The Most Ancient City in Every State

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Ancient cities tell intriguing stories. This article is a short tale of the oldest town in each state, the date and story of their establishment, and what has become of some of them today.

Alabama – Mobile

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Mobile, created by the French in 1702, is a vital regional port. Its three-century history has developed the site, driving regional prosperity. Mobile birthed North America’s first Mardi Gras celebrations and boasts a vibrant cultural heritage.

Alaska – Sitka

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Inhabited for over 10,000 years by the indigenous Tlingit people, Sitka is Alaska’s oldest continuously inhabited community. It was the capital of Russian America and later the capital of the Alaska Territory.

Arizona – Tubac

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The inauguration of Tubac in 1752 as a Spanish presidio was primarily to protect Spain’s interests in the region. Today, with its vibrant arts community and well-preserved historic buildings, it has evolved into Southern Arizona’s top spot for culture and art.

Arkansas – Arkansas Post

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French explorer Henri de Tonti founded Arkansas Port in 1686 after negotiating with the Quapaw Nation. Originally a Francophone trading post, it became an important military and commercial center in the Mississippi River Valley.

California – San Diego

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Instituted in 1769 by Spanish missionaries led by Junípero Serra, San Diego remains as vibrant as ever. It was relevant in developing the Spanish colonial empire in Alta, California, and is often called the birthplace of modern-day California.

Colorado – San Luis

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San Luis was pioneered in 1851 by Hispanic settlers from New Mexico. The colony is known for its rich Hispanic heritage and is home to the longest-standing church in Colorado, the historic San Luis de la Culebra Church.

Connecticut – Windsor

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Connecticut’s most ancient settlement, Windsor, is 143 years older than America. It was settled in 1633 by English migrants led by Captain John Mason and Reverend John Warham and was one of the original 13 British colonies.

Delaware – Lewes

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Once a famous trading post, Lewes was built in 1631 by Dutch colonists who initially named it Zwaanendael (Swan Valley). It was the inaugural European colony in Delaware with a rich maritime past.

Florida – St. Augustine

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Developed in 1565 by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, St. Augustine is the earliest continuously occupied European-established village within the borders of the United States. Its well-preserved Spanish architecture and traditional sites are fascinating to behold.

Georgia – Savannah

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Savannah was formed in 1733 by James Oglethorpe. It was the first planned city in Georgia, has the first art museum in the South, and America’s first golf course. The town is also renowned for its vintage district and antebellum architecture.

Hawaii – Hilo

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With evidence of habitation dating back to at least 1100 AD, Hilo is considered the maiden township in Hawaii. It was a significant center for Hawaiian culture and trade, and its natural harbor attracted early inhabitants and visitors.

Idaho – Franklin

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Mormon pioneers led by Thomas S. Smart launched Franklin in 1860. It was previously an agricultural community and later changed into a trade and education center. Its diverse wildlife continues to make it a point of attraction today.

Illinois – Cahokia


Rightly called The Oldest Civilization in North America, Cahokia was created around 600 AD by the Mississippian culture. It was the most extensive pre-Columbian habitation north of Mexico and is renowned for its complex earthen mounds and structures.

Indiana – Vincennes


Vincennes, set up in 1732 by French fur traders, was an essential Francophone outpost, playing an indispensable role in developing regional trade. France handed the colony over to the British, but it became an American territory after the independence.

Iowa – Dubuque

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French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque was the foremost permanent settler in the region. He arrived there in 1785, but the township didn’t begin until 1788. Settlers then renamed the city after him for his efforts in developing the local lead mines.

Kansas – Leavenworth

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Leavenworth was established in 1854. Before that, in 1827, Colonel Henry Leavenworth had established Fort Leavenworth, which helped maintain a peaceful existence among local Indian tribes. Leavenworth’s establishment led to the opening up of the West, earning it the name the “jumping-off point.”

