In Early New England, Our Ancestor Fought Pequot Warriors

New York, N.Y. In May of 1824, in the Upstate New York village of Bath, our third great-grandmother Caroline Bull married Thomas Jefferson Dudley – whose own third great-grandfather had been Thomas Dudley, Third Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony and signer of the Harvard Charter.

Winthrop_FleetThe ship Hopewell carrying one of our ancestors followed the Winthrop Fleet from
England to America during the first period of the Great Migration in the 1630s.

Caroline’s grandfather, Caleb Bull, was a captain in the Connecticut’s Ninth Regiment and fought in the Revolutionary War. However, it was her third great-grandfather (our ninth great-grandfather), Thomas Bull, who played a role in fighting the Pequot Nation. Arriving in 1635 with Thomas Hooker from England on the ship Hopewell, he settled in what is today Connecticut and helped found its capital, Hartford.

Soldiers_Monument,_Bath,_N.Y._1909Soldier’s Monument, Bath Village, New York. Our third great-grandmother
Caroline Bull married Thomas Jefferson Dudley in Bath, 1824.

Two years later, in August of 1637, Thomas Bull fought in the Pequot War. According to witnesses, he was slightly wounded during a battle when an indian arrow hit him. The projectile lodged in a seemingly hard piece of cheese he was carrying in his pocket. According to reports, three brave Pequot warriors attacked Thom. The report states he “laid hold of one of their arrows and cut the other two bowstrings and cleft one of their heads & broke his sword & by that occasion rescued a wounded man out of the fire.”

Pequot_warOur ancestor helped slaughter members of the Pequot tribe in the 1630s.
By 1910, t
he U.S. Census found only 66 tribal members left.

This war took place in what today is the state of Connecticut between 1636 and 1638. The conflict was between the Pequot tribe and an alliance of the colonists of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Saybrook (Connecticut) colonies along with their Native American allies from the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes.

“The Pequot War” 
from a  drawing by Charles Stanley Reinhart, circa 1890.

A force of ninety Englishmen surprised the Pequot Indians with a night attack on their fort, setting it on fire. Those who were not burned to death were shot down by the English who had surrounded their burning enclosure. It was estimated that between 600-700 Pequots, including women and children, were slaughtered. Hundreds more were taken prisoner and sold into slavery to the West Indies.

Beginning in the 1620s, the newly arrived Americans decimated Native Americans with both disease, war, and starvation. The “Indians” who welcomed the Mayflowerwith whom the legend of Thanksgiving was born, were slowly pushed West or killed.

In The History of American Women, it is noted that 30,000 Native Americans lived in Massachusetts alone at that time, living in small bands with no supreme chief. The Europeans brought disease for which the native population had no immunity. Nearly 90% perished in the 1600’s. The book states:

The Puritans began to arrive in 1629, and their religion affected their attitudes toward Native Americans. They considered Native Americans inferior because of their primitive lifestyle, but many thought they could be converted to Christianity. The natives found Puritan conversion practices coercive and culturally insensitive. Accepting Christianity usually involved giving up their language, severing kinship ties with other Natives who had not been saved, and abandoning their traditional homes.

The result of disease and warfare was the virtual elimination of the Pequot tribe in Southern New England; the colonial authorities classified them as ‘extinct.’ Survivors remained in the area but were absorbed into other local tribes. The U.S. Census in 1910 recorded only 66 remaining tribe members.

However, the tribe grew and in 1983 Congress overrode a veto by President Ronald Reagan granted federal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. The tribe opened the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut in 1986.


My sister and I are twelfth generation Americans. Our parents, of course, like everyone else in the world, had two parents each, and they in turn two parents. If you go back five generations, this would be 64 ancestors. Thomas Bull, who arrived in 1635 and played a role in the destruction of the Pequot Nation, was our ninth great-grandfather. In the ninth generation we had 512 forebears, followed by 1,024 in the tenth generation, 2,048 in the eleventh and a staggering 4,056 in the twelfth generation.

Thomas Bull is but one of 4,056 relatives we had in the early 1600s. We cannot claim great accolades from his successes nor take great responsibility for his transgressions. It simply fascinates us that someone related to us living in 2020 arrived upon our shores four centuries ago, sadly helped decimate the Native American population, founded great cities, and had children who had children who resulted generations later in my immediate family. We cannot change the past, but hopefully through these first-person reports, we can make U.S. history more relatable today.

My adopted son from Indonesia and my husband from Thailand are as “American” as we are, however they have their own histories which are equally fascinating however less documented. On these pages we will relate our own history, skeletons and all, to make U.S. history as alive and vivid as possible.

This column focuses on American history through the eyes of one family. My 2010 piece in HuffPo, Mayflower Roots – and a Metrocard – Get One on the Subway, began to explore the impact of Brahmin roots in today’s American soil.Most families, as ours, had both heroes and horse thieves. We cannot change the past, but we can report and reflect upon it. 

See: “Our America” – Exploring U.S. History through Family’s Eye

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Our America
The column “Our America” explores the family of Jim Luce in America going back to the Mayflower in 1620. The ‘First Families’ of Boston, “Boston Brahmins,” were New England families who descended from English Protestants and constitute the historic core of East Coast establishment (“WASP’s”). Jim’s parents both came from prominent families, with his mother’s Dudley side and his father’s Delano and Luce lineage. Historically the families married among themselves and his family’s forbearers include the Delanos, Dudleys, Footes, Luces, Simpsons, Tafts, Warrens, and Winthrops. Ancestors helped found Harvard, the U.S. Navy, fought in the Indian Wars and commanded ships in the Civil War, owned slaves and supported the NAACP. Notable distant relatives include FDR and Wallis Simpson.

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