What Were the Natural Resources of the New England Colonies?

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The natural resources in colonial New England included furs, lumber, fish and whales. Later, New Englanders found rich deposits of iron ore and granite. These portable resources were ideal for England’s purposes, because nascent British industries could take these raw materials, turn them into finished goods and sell them back to the colonies and other nations.

The first settlers in New England focused on fur and fish, as well as building sawmills as quickly as they could to take advantage of the plentiful tall, straight trees that crowded the new land. Such trees were ideal for shipbuilding, and later New England became known for building the finest ships sailing the Atlantic. Later, settlers were introduced to whaling by the Native Americans in the region. It did not take long for the settlers, particularly those on resource-poor Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, to start hunting the large sperm whales that swam throughout the North Atlantic, gaining enormous profits from the sale of blubber rendered into whale oil.

During later exploration and settlement, New Englanders found abundant “bog iron,” iron ore that had been deposited in low-lying areas by Ice Age glaciers. This resource, as well as mountain iron ore deposits and charcoal from the thick woods, fed New England smithies and foundries, laying the technological basis for future New England industry.