Kentucky – Harrodsburg

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James Harrod and his pioneer settlers initially came to Harrodsburg in 1774. The town transitioned into the foremost permanent European establishment west of the Allegheny Mountains. Visitors can find sprawling countryside, legendary stone fences, and ancient architecture all around it today.

Louisiana – Natchitoches

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Natchitoches was settled in 1714 by French explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It occupied a key position as a trading post in its early years and retains some of its European architecture, heritage, and lifestyle.

Maine – Kittery

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Kittery was built in 1624 by English settlers led by George Popham but didn’t get its incorporation until 1647. The town started as a fishing village and was much larger than it is now. Kittery was an independent colony earlier, but in 1652, it joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Maryland – St. Mary’s City

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St. Mary’s City was sited in 1634 by British immigrants under the leadership of Leonard Calvert. Later, it became the capital of the Maryland colony and was a central part of the establishment of the state.

Massachusetts – Plymouth


Plymouth is famous for many reasons. Formed in 1620 by the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, it is Massachusetts’ most ancient stead. It is also the site of New England’s foremost lasting European colony, and the first Thanksgiving celebration occurred here.

Michigan – Sault Ste. Marie

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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s longest-standing village, was originated by Francophone missionaries in the early 17th century. The settlement thrived as a crucial fur trading hub and witnessed conflicts between indigenous peoples and European homesteaders before evolving into a vibrant modern community.

Minnesota – Wabasha

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Wabasha, Minnesota, was built in 1830. Nestled along the Mississippi River, it has thrived as a vital market and transportation hub, boasting a rich narrative and vibrant community spirit.

Mississippi – Natchez

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In 1716, the French built Natchez as Fort Rosalie, marking the beginnings of European presence there. Due to its fertile soil and location, the town transitioned into a center for agriculture, and after America acquired the territory, Natchez prospered, attracting diverse immigrants.

Missouri – St. Genevieve

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St. Genevieve was founded in 1735 and thrived as a French business center. Under Spanish rule, it evolved into a crucial center for trade and agriculture in the Mississippi River Valley, now celebrated for its preserved architecture and heritage.

Montana – Fort Benton

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Fort Benton, inaugurated in 1846 as a fur market, became a pivotal hub in the American West’s expansion. Its historic district preserves its significance, showcasing its role in trade and westward expansion.

Nebraska – Bellevue

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Bellevue was pioneered in 1822 and was among the few settlements contributing to the westward expansion. The city became a vital fur center and a necessary stop along the Oregon Trail and Pony Express route. Its rich tradition includes military forts, conflicts, and the development of agriculture and industry.

Nevada – Genoa

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Genoa was founded in 1851 by Mormon pioneers and served as a commercial site along the California Trail. Over time, it evolved into a hub for agriculture, mining, and commerce, retaining its historicity with preserved landmarks that offer a glimpse into its fascinating past.

New Hampshire – Dover

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English immigrants settled in Dover in 1623, making it the seventh-oldest stead in the U.S. This town occupied a significant place in the early colonial history of New Hampshire and was a major port and depot.

New Jersey – Jersey City

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Initiated in 1618 by Dutch trappers, Jersey City evolved from a rural area to a bustling industrial hub by the 19th century. It underwent revitalization efforts in the late 20th century, becoming a diverse urban center.

New Mexico – Santa Fe

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Founded in 1610 by Spanish occupiers, Santa Fe is not only New Mexico’s earliest colony but also the first established state capital in the United States. The town is known for its distinctive Pueblo-style architecture and rich cultural heritage.

New York – Albany

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Dutch traders moved to Albany in 1614, making it New York’s premier outpost. A key place for commerce in the fur trade, it later grew into the capital of the colony of New Netherland. It is presently the capital of New York.

North Carolina – Bath

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Settled in 1705 by British travelers, Bath was the foremost port of entry for colonial residents. This ancient town predates the U.S. by 71 years and is home to the oldest church in North Carolina.

North Dakota – Pembina

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Pembina’s story dates back to its development in 1843. The town helped develop the fur trade and settlement. Railroad constructions diminished Pembina’s trading significance, though it remains vital to North Dakota’s past.

Ohio – Marietta

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Upon its establishment by Revolutionary War veterans in 1788, Marietta was pivotal in the westward expansion. It was named in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Marietta, and over time, has thrived as an industrial hub, particularly in manufacturing.

Oklahoma – Fort Gibson

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Built in 1824, Fort Gibson was an important military outpost. It facilitated trade, diplomacy, and interactions between Native Americans and settlers, aiding America’s westward expansion. After the Civil War, the garrison became an agriculture, commerce, and education center.

Oregon – Astoria

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Astoria was set up in 1811 by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Soon, it began attracting newcomers seeking opportunities in the maritime trade. Its economy flourished with the rise of salmon canning factories and lumber mills, further solidifying its regional significance.

Pennsylvania – Chester

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In 1644, William Penn acquired Chester, desiring to transform it into a haven for Quakers. Consequently, it became a vital depot and was one of the maiden European settlements in the Delaware Valley.

Rhode Island – Providence

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Roger Williams inaugurated Providence as a haven for religious freedom in 1636. The town significantly contributed to the founding of the Rhode Island colony and serves as the state’s capital today.

South Carolina – Charleston

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This ancient community is known for its epochal architecture and cobblestone streets. Originated in 1670 by English colonists, it was a commercial hub in the imperial era and indispensable to the American South’s historical development.

South Dakota – Fort Pierre

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The American Fur Company founded Fort Pierre in 1817 and named it after a prominent fur trader. The town helped expand westward, serving as a meeting place for traders. It continues to thrive despite economic downturns and conflicts.

Tennessee – Jonesborough

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Jonesborough was previously begun as an expansionist site in 1779 but soon became a center for commerce, education, and culture. Soon, it began to take a stand on social issues, leading to the establishment of Tennessee’s first abolitionist newspaper, “The Emancipator.”

Texas – San Antonio

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San Antonio was created in 1718 by Spanish missionaries and immigrants. Initially serving as a Spanish mission and frontier outpost, it is today known for its rich heritage, including the Alamo and the Spanish missions that dot the terrain.

Utah – Ogden

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Miles Goodyear instituted Ogden in 1844 and named it Ogden in honor of Peter Skene Ogden, a famous trapper and explorer. Railroads brought rapid development to Ogden, and today, it is a dynamic setting, blending its ancient charm with modern amenities.

Vermont – Bennington

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Created in 1761 by British inhabitants, Bennington played a massive part in the American Revolutionary War. Bennington’s constitution is the first on the American continent, written ten years before the U.S. Constitution. The town is known for its traditional sites and picturesque New England charm.

Virginia – Jamestown

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Jamestown is Virginia’s foremost permanent English locale. It was set up in 1607 by British colonists and was the primary thriving colony in North America. Jamestown was influential in the early traditions of the United States.

Washington – Steilacoom

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Steilacoom, built in 1854, was inhabited by Native American tribes in the past. Afterward, the Euro-American pioneers moved in because of its beauty and location. The site helped facilitate commerce along the coast and thrives with momentous topography and a strong sense of community.

West Virginia – Shepherdstown


Set up in 1762 by Thomas Shepherd, it was first called Mecklenburg but eventually renamed Shepherdstown in honor of its founder. This metropolis is known for its well-preserved ancient architecture and charming downtown area.

Wisconsin – Green Bay

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French explorer Jean Nicolet arrived at Green Bay in 1964, establishing the maiden European presence there. Green Bay has maintained its importance as Wisconsin’s cultural and economic center. Today, it is renowned for its vibrant community and historical landmarks.

Wyoming – Fort Laramie

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Fort Laramie was established in 1834 and was previously called Fort William. It was subsequently renamed Fort Laramie after the Laramie River. The decline of the fur trade made it lose its strategic importance, leading to its decommissioning in 1890.


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