Samuel Chapin's supposed likeness is well known to many as "The Pilgrim", a statue by Augustus St. Gaudens that was so popular it was reproduced about 20 times, in a slightly smaller version. The sculptor used a descendent of Samuel's as his model, and adapted it a bit to make it seem more likely. So no, we don't really know what he looked like, but the statute does give a good impression, which is likely, of strength, energy, and determination. He is also carrying a large Bible, and a walking cane. The original version of the statute was unveiled in 1887 and is located at Merrick Park, now the Quadrangle cultural center, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Samuel's life, however, began in Paignton, Devonshire, England sometime prior to October 5, 1598, the date of his christening. He was the son of John Chapin and Philippe Easton, and was one of at least four children. His father died early, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, George Stone. We don't know what his father did for a living, but Paignton at the time was a small fishing village, located on the southwest coast of England, so it's likely that he was somehow engaged in fishing.
We also don't know what Samuel did for a living. We know he married Cicely Penny, daughter of Henry Penny of Paignton,(a baker) on February 9, 1623/24 at Paignton. (Not everyone in Paignton fished, so the speculation about John's occupation could be entirely wrong.) The new family had several children. David, the first child, was baptized at Paignton. Katherine, Sara, a son possibly named Samuel, Henry, Honor, and Josiah were baptized at Berry Pomeroy, Devon, England, which is about 5 miles inland from Paignton. Josiah was baptized there on October 29, 1637, and it is known that Samuel was in New England in 1639, so the most likely time for the family to have arrived is in 1638. (Son John, born after Henry, was baptized at Totnes, which was his father's home.) Japhet and Hannah were born after the family arrived in the new world.
The family is seen at Roxbury first. Samuel took the freeman's oath in Boston on June 2, 1641, and then moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1642, where Samuel is known as one of the founders of the town. This was very much frontier land, and it appears that for most of the time that Samuel lived there, the white men and the natives got along very well. The settlers treated the natives with honor, and in turn at an early stage, before the Chapins arrived, the natives had saved the small settlement with canoe loads of corn. Even though relations with the natives were friendly, this was still wilderness area. There were wild animals to contend with, lands to clear and crops to plant, and the affairs of the small town and church to administer.
Samuel was active in the church, and was a deacon by 1649. This meant, among other things, that he was regarded as a pious man, and was trusted with many duties in the church. These included teaching or preaching in the church when the pastor was away or when there was no pastor, as in 1650. He was also respected as an administrator, because from 1644 until at least 1665 he was either a selectman (something like a town or city councilman) or a commissioner (more along the lines of a town judge).
By 1675 the town of Springfield was apparently rather complacent, and they paid little attention to warnings that the natives were planning an uprising of some sort. In October of that month, Springfield was pretty much burned to the ground, although only three lives were lost among the settlers. Samuel survived the attack, but died about a month later, in Springfield. His wife, Cicely, died 7 years later. I have not yet located wills for either of them, but I've seen reference to Cicely's will.
The line of descent is:
Samuel Chapin-Cicely Penny
Hannah Chapin-John Hitchcock
Luke Hitchcock-Elizabeth Walker
Ruth Hitchcock-Jonathan Church
Ruth Church-Stephen Noble
Ruth Noble-Martin Root Jr.
Ruth Root-Samuel Falley
Clarissa Falley-John Havens Starr
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook
Fun fact: Wikipedia notes that, among others, the following are descendents from Samuel Chapin and Cicely Penny, and thus are our very distant cousins: Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft,
Harriet Beecher Stowe, J.P. Morgan, T.S. Eliot, Harry Chapin. Who knew? We have Presidents, abolititionists, writers, financiers, and singers in the family. Shall we dance?