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Jackie Craven

What is the Oldest Town?

By May 11, 2007

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The United States is a relatively young country, so the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia has brought much fanfare and festivity. But there's a darker side to the birthday: No one can agree on what we mean when we use terms like oldest or first.

Established in 1607, Jamestown is sometimes called America's oldest town, but that isn't correct. Jamestown is America's oldest permanent English settlement. Florida's Spanish Colonial St. Augustine began in 1565, making it the oldest continuing permanent European settlement.

Then there are earlier settlements and colonies throughout North America that did not continue or are not counted for a variety of reasons. And of course, no European settlement in the so-called New World can hold a candle to Indian settlements and communities like Jamestown's (now reconstructed) Powhatan Indian Village built long before the British set sail and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, which dates back to 650 AD.

The Jamestown 400th Anniversary Festival will take place Friday, May 11 though Sunday, May 13, 2007.

More about early American Architecture: American Colonial and Federal Houses >>

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May 15, 2007 at 11:49 pm
(1) kathleen says:

isn’t st. augustine, florida the oldest town in the states? i believe that it was settled by the spanish before jamestown.

July 27, 2008 at 1:57 am
(2) Derek says:

Acoma Pueblo, Taos Pueblo and many of the other Pueblols of New Mexico are much older and are still inhabited. Thanks for mentioning the Indian settlements. That is often overlooked.

November 7, 2008 at 2:47 am
(3) Gabriel says:

What about Québec City, Jacques Cartier, 1534

November 11, 2008 at 2:46 pm
(4) Steph says:

Jacques Cartier arrived in Gaspé in 1534. Quebec city was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. Darn it, one year too late!

June 28, 2009 at 10:21 pm
(5) keith says:

Actually Pensacola is the oldest town in Fla but it was on Santa Rosa Island and wiped out by Hurricanes St Augustine is the oldest CONTINUOUS inhabited town in Fla

September 24, 2009 at 11:42 pm
(6) A says:

You can always talk about towns that do not exist anymore. First settlement is one thing. If you want to really see US history you look at towns such as Fairfield, CT that have been around before the birth of The USA and still in existence. You show me a town today that was settled in 1639 and standing strong today.

March 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm
(7) Forest says:

Actually Annapolis Royal (Port Royal under French Domination) was founded in 1605 making it older than Jamestown and Quebec. It has been Continously inhabited by either the French Acadians who were expelled or New England Planters who immediatley took control of the Acadians abandoned farms.

May 15, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(8) Ralph hayden says:

Annapolis Royal and area play a special and unique role in Canadian history. The first permanent European settlement in North America north of St. Augustine, Florida, was established at Port Royal in 1605.

July 7, 2010 at 11:31 am
(9) sharon says:

Fairfield was settled in 1639, but let’s not forget that: Windsor, CT was settled in 1633 and Wethersfield, CT was settled in 1634.

August 26, 2010 at 7:38 pm
(10) sage says:

i thought St. Augustine,FL was the oldest town in America not Jamestown.

March 2, 2011 at 8:44 am
(11) James says:

Plus the article is about the United States not Canada!

September 13, 2011 at 9:07 am
(12) Kathy says:

Waterford, NY is posted as the “first established town” in US. Being a New Englander I thought one of our towns were first. Any comments?

October 4, 2011 at 11:12 am
(13) stephanie says:

I realize this article is about the States, but I’d just like to point out that St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada was founded in 1583. Long before Jamestown, Port Royal or Quebec City!!

July 2, 2012 at 11:16 am
(14) Sal says:

The oldest settlement in the USA is Pensacola, FL, which was established in 1509!

July 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm
(15) Keith E says:

Dorchester, MA (suburb of Boston) was founded in 1630. Clearly not the oldest, but in the top 20 for sure.

October 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm
(16) Jose says:

Technically speaking the oldest continously inhabited western european city in the US is San Juan, Puerto Rico. The first settlement of what is today San Juan is Caparra founded in 1508. It was moved over to what is today Old San Juan in 1509. San Juan was officially founded in 1521 when the first church was established. San Juan is also home to the Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as La Fortaleza, oldest executive mansion (home for the governor of Puerto Rico) in use and oldest government building in continuous use in the Americas. San Juan is also home to the largest and oldest colonial military fortress complex in the Americas. Puerto Rico is a Commomweatlh of the United States. As such persosns born in the island are natural US citizens and enjoy all the all the rights and privileges of any other US citizen.

March 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm
(17) Clark says:

Nacogdoches, Texas is the oldest town in Texas dating back 10,000 years based on unearthed evidence….This probably makes it the oldest town in the united states of America as well

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