Middle Colonies

Map of Middle ColoniesGeography

Glaciers from the North brought fertile soil from New England to the Middle Colonies. In addition, because they were farther south, the growing season was much longer with lots of sunlight and rain. This made the Middle Colonies ideal for farming.  Farmers also had a convenient means to transport their goods to the markets, where the crops were sold, and supplies were purchased. This method of transportation was traveling on wide rivers like the Delaware and Hudson River. The farmers also had access to wildlife. They took advantage of this and many animals were hunted and trapped.


New York
This colony was founded by the Dutch and called New Netherland. Eventually, the English acquired it, and the colony was given by King Charles I to his brother, the Duke of York. The Duke of York kept a large portion of this land, and renamed it New York.  New York was divided into sections on which colonists could start farms. The Duke of York was the proprietor of the colony, but resided in England. Because of this, he chose governors. These governors chose a council to help with decisions. The proprietor allowed colonists to elect representatives to an assembly. These representatives did contribute to lawmaking, but were not very powerful.

New Jersey
The Duke of York gave some of his land to his friends, George Carteret and John Berkeley. This land was split into two portions, East and West Jersey. Eventually, these parts were united into New Jersey. Since George Carteret and John Berkeley lived in England, they needed governors to control their land. As it was the case with New York, governors picked a council to make decisions. The proprietors still allowed colonists to elect delegates to represent them. Like New York, the delegates did not have very much power.  

William Penn was a Quaker. Quakers were another group from England who were persecuted for their beliefs. The King of England owed Penn’s family a lot of money, but instead, he gave Penn land in the New World. This colony was Pennsylvania. People from many different countries moved to the Pennsylvania, because of the tolerance found there. Pennsylvania citizens were allowed to vote for representatives to an assembly. However these representatives had more power; they could approve of or reject laws. The Native Americans were treated fairly. Penn made treaties with them when buying their land.

The Duke of York also gave Penn some more land. At first this land was part of Pennsylvania, but after a while, it became the colony of Delaware.

The Life in the Middle Colonies

In the Middle colonies, there was a lot of diversity. Catholics, English, and enslaved Africans shared the land. This was because some of the proprietors there believed in religious tolerance though some didn’t care as long the people paid for their land.

Some wealthy people worked in the city although most colonists were farmers. Because of fertile soil and a good growing season, most farmers grew enough for their family and a surplus, which they could sell. They grew wheat, grains, and many other things. In fact, they grew so much wheat and grain for bread that the Middle Colonies were known as the “breadbasket” of the thirteen colonies.

WheatIn a farmer’s life, young boys and girls had many chores. Boys helped grow and harvest plants, while girls did housework and sewing and mending clothes. Both children could help care for the animals.

New York and Philadelphia were the Middle Colonie’s biggest cities. This was because they were the center of trade with all the harbors to import and export goods. Plus, many people were artisans or merchants with many skills. Other people tried to become apprentices to learn their trade. Other people became laborers. They could find general work such as helping load or unload ships or being house servants. Boys could learn shoe or boat making. Girls could open a cloth shop. However, most parents believed children should learn to run the family farm instead of going to college.      

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