Captain Bull, the Delaware chief whose name is perpetuated in
Bulltown on the Little Kanawha river in Braxton County, WV, came to
the hills of northwest Virginia as an exile from his homeland on the
upper Susquehana in New York State. In 1764, when he led his twenty
relatives to the site of the present town, he was fleeing the wrath of
the English-Indian Commissioner, Sir William Johnson, who had become
incensed against the Delaware after discovering Captain Bull's
role in the Pontiac conspiracy.
Johnson had organized a band of English settlers and friendly
Indians and in March of 1764 this group captured Bull and a number of
his adherents. Bull was led in irons to New York City. After a short
imprisonment, however, he had been released on his promise to leave
Captain Bull was the son of Teddyuscung, the last chieftain of
the Delaware tribe, to whom a monument has been erected in Fairmont
Park in Philadelphia, representing him, bow and spear in hand, plume
of eagle feathers on his brow, stepping forth on his journey toward
the setting sun.
Teddyuscung, born at Trenton, New Jersey about 1705, had been
chosen Chief of the Delawares at about 50 years of age. He was once
baptized by the Moravians as brother Gideon and was an Indian advocate
of peace. Once General Braddock was defeated, Teddyuscung became an
enemy of white settlers. He was burned to death on the night of April
16, 1764, when enemy Indians, either Seneca or Mohawk, set fire to
his lodge in the Indian village at Wyoming in New York while he lay
After his father's death, Captain Bull led a band of dissatisfied
Delaware braves into the hostile camp of Pontiac. His arrest and
exile prevented him from becoming the Great Chief of the Delaware.
At the time of the Conspiracy, small English garrisons occupied
the forts along the shores of the Great Lakes and in the territory
drained by the Ohio River and its tributaries, and the French held
posts on the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers and had a considerable
settlement at New Orleans. Discontent smoldered amongst the Indians,
since most of the Indians preferred the more casual French to the
English, believing that the English would drive them from their
hunting grounds and treat them with neglect and injustice.
French traders from St. Louis and Montreal worked on their fears
and fomented disaffection and the result was an uprising under the
leadership of Pontiac, Chief of the Ottawa warriors, who was
determined to restore the supremacy that the French and Indians had
enjoyed before the fall of Quebec and DeVaudreuvil's capitulation at
In 1763, Sir William Johnson estimated that Pontiac's forces were
not more than ten thousand warriors from the Delaware, Iroquois,
Shawnee, Guyandotte, Miami, Kickapoo, Ottawa and Ojibwa tribes.
Captain Bull led about 600 Delawares who were included in Pontiac's
plan and Bull was as deeply involved in the scheme as any other
Eagle's "History of Pennsylvania", "The Pennsylvania Gazette",
"Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania" and Miner's "History of Wyoming
Valley" give details of two marauding raids of Captain Bull's
followers. On October 8, 1763, the Delawares burned farms and houses
and killed at least 23 people, men, women and children, and wounded
many more. On another raid in the Wyoming Valley on October 15, 1763,
the Delewares killed at least twenty people and destroyed many houses.
Early in 1764, Andrew Montour led a force of about 200 Iroquois
and a few whites against a Delaware raiding party on the upper
Sesquehanna in Steuben County New York. Twenty nine prisoners were
captured, including Captain Bull. A 1764 letter from Commissioner
William Johnson to Thomas Gage relates the story of Bull's capture and
imprisonment and comments on his character and activities.
"I have the pleasure to acquaint you that the prisoners arrived here
on the 15 of March & were yesterday sent down under a Guard of a Capt
and 50 Provincials to Albany....The number of prisoners I have sent to
Coll Elliot are 14 men, with Capt.Bull, a villian of the first rank,
the manner of their being taken disagrees with what I first heard,
Except that one of them was wounded, as he made a good deal of
resistance when they Tyed him up, but it is with particular
satisfaction I inform you that they are all of Kanestio and have many
prisoners amongst them which Bull offered for his ransom, he told the
party that took him that he had with his own hands killed 26 English
since Spring & it appears that their design was to come here, make
offers of peace, beg for a little ammunition & on their return destroy
Cherry-Valley or some other of our settlements, they insulted the
Indians of 2 or 3 Small Friendly villages & shot down their cattle, &
took away their provisions by force. Capt Bull did not attempt to
deny his behavior, and on my asking him on what account he became so
inveterate an Enemy, he told me, he did not know, that he was advised
to do it, & his party followed his example; he is a fellow of great
address, but feigns ignorance &is full of prevarication, he is very
likely and remarkably active as are several of the others with him,
which makes me dread their escaping, altho' I told him if he attempted
to escape, those in our hands would be put to death immediately."
Captain Bull was released from the New York prison on condition
that he leave the State and never return. This he did, with more than
forty Delewares, men, women and children appearing at Frederick Ice's
settlement on the Cheat River in VA in the summer of 1764. They
remained until the late Fall, when they moved up the Monongahela River
and camped at the site of present day Fairmont, WV.
In the Spring of 1765, the Delewares moved to the site of present
day Weston, WV and camped for a while before moving to the Bulltown
No one knows how or why Bull chose his next home along the Little
Kanawha in what was to become Braxton county WV. Nevertheless, the
location was ideal. Game was plentiful, rich ground grew good crops
and there was a salt spring.
Although the saline waters of the spring at the Indian village
were not very salty and about 800 gallons of water had to be
evaporated by the primitive method of gathering the brine in wooden
trough and heating it by dropping in hot stones to yield a bushel of
salt, they were able to make enough for their own needs, with a small
quantity for trade. Salt was a precious commodity in those time and
whites came from Randolph County to trade for salt as early as 1770.
The Indians hunted, fished, made salt and visited pioneer
settlements in the country farther north, and according to Withers'
"Chronicles of Border Warfare", the settlement had grown to more than
a hundred persons by 1772. Withers' number of inhabitants is at
considerable variance with a head count detailed in a letter from
Captain James Booth to Zackwell Morgan. Booth stated that the town
consisted of Captain Bull, sixteen warriors, fifteen squaws, eight or
more children and twenty cabins. Since Booth was a contemporary of
Captain Bull and Withers was writing more than fifty years after the
events, Booth's figures seem more likely to be accurate.
Captain Bull, after coming to western Virginia, was a different
character; during they years that he and his people inhabited the
Little Kanawha valley, he was peaceful toward the whites with whom he
came in contact, often hunting with them. His tepee was always open
to the hunter and the pioneer and he was their friend. However, Bull's
attitude was not typical of the times.
In other areas of the trans-Allagheney territory, Indian raids
were committed with ever increasing frequency and by 1772 the threat
of an Indian war occupied all minds. Tension between the western
settlers and the Indians became constantly greater. The pioneers
desired a final settlement and when they began laying plans for
forcing the issue, war was assured.
Stories that the Indians at Bulltown were massacred by whites
have appeared in a number of books, papers and journals and the
following story from the WPA Writers Project can be accepted as
STROUD FAMILY MASSACRED
"Shortly after the 1768 treaty with the Indians, Adam Stroud, a
German, and his family, settled on whit is now Stroud's Creek, near
its junction with the Gauley River in what is now Webster County.
Here he erected a crude log cabin and in the course of time cleared
some land and planted crops. For four years he and his family enjoyed
the freedom of the frontier unmolested. Then, in the month of June
1872, while Stroud was absent from his home, a party of Indian
warriors, supposed to have been of the Shawnee tribe, murdered the
entire German family of seven children and the mother. They also
plundered the house and drove off what livestock the Strouds
"Because the Shawnees, who were guilty of the Stroud massacre,
left a false trail leading in the general direction of the Delaware
village, suspicion at once fell upon Captain Bull and his warriors;
even Stroud himself expressed the belief that the Bulltown Indians
were responsible for the massacre. When he arrived home that June day
and found his entire family murdered, Stroud sped to the Hacker's
Creek settlement in Lewis County and spread the alarm."
"An immediate cry went up to avenge the deed at once. Many,
however, doubted that Bull or any of his band had any part in the
killing. They held back because on frequent visits to the Little
Kanawha village they had found the leader of the Bulltown Indians very
friendly and were slow in being convinced of his guilt."
"Five men, Jesse Hughes, William White, John Cutright, William
Hacker and a man by the name of Kettle, who would believe nothing but
that the Bulltown Indians were guilty announced their intention of
proceeding against the Little Kanawha village. Jesse Hughes, like
Lewis Wetzel, had a great hatred for the Indians -- whether friendly
or not, and nothing delighted him more than an opportunity to kill a
redskin. It is therefore possible that Hughes, because of his feeling
towards the Indians, and because he lived only a short distance from
their settlement, instigated the action against Captain Bull's
"Hughes and his party went to Bulltown, and returned a day or two
later. They denied having as much as seen an Indian, telling the
Hacker's Creek settlers that Bull and his people had left the country.
What really did occur at the Indian village was not disclosed until
several years later. On his death bed in 1852 when 105 years old,
John Cutright told the true story of the disappearance of Captain Bull
and his fellow Delawares."
"Cutright said that as Jesse Hughes and the four other men left
the Hacker's Creek settlement, and made their way toward the Bulltown
colony, they became more and more embittered against the Indians.
Hughes, it appears, goaded the men on, and planned the best way to
attack the Indian village. With his usual cunning, Hughes planned to
take the Indians completely by surprise." "He succeeded, and falling
upon the Delawares before they were aware that and danger was near,
the Hughes party killed every member of the Indian settlement, men,
women, and children alike. Realizing the extent of their malefaction,
the men, fearful of possible unpleasant consequences when their deed
became known, removed the last evidence of their crime by throwing the
bodies of the Indians into the Little Kanawha River. Thus ended the
career of the notorious Delaware chieftain whose name will not be
forgotten so long as Bulltown exists."
This massacre was first reported in A.S. Withers' "Chronicles of
Border Warfare", published in 1831. Withers was not certain that the
story was true and gave the names of only two of the alleged assassin,
William White and William Hacker. He further explained
that White and Hacker had planned to go to Bulltown to see if they
could find evidence that the Delawares had participated in the Stroud
massacre. The two men were reported to have returned to Hacker's
Creek and reported that the entire Bulltown village was vacant. The
men were alleged to have inadvertently said something in following
years that indicated that they were guilty of the massacre.
L.V. McWhorter, in a footnote to the Withers story, added the
death bed confession story and the names of Jesse Hughes and John
Cutright. The name Kettle is from an unknown source. Other
manuscripts substitute Adam Stroud for Kettle.
Although these accounts have been accepted as fact for many
years, other authors doubt its truth. An anonymous writer of an
article in "Awhile Ago Times", reprinted in "The Hacker's Creek
Journal" states that Chief Bull and his Delawares were moved from
Bulltown by the Indian Affairs Commissioner in May 1772 and references
a number of documents proving that the Delawares moved south to the
lower Mississippi, where Chief Bull died after 1810.
Robert B. Smith states that in 1772, Captain Bull and his people
moved to the White River in Indiana, about eighteen miles from present
day Wabash. In 1778, after the capture of English General Hamilton,
they removed to the Mississippi. Smith cites Simon Kenton's "Notes",
Draper's "Manuscripts" and private documents is support of his
According to Smith, traditional Hacker history states that
Withers "