Reverend Hull Part II – Stranger in a Strange Land (1639 – 1643)

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.

Rev. John Lothrop – Lothrop Cemetery Barnstable, Massachusetts

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)

Other Sources:

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

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16 Responses to Reverend Hull Part II – Stranger in a Strange Land (1639 – 1643)

  1. Kathleen says:

    Lots of great detail here! It kept me in the edge of my seat.

  2. Marjorie Arp says:

    I too am a descendant of Rev. Joseph Hull, and really enjoyed this article telling the history of his starting Barnstable. The first time I visited Barnstable I saw the plague with his name on it. When I returned a few years later it seemed that Rev. Joseph Hull was being written out of the history of Barnstable.

    • Rachelle says:

      Yes, unfortunately Rev. Hull left the town and didn’t leave much behind to remember him except what Rev. Lothrop wrote about him in his records. It’s our job as family historians to educate others about his life and contributions. Glad you liked the blog!

  3. Christopher Kirkpatrick Hull says:

    I too was very excited to read the details here and know that it takes a lot to get.
    So interesting for the Puritans to come for religious freedom and yet to impose so many restrictions on the people that joined them there in New England.I was just on Shelter Island, NY and at the Sylvester Manor, a safe haven for Quakers at that time. They even hanged Quakers in Boston as they ran south and north from Massachuetts Bay colony. Tough times!
    Thanks and would enjoy other news as well. Chris Hull

    • Rachelle says:

      Thanks for the note. Are a Rev. Hull descendent?

      • Christopher Kirkpatrick Hull says:

        Yes son of Truett Jr. then Sr, Owen,Isaac, Samuel,David,
        then Moses III,II,I AND Samuel III,II,I son of Rev Hull.
        All documentaries by David Boatman in Houston.
        And you? Cool fun, no? I really enjoyed your blog!!
        Are you a member of the Hull Registry?
        Chris

      • Rachelle says:

        That is quite a pedigree! I have only 3 generations of Hulls in America….Mary Hull (who marries Holloway), Tristram Hull and then Rev. Joseph Hull. But Rev. Hull has captivated me and I have been able to use him in my Great Migration presentation as an example of how historical events have an effect on the choices of our ancestors.
        I haven’t joined the Hull Society, but I have thought about it. Hard to ration those genealogical $’s with so many things to buy – books, conferences, software and societies to join!

  4. Leslie Ann says:

    I really enjoyed your article on Rev. Hull. I too am a descendant – Rev. Joseph Hull => Tristram Hull => Capt. John Hull => Capt John Hull => Joseph Hull => Sarah Hull. I find myself drawn to Captain Tristram Hull myself. Sure would like to know more about his sea adventures.

  5. Rachelle says:

    I too have wondered about Tristram’s seafaring history. It looks like you have a lot of Hull seamen in your line and imagine there must be more information about the Barnstable shipping industry during this period.

  6. I am descended from Rev.Hull.Imagine coming to the New World only to be persecuted again!

    • Rachelle says:

      I completely agree…but it was never about tolerance for everyone, just creating a new world where they could set all the rules!

  7. Rosemary says:

    Rev. Joseph Hull is my 8th great-grandfather. And we think we are having a hard life sometimes! These people paved the way for us to have freedom to worship where and how we wish. We had better protect this way of life because it is fast vanishing.

    • Rachelle says:

      Yes, Rev. Hull is one of my favorite ancestors because of how he stood up for his beliefs despite the life or death pressure to conform in England and in New England. I am reading more about Roger Williams right now and it was tough time and place to have contrary religious beliefs. So glad we addressed that in the Constitution!

      • Laura Hull Dewey says:

        I was in Barnstable in May 2015 for a wedding and had a similar experience at the Sturgis Library. My husband and I found the plaque and were able to locate Reverend Joseph Hull’s property by using a small map the librarian provided us. The house is now owned by a real estate agent who pointed out the original section of the house. He was my first Hull descendant to arrive. He has a very storied past for sure. You filled in a lot of gaps for me. I am also very interested in Captain Tristram Hull, a Quaker sympathizer, and his infamous wife “Bad Blanche Hull”! If you know anything about them I would love to hear it. Their son Joseph married Experience Harper. They were Quakers and headed for Providence, Rhode Island. My 3rd great grandfather was Reverend Stephen Hull. He was one of the first Methodist ministers in Massachusetts. Religion has played a very important part in the migration of my family. Thanks again for a wonderful article. Well done.

      • Rachelle says:

        Oh that is wonderful you were able to see the land Rev. Hull lived on. If you took pictures I would love a copy of the house/land. My e-mail is phoenixjoy@me.com.

        Your Hull line is obviously very long and rich with history. I too am related to Capt. Tristram through his daughter Mary who married Joseph Holway (becomes Holloway) also Quakers. Their grand child Joseph Holloway left Cape Cod and eventually ended up in the Beekman Patent (New York). I would like to do further research to see if this line they remained Quakers or converted to something else, but I think it will require a trip to Rhode Island. I don’t know much more about Blanche, except what was mentioned in the Amos Otis Papers Vol. I 1888 which states “His wife was named Blanch, and is frequently named on the records as a woman whose reputation was not creditable to herself, her family or her friends. In 1655 she married for her second husband Capt. William Hedge of Yarmouth, but the change in her residence did not improve her manners. Capt. Hedge cut her off with a shilling in his will, full eleven pence more that she deserved.” So, the next part of the research would be to check out the Plymouth and Barnstable records to see what exactly they accuse Blanch of saying/doing (though it didn’t take much in those days did it?). I have been distracted by my Southern ancestors and the Civil War lately, so this will have to wait for the next time I am in New England. If you find out anything, I would love to hear it!

        Thanks for writing; I love to connect with my Hull cousins!

  8. Connie says:

    Well I don’t know if my other got sent or not.. I was hoping it posted. However one asked the question about did they remain quakers.. Not sure that they did. At least my branch of the family. I know in Charlestown NH my great great grandfather’s family was Episcopalian (Anglican) and so was my Great Grandfather in Frankfort KS. Albert Hull.. however his only son Abram Downer Hull was a minister for both the Methodist and Congregational Church first in the 1930’s he preached at a Congregation Church then in WWII he preached in the Methodist church in two towns in KS. Then after the war in the early 1950’s he was asked to come back to the Congregational Church where he had preached before and he did. And preached there until his death in Jan 1962. Of course the Congregational Church at the time was not united. It came out the Puritan’s group the Congregational Church>> OH MY! However two of his children married those that belong the Quaker religion but they went to my grandpa’s Congregational Church too. 🙂 I guess by then in the 20th century they were getting along fine.

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