American history conjures up images of tricorn hats, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and cobblestone streets in quaint colonial towns. While the colonial era is certainly part of American history, however, it’s only one small part of it. Evidence of humans inhabiting North America dates solidly back 15,000 years, with some indication of human settlements stretching back as far as 40,000 years ago. Many millions of people have called the continent home over those centuries, with indigenous people, European explorers, merchant traders, and early settlers all leaving their marks throughout America’s complicated history. In fact, a number of the towns, villages, and cities that early Americans created over the last 1,000 years still exist in some form today.
To find out which American towns can trace their roots back the furthest, Stacker scoured the internet for founding dates of some of the nation’s oldest cities. Then, Stacker eliminated any towns that aren’t in existence anymore and ranked the remaining 50 locations by the oldest. Though you’ll find some well-known historical locations on this list, you’ll also encounter surprises—many of which you’ve probably never heard of before. From Native American pueblos in the Southwest to storied colonial towns in the Northeast, these cities criss-cross nearly every part of the United States: Midwestern towns founded by French missionaries; oceanside locales founded by Spanish admirals; even large cities founded by Quaker leaders.
The variety of these cities and towns reveals the diversity of the United States—from sea to shining sea. Read through to find out what cities in your state or region made the cut and discover which state boasts a settlement dating back to the year 1000. Just be warned: You might be itching to take a cross-country road trip after reading about these fascinating historical locations.
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