The founding of Charlestown actually predates the founding of Boston itself. Charlestown was officially settled by English Puritans in 1629. It was a year later than John Winthrop and his companions–after a brief layover in Charlestown–crossed the Charles River and settled Boston proper.
Historic Charlestown included many territories further up the Mystic and Charles Rivers which are now independent towns. Charlestown itself was an independent town until it was annexed by Boston in 1874.
Charlestown was the site of at least two famous incidents in the Revolutionary period: the starting point for the midnight ride of Paul Revere and the Battle of Bunker Hill. A third fragment of American history–the USS Constitution–maintains its docking in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Though begun by English Puritans, Charlestown experienced a heavy influx of Irish Catholic immigrants in the mid-19th century. The dual Irish and Catholic influences became a trademark of Charlestown much in the way it did in South Boston and Somerville.