“safe anchorage, good fishing, and a pleasant country” — Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the two ships from Bristol, England arrived at Penobscot Bay on June 7, 1603.

From Maine Pioneer Settlements by Herbert Milton Sylvester, published in 1909:


Before the voyage of Du Monts, 1604-1605, the adventurous impulses of the English were stirred somewhat to dispatch in the summer of 1602 the nucleus for a New World plantation.

This expedition left English Falmouth under Gosnold, and after a short voyage, in point of time they landed on the Massachusetts south shore, where they were to lay the foundation of the new colonization; but the strangeness of their surroundings, and the wild and uncouth character of the aborigine, and principally their lack of courage, sent them all aboard ship as it made preparations for the home voyage.

So they sailed back into Falmouth harbor as empty handed of achievement as they had departed. The only result was the giving of the name of Queen Elizabeth to the island upon which they landed.

Perhaps the succeeding ventures were due as much to Richard Hakluyt, prebendary of St. Augustine, as to any other, as he seems to have been one of the most lively factors in encouraging voyages of discovery to the new country by the Bristol merchants.

Hakluyt’s efforts resulted in the departure of Martin Pring with the Speedwell and the Discoverer the next year, 1603.

Pring sailed away from Bristol April 10, 1603, and on June 7 he was at the mouth of the Penobscot. Here was a safe anchorage, good fishing, and a pleasant country.

The Fox Islands in Penobscot Bay got their name from Pring at this time.

From the Penobscot he followed the trend of the coast, noting as he sailed the inlets and rivers, and here and there a spacious bay, until he reached the Piscataqua, up which he sailed to discover it to be hardly more than an arm of the sea.

Retracing his course, he kept still southward, following the river channel, to turn Cape Ann, thence cutting across Massachusetts Bay, until he came to the English land fall of the preceding year.

Here was Whitson’s Bay, overlooked by Mount Aldworth, “a pleasant hill,” both sturdy English names of Pring’s selection.

Pring’s main object was to make a close survey of the coast, and incidentally to acquire some commercial profit, which he did, filling his small ships with sassafras and furs.

In October he had reached Bristol, his voyage out and home having been made in six months.


A similar description, but with more detail of the vessels, is found in The history of Massachusetts by John Stetson Barry, published in 1857:


This discovery of Gosnold, and his favorable and inviting description of the country, were incentives to further enterprise; and by the persuasion of Robert Aldworth and Mr. Richard Hakluyt, — the latter the learned and efficient advocate of western colonization, — and with the leave of Sir Walter Raleigh, who held the patent of Virginia, within whose bounds Massachusetts lay, the mayor and aldermen, and several of the wealthiest merchants of Bristol, raised by subscription a stock of one thousand pounds, and fitted out two vessels for America — the Speedwell, of fifty tons, with a crew of thirty men and boys, commanded by Martin Pring, and the Discoverer, of twenty-six tons, with a crew of thirteen men and boys, commanded by William Browne ; the expedition being accompanied by Robert Salterne, who had attended Gosnold the year before, and who was appointed supercargo, or principal agent.

The adventurers were equipped for a voyage of eight, months, and furnished with clothing, hardware, and trinkets, to trade with the natives; and, with good auguries of success, they sailed from Milford Haven a few days after the death of the queen.

In twenty-eight days land was discovered in latitude 43° 30′ north, among the Fox Islands, in the mouth of the Penobscot Bay; and ranging the coast to the south-west, and passing the islands of Casco Bay, the Saco, Kennebunk, York, and Piscataqua Rivers, the last of which they examined, they sailed by Cape Ann, crossed Massachusetts Bay, and rounding Cape Cod, came to a harbor called “Whitson Bay,” now Edgarton, or Oldtown, in the Vineyard Islands; from whence, and from the main land in the vicinity, they commenced lading with sassafras, the principal object of their voyage.

In July, the bark sailed for England; and in August, appearances of hostility from the Indians being discovered, Pring also left the coast, taking with him, among other curiosities, a birch canoe as a specimen of aboriginal ingenuity; and, after an absence of less than six months, safely arrived in King Road, near Bristol.


The Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an early map of the Americas, circa 1587.

Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin