecticut River. Originally, Springfield spanned both sides of the Connecticut River; the region was eventually partitioned. The land on the western bank of the Connecticut River became West Springfield, Massachusetts. West Springfield’s northernmost parish (alternately called Third Parish, North Parish, or Ireland Parish) became Holyoke, named after earlier Springfield settler William Pynchon’s son-in-law, Elizur Holyoke, who had first explored the area in the 1650s. The village of Holyoke was first settled in 1745 and was officially incorporated on March 14, 1850. Following its establishment, the first official town meeting took place a week later, on March 22, 1850.

8. Springfield

Springfield, Massachusetts

Population: 154,613
Founded: 1852
Age: 166
Springfield was founded in 1636 by English Puritan William Pynchon as ‘Agawam Plantation’ under the administration of the Connecticut Colony. In 1641 it was renamed after Pynchon’s hometown of Springfield, Essex, England, following incidents that precipitated the settlement joining the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During its early existence, Springfield flourished as both an agricultural settlement and trading post, although its prosperity waned dramatically during (and after) King Philip’s War in 1675, when natives laid siege to it and burned it to the ground.

The original settlement – today’s downtown Springfield – was located atop bluffs at the confluence of four rivers, at the nexus of trade routes to Boston, Albany, New York City, and Montreal, and with some of the northeastern United States’ most fertile soil. In 1777, Springfield’s location at numerous crossroads led George Washington and Henry Knox to establish the United States’ National Armory at Springfield, which produced the first American musket in 1794, and later the famous Springfield rifle. From 1777 until its closing during the Vietnam War, the Springfield Armory attracted skilled laborers to Springfield, making it the United States’ longtime center for precision manufacturing. The near-capture of the armory during Shays’ Rebellion of 1787 led directly to the formation of the U.S. Constitutional Convention.

9. Revere

Revere, Massachusetts

Population: 53,864
Founded: 1871
Age: 147
Revere’s first inhabitants were Native Americans who belonged to the Pawtucket tribe and were known as the Rumney Marsh Indians. The leader, or sachem, of the Pawtuckets was Nanepashemet of Lynn. In 1616, an epidemic, probably smallpox, swept the region, killing thousands in its wake. Nanepashemet retired to the Mystic River, in what is now Medford, but was found murdered in 1619 at his fort on the brow of Rock Hill overlooking the river. Three sons succeeded him in his reign. One of them, Wonohaquaham, also called Sagamore John, had jurisdiction over the Native Americans at Winnisemmit (later Chelsea) and Rumney Marsh.

10. Dedham

Population: 25,377
Founded: 1904
Age: 114
Settled in 1635 by people from Roxbury and Watertown, Dedham was incorporated in 1636. It became the county seat of Norfolk County when the county was formed from parts of Suffolk County on March 26, 1793. When the Town was originally incorporated, the residents wanted to name it ‘Contentment.’ The Massachusetts General Court overruled them and named the town after Dedham, Essex in England, where some of the original inhabitants were born. The boundaries of the town at the time stretched to the Rhode Island border.

Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Massachusetts

So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Massachusetts. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Massachusetts.

And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Bay State.

And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Massachusetts:

  1. Northampton (Founded in 1905)
  2. Rockport (Founded in 1905)
  3. Lexington (Founded in 1905)
  • These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In Massachusetts
  • 10 Safest Places In Massachusetts
  • 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In Massachusetts
  • Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Massachusetts

    City Rank Age Year Founded
    Hingham 1 385 1633
    Westfield 2 349 1669
    Attleboro 3 324 1694
    Worcester 4 296 1722
    Foxborough 5 240 1778
    Boston 6 196 1822
    Holyoke 7 168 1850
    Springfield 8 166 1852
    Revere 9 147 1871
    Dedham 10 114 1904
    North Adams 11 114 1904
    Swampscott 12 114 1904
    Hudson 13 114 1904
    Longmeadow 14 114 1904
    Abington 15 114 1904
    Southbridge Town 16 114 1904
    Greenfield Town 17 114 1904
    Newburyport 18 114 1904
    Winthrop Town 19 114 1904
    Lynnfield 20 114 1904
    Gardner 21 114 1904
    Marblehead 22 114 1904
    Stoneham 23 114 1904
    Winchester 24 114 1904
    Wilmington 25 114 1904
    Belmont 26 114 1904
    Reading 27 114 1904
    Somerset 28 114 1904
    Holbrook 29 114 1904
    Webster 30 114 1904
    Adams 31 114 1904
    Scituate 32 114 1904
    Ware 33 114 1904
    Spencer 34 114 1904
    Sharon 35 114 1904
    Oxford 36 114 1904
    Walpole 37 114 1904
    Kingston 38 114 1904
    Northborough 39 114 1904
    Palmer Town 40 114 1904
    Medfield 41 114 1904
    Clinton 42 114 1904
    Plymouth 43 114 1904
    Nantucket 44 114 1904
    Athol 45 114 1904
    Bridgewater 46 114 1904
    Andover 47 114 1904
    Hull 48 114 1904
    Maynard 49 114 1904
    Burlington 50 114 1904
    Whitinsville 51 114 1904
    Milford 52 114 1904
    Danvers 53 114 1904
    Milton 54 114 1904
    Weymouth Town 55 114 1904
    Chicopee 56 114 1904
    Taunton 57 114 1904
    Medford 58 114 1904
    Brookline 59 114 1904
    Malden 60 114 1904
    Haverhill 61 114 1904
    Waltham 62 114 1904
    Framingham 63 114 1904
    Lawrence 64 114 1904
    Somerville 65 114 1904
    Newton 66 114 1904
    Fall River 67 114 1904
    Lynn 68 114 1904
    Quincy 69 114 1904
    Brockton 70 114 1904
    New Bedford 71 114 1904
    Cambridge 72 114 1904
    Lowell 73 114 1904
    Peabody 74 114 1904
    Everett 75 114 1904
    Barnstable Town 76 114 1904
    Arlington 77 114 1904
    Bellingham 78 114 1904
    Saugus 79 114 1904
    Melrose 80 114 1904
    West Springfield Town 81 114 1904
    Wellesley 82 114 1904
    Norwood 83 114 1904
    Gloucester 84 114 1904
    Needham 85 114 1904
    Wakefield 86 114 1904
    Franklin Town 87 114 1904
    Randolph 88 114 1904
    Chelsea 89 114 1904
    Woburn 90 114 1904
    Marlborough 91 114 1904
    Fitchburg 92 114 1904
    Beverly 93 114 1904
    Leominster 94 114 1904
    Salem 95 114 1904
    Pittsfield 96 114 1904
    Lexington 97 114 1904
    Rockport 98 114 1904
    Northampton 99 113 1905
    About Chris Kolmar

    Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

    He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

    If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

    You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.