Immigration To The United States

The story of immigration to America makes fascinating reading. Immigrations have generally flowed from the north to the south and from the east to the west. How did Europeans come to America in the first place? Both Italians and Nordic people would like to take credit for this accomplishment, but history generally confirms that the Vikings were the first Europeans to land in the Americas. There were Viking colonies in Nova Scotia, New England, and as far west as Minnesota. Around 1000 A.D., Leif Ericson, the Norseman, landed in Greenland, journeyed to the southwest and came on some region of the east coast of North America. This first settlement was named "Vinland," because it had "self-sown wheatfields and wild grapes, out of which a very good wine could be made." This area is generally believed to be what is Nova Scotia today and it opened up a wealth of timber, furs and farm lands to these early explorers.

But it wasn't until the end of the 15th century when Christopher Columbus sailed to Hispaniola on October 12, 1492, that Europe realized that the American continent existed. This most decisive event in world history began an adventure that hasn't halted since - the exploration, conquest and settlement of the Western hemisphere. Columbus' trip to America touched off the most brutal and determined "gold rush" in history.

The 16th Century found Juan Ponce de Leon, a companion of Columbus' on his second voyage to the New World, sailing down and around the Florida Keys and up to the Gulf Coast. Explorers like him began coming from many places - with one goal in mind - to ship gold and trade goods from the New World home to the Mother Country.

The 17th Century began a pattern different from the previous "conquistadors" who sacked entire civilizations, leaving nothing behind but destruction. Immigrants began arriving in the New England area (the Mayflower landed in 1620) and by 1630 their ranks had swelled to an estimated 4,640. They lived in what is now New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. They came for a variety of reasons: To make their fortunes, to settle the colonies under royal command, or to escape religious persecution.

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