Life at Massachusetts Bay

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12229

Often, religious persecution achieves the opposite of its intended effect: Instead of stamping out followers, it causes them to spread out and take root. Read how the Puritans spread out in America!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What would you do if someone, especially the government, told you that you could no longer practice your religion the way you wanted? What price would you pay for your freedom?

In this lesson, you will learn about the Puritans and the colony they began at Massachusetts Bay.

As you review the material in this section, answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. Why did the Puritans not get along with the king of England?
  2. What did the Puritans do when they could not worship the way they saw fit?
  3. What law created tension in the Massachusetts Bay colony?
  4. What did some of the colonists do when they disagreed with the laws regarding religion?

In 1630, about 1,000 men, women, and children boarded eleven ships and headed to North America. The group, known as the Puritans, wanted to leave England because they disagreed with the ideology, or system of beliefs, enforced by the Church or England. The Church of England was the only legal church in England at the time. The Puritans considered themselves members of the Church of England, but they wanted to simplify it and place a greater emphasis on the Bible. The English king was outraged by the ideas proposed by the Puritans. He made Puritanism illegal and even tried to remove all the Puritans from England.

In April 1630, the Puritans decided to leave England. The settlers at Jamestown and the pilgrims at Plymouth had been successful in starting colonies in North America, and the Puritans thought they, too, would try to start their own colony. A few months later, the Puritans arrived at Massachusetts Bay in the present-day state of Massachusetts. Unlike the colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth, the Puritans did not have a difficult first year in North America, and almost all of their people survived. They came to the new world prepared, knowing how to hunt and plant crops. Arriving at the beginning of summer left plenty of time to plant and store crops for the cold winter.

Cape Cod Bay map

Image by NormanEinstein, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licsense.

After the Puritans arrived at Massachusetts Bay, they formed their own government. John Winthrop was made the governor, or leader, of the colony, and a legislature was formed to represent different groups of people within the Massachusetts Bay colony. The legislature was responsible for creating and enforcing laws throughout the colony.

The Massachusetts Bay colony experienced problems from within. The legislature created a law that said everyone was required to attend Puritan church. Many of the colonists did not think this was right because they had left England after being forced to worship the way the king had told them to worship. Many felt people should be free to practice their own religion within the colony. This led to disagreements between the colonists, and some left the Massachusetts Bay colony. Those who left started their own colonies in New England. The colonies started by these Puritans, including Rhode Island, allowed freedom of religion.

Now that you have read about the Puritans and the colony at Massachusetts Bay, review the answers to the questions with your teacher or parent. What did the colonists who left Massachusetts Bay have in common with the Puritans leaving England? Discuss your ideas. Then, click on the hot spot in the center of the picture below to review the answer. The bottom-right hotspot explains the picture:

Image from the Brooklyn Museum, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

After you have clicked the hot spot to check your answer, move on to the Got It? section to take a quiz about the Puritans.

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