As I mentioned in the previous posting, during Rev. Hull’s long odyssey to find a home, he was a founder of the town of Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1639. During my visit to Cape Cod, we stopped there and visited the Sturgis Library, which had originally been the home of Rev. John Lothrop and the Meeting House built in 1644. We were in “Lothrop Territory” and very little remained of my ancestor. When I asked where I could find the marker regarding Rev. Hull, the librarians couldn’t find it in the published histories of the area. However, the thoughtful librarians gave us a tour of the oldest part of the library and offered to do a little more research about the Hull plaque. After checking with their local historian, they e-mailed me the location of marker. (See previous posting for Hull plaque) Special note: The Sturgis Library is the oldest library structure in America. You can see the library and Rev. Lothrop’s bible on Finding Your Roots w/ Henry Louis Gates Robert Downey Jr. and Maggie Gyllanhall. You are really missing something, if you haven’t watched this season!
In a way, this illustrates how the winners of historical “battles” get to tell the their version of what happened and often leave us with a fractured history. It’s only through diligent historians and genealogists who pick and piece together the small scraps of information left behind that we are able to see that the victors aren’t the only ones who have a story to tell. Most of our understanding of Rev. Joseph Hull comes from prejudiced or antagonistic sources. None of his own writings, letters or journals survive, so we have to dig deep to ascertain what might have motivated his actions.
In the case of the Barnstable events, Rev. Lothrop was certainly the “victor” of any religious struggle that might have occurred. He came to New England with an edge over Hull as he had already demonstrated his Puritan credentials by experiencing religious persecution and imprisonment in England. For him, coming to Barnstable was an opportunity to finally settle down roots within the safety of a government that would support his beliefs and his church.
While in Barnstable, I picked up a book called John Lothrop in Barnstable which includes his diary of church events. The facts that he documented regarding Rev. Hull and his family include:
- 28 Nov 1639 – Rev. Hull’s daughter (Joanna) married Mr. Bursley
- 11 December 1639 -Days of Thanksgiving – “att Mr. Hulls house, for Gods exceeding mercye in bringing us hither safely keeping us healthy & well in our weake beginings & in our church Estate. The day being very cold our praises to God in publique being ended, wee divided into 3 companies to feast together, some at Mr. Hulls, some at Mr. Mass, some at Brother Lumberds senior.”
- 15 April 1640 – Days of Humiliation with Brother Mas, Brother Hull, Brother Cobb “lay on hands for the Lord to finde out a place for meeting, & that wee might agree in it, as also yt wee might agree about ye division of Lands.”
- 1 May 1641 – “Mr. Hull excommunicated for his willfull breakeing of communion wt us, & joyneing himself a member wt a companie at Yarmouth to be their Pastour: contrary to ye advise and Counsell of o(r) Church.
- 9 May 1641 – Rev. Hull’s daughter Ruth baptized
- 11 Mar 1642 – Rev. Hull’s wife Agnes “renewed her Covenannt with us renounceing her joyneing with the at Farmouth confefsing her evill in soe doeing wt sorrow”
- 10 Aug 1643 – Rev. Hull renewed covenant with Rev. Lothrop’s church in Barnstable
So what really happened? With 300 years of reflection and study of additional historical records, Hull historians/genealogists have added their perspectives to give a more complete story.
Rev. Hull arrived prior to Rev. Lothrop by a few months to settle Barnstable. When Lothrop arrived, Rev. Hull joined his church and celebrated with the community amicably. Rev. Hull had a large family (9 children) to support and once again there were too many ministers in the area to make a living for both of them. It appears that Rev. Hull decided to focus on land and agricultural endeavors instead of the ministry. Unfortunately, Hull’s timing was poor and his attempt to make a living selling cattle met with difficulties due to England gearing up for the Civil War and the flow of money and goods being interrupted. Perhaps Rev. Hull needed a new source of revenue and that is why he accepted a call from the people of Yarmouth to be their minister in 1641. However, this was a significant break from the theocratic rules, since the Yarmouth church was not officially sanctioned by the Plymouth Colony government and “the church”. Also, they believed in re-ordination which required Rev. Hull to be “consecrated anew” since he had resigned from his church at Weymouth and had held political office both for Hingham and Barnstable.
As a result of his preaching without authority, he was excommunicated by the Lothrup church in Barnstable and a warrant was issued by Plymouth “directed to the constable at Yarmouth, to apprehend Mr. Joseph Hull (if he do either exercise the ministry amongst them or administer the seals) to bring him before the next magistrate, to find sufficient sureties for his appearance the next General Court, to answer his doings (being an excommunicant).” For an Oxford educated minister, this must have been a difficult situation to make peace with. He had given up his home and church in England, risked financial stability to come to New England and the government had determined he was not qualified to lead a church despite his advanced degree and prior experience. What was he to do?
Well, as luck would have it another colony had started in Maine by Sir Ferdinand Gorges (another man who found himself on the wrong side of history) that was much more friendly to Anglican leanings. It appears that Rev. Hull alternated his time between Yarmouth, Massachusetts and York (formerly known as Accomenticus) and the Isle of Shoals in Maine as an itinerant minister for the next 2 years. There is no evidence that he ever appeared before the Plymouth Magistrate, so it is unknown if they did not pursue him or if he was just very clever at avoiding them.
Finally, it was in 1643 when he renewed his covenant with the Barnstable church, but it was only to make peace with the community, settle up his property issues and leave the area permanently for York, Maine and the Isle of Shoals. He had found a place out of the control of both the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony….at least temporarily.
More Historical Context: Rev. Hull wasn’t the only colonist to be having conflicts with Plymouth and Massachusetts. Roger Williams had been put on trial and banished back to England in 1635 for the radical idea of proposing the division of church and state. He had escaped, bought land from the native Americans and eventually got a charter to start Rhode Island. I believe that Rev. Hull might have known Roger Williams because of their connection to Rev. Richard Bernard, so I wondered why Rev. Hull didn’t go to Rhode Island? I checked the dates…Roger Williams was in England in 1643 getting the English government to agree to his charter. Once again, Rev. Hull wasn’t in the right place at the right time. (More about Roger Williams’ struggle and Puritan theocratic control in Smithsonian January 2012)
Anderson, Robert Charles, George Freeman Sanborn, and Melinde Lutz Sanborn. 1999. The great migration: immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. Vol. pg. 452-460
Cleaver, William Jessup. 1989. The ancestry of Allen Grinnell Cleaver and Martha Irene Jessup: 172 allied families. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press.
Hull, Col. Robert B. 1898. Rev. Joseph Hull, minister of Weymouth, Mass., 1635. Pittsfield, Mass. : Sun Printing Company.
Massachusetts, and Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff. 1853. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Boston: From the Press of W. White, printer to the Commonwealth.
Sturgis Library (Barnstable, Mass.). 2009. John Lothrop in Barnstable: a 370th anniversary tribute. Barnstable, MA: Sturgis Library