Bull family to reunite

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:38

Eight generations later, the Bull family is still going strong with 20,000 living descendants around the world Goshen — Most local residents know Sarah Wells was the first white woman to settle in Orange County. But there’s more to the story than that. This Saturday, Aug. 6, her descendants, including those now living in other countries, will descend on the home Sarah Wells shared with her husband, William Bull, for the 144th annual Bull family reunion and picnic. Sarah Wells was probably not the “adopted daughter” of Christopher and Elizabeth Denne (sometimes spelled Denn) but their indentured servant. Denne had befriended native Americans who lived in the area of his claim on the Wawayanda patent. Three of them returned with him to his home in New York City to help him move north. But in 1712, he sent only Sarah Wells, then 18, along with her native American companions, two or three hired carpenters, two horses, two dogs, and enough supplies to set up a household in the wilderness. Denne promised that he and his wife would arrive later. The party arrived by ship at New Windsor. The next day, with the aid of their guides, they traveled overland to the Denne land ( Denne Hill) by the Otterkill in the present-day Town of Hamptonburgh. On the first night, they slept on boughs laid on logs. Then they built a wigwam, and later a rough cabin. The Dennes arrived either a day or several days later. In the meantime, Daniel Crommeline was also settling his land nearby. He hired an English stonemason, William Bull, literally off the boat, to build his home, Greycourt (in Chester). A marriage with many echoes Eventually William Bull met Sarah Wells. They married in 1718 and set up house in a log cabin. In between building other structures for the wealthy, some of which are still standing, Bull built their house — the Bull Stone House — over time between 1722 and 1727. Like other houses of the time, it was cleverly built over a spring so that water would be available in case of attack. (The water level inside has since sunk considerably due to development and is now only an occasional trickle.) The Bulls had 12 children who married into most Orange County families. Their descendants live here to this day. Mike Brown, an eighth-generation descendant who lives at the Bull Stone House, preserves the family history and gives tours by appointment. Some of the first family’s possessions are still there, including a set of chairs, a table, and a tea caddy. It is a house filled with history and well worth a visit. Many Bull descendants have been illustrious and enterprising. Foremost among them was the late Amy Bull Crist. She devoted most of her life to education, first as a one-room schoolhouse teacher, and later as the first woman district superintendant of schools for Orange and Ulster counties. She helped established BOCES and SUNY Orange and served as president of the Goshen Historic Track. Mike Brown said his maternal grandfather, Bartow (Bart) Bull (1874-1965) was known as the best stockman in the county, adept at picking out good milk cows. He was a grassland farmer who, along with his brothers, Ebenezer and Harry, helped form the Dairymen’s League, which enabled farmers to get a fair, uniform price for their milk. Harry Bull, educated at Cornell University, helped start the Hamptonburgh Grange, which still meets. Ebenezer would often engage in friendly competitions with Bart over who could bring in the most hay: Bart with his horses or Ebenezer with his mules. A different sort of career was held by Richard Bull, who played the part of Nels Oleson, the shopkeeper and long-suffering husband of Harriet on the TV series “Little House on the Prairie,” which ran from 1974 to 1983. He played many other roles as well. This Saturday, the Bulls’ descendants will enjoy a chicken barbecue prepared by Bill and Cherie Cardone from Maybrook. New trustees will be elected and ribbons passed out for oldest, youngest, and farthest-traveled Bull. It promises to be a great time for this sprawling family. But wait until next year — 2012 will be the 300th anniversary of Sarah Wells’ arrival in Orange County. For more information, contact Michael Brown, William Bull and Sarah Wells Stone House Association, Inc., 183 County Route 51, Campbell Hall, NY 10916-2924; visit: bullstonehouse.org or call 496-2855. William and SaraH’s children Name Born Married Children John May 3, 1721 Miss Holly of Goshen 12 William March 13, 1723 Miss Booth of Hamptonburgh 6 Sarah Sept. 1, 1725 Chas. Booth of Hamptonburgh 8 Thomas Dec. 27, 1727 Miss Kerr of Florida 12 Isaac Nov. 17, 1729 Miss Mulliner of Little Britain 6 Esther May 31, 1731 John Miller of Montgomery 8 Mary Feb. 3, 1733 Benj. Booth of Hamptonburgh 10 Margaret May 1, 1736 Silas Horton of Goshen 7 Catherine May 24, 1738 James Falkner of Wallkill 7 Ann Nov. 4, 1740 William Eager of Neelytown 10 Richard May 29, 1743 Miss Budd of East Division 5 Elinor March 4, 1745 Henry Weller of Montgomery 7 At the time of Sarah Wells’ death in 1796, at age 102, she had 98 grandchildren, 212 great-grandchildren, 13 great-great-grandchildren. Source: “Account of William Bull and Sarah Wells reprinted from the History of Orange County by Samuel Eager, Esq.,” originally published 1846-47 and in the GPLHS collection.