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Much Welcome, Englishmen

May 2024
1min read

Three centuries ago Pemaquid was a vast, vaguely bounded expanse of Indian tribal lands centering around what is now the town of Bristol, Maine. It fronted on no fewer than fifty miles of Atlantic littoral and incorporated scores of offshore islands such as Georges, Monhegan, and Damariscove.

It was—and is—permeated with unrecorded, unrecognized, unsubstantiated, forgotten history. Unquestionably it was the real birthplace of New England and the northeast U.S.A. Fishermen from England had at least summer settlements there decades before the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod; in fact their handouts saved the Pilgrims from starvation, but the Pemaquidians seemed to prefer anonymity to avoid attracting competitors to their locale.

Take me back to the Pemaquid of about 1650. I’d like to have a long chat with honest old Samoset, “Lord of Pemaquid,” “Lord of Monhegan”—the Indian who brought his friend Massasoit to Plymouth Colony in 1621 and immortalized himself by greeting the Pilgrims in passable English: “Much welcome, Englishmen. Much welcome, Englishmen.” He had picked up his English accent in exchanges with countless British fishermen, captains, and explorers on his home ground at Pemaquid. His life spanned the whole era of the exploration and settlement of Maine.

As one of the few recognized on-thespot participants in and observers of New England events, he would be capable of putting into perspective and giving a vivid review of what actually transpired in his province; he might give the earliest New England history an entirely new slant, even though he entertained a conviction that the white man, with his insatiable appetite for dried codfish, was a little eccentric. He alone could reconstruct the authentic Pemaquid scene covering a period that I, as a longtime summer resident, would like to have witnessed.

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