Today, the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the pilgrims first met Samoset on March 16, 1621.
From A History of the Towns of Bristol and Bremen in the State of Maine, Including the Pemaquid Settlement by John Johnston, published in 1873:
Samoset has left behind him a name which is every way honorable and interesting.
The first we hear of him is at Plymouth, March 16th, 1621, where he was the first to welcome “The Pilgrim Fathers” to the inhospitable shores of Massachusetts.
Though they landed, as we know, in December, the natives feared and avoided them; and, until this time, held no intercourse with them. Indeed, few had been seen, and they were altogether hostile.
The account of Samoset’s meeting with them is as follows:
“This morning [Friday, March 16, 1621,] we determined to conclude of the military orders, which we had begun to consider before, but were interrupted by the savages. And whilst we were busied hereabout, we were interrupted again; for there presented himself a savage, which caused an alarm.
“He very boldly came all alone, and along the houses, straight to the rendezvous; where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would out of his boldness. He saluted us in English, and bade us ‘Welcome,’ for he had learned some broken English among the Englishmen that came to fish at Monhiggon (Monhegan), and knew by name the most of the captains, commanders, and masters that usually come.
“He was a man free in speech, so far as he could express his mind, and of a seemly carriage. We questioned him of many things; he was the first savage we could meet withall.
“He said he was not of those parts, but of Morattiggon, and one of the sagamores or lords thereof, and had been eight mouths in these parts, it lying hence a day’s sail with a great wind, and five days by land.
“He discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men and strength.
“The wind beginning to rise a little, we cast a horse man’s coat about him; for he was stark naked, only a leather about his waist, with a fringe about a span long or little more. He had a bow and two arrows, the one headed and the other unheaded.
“He was a tall, straight man; the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before ; none on his face at all.
“He asked some beer, but we gave him strong water, and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard; all of which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English. …
“All the afternoon we spent in conversation with him. We would gladly have been rid of him at night, but he was not willing to go this night.
“Then we thought to carry him on shipboard, wherewith he was content, and went into the shallop; but the wind was high and the water scant, that it could not return back.
“We lodged him that night at Steven Hopkins’ house, and watched him.”
Bradford says that ” he came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand.”
“He become profitable to them in acquainting them with many things concerning the state of the country in the east parts where he lived, which was afterwards profitable unto them.”
Both of the writers just quoted proceed to show the various modes in which this interesting “savage” made himself “profitable” to them.
He informed them of the hostility of the natives to the English, in consequence of Hunt’s treachery, some years before, and used his influence to produce a better state of feeling.
He introduced to them his friend Squanto or Tisquantum, a native of the place who had been in England, and who afterwards became ” a spetiall instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
Samoset continued in the vicinity some time, always seeking to promote good feeling between the English and the natives.
This led to the formation of a treaty of peace between the new colony and Massasoit, sagamore of the neighboring Wampanoag Indians, which remained inviolate more than fifty years, or until the time of King Phillip’s war in 1675.
Samoset probably returned soon after this to his native place, as we hear nothing further of him at Plymouth.
The Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of Samoset, the Indian visitor, circa 1857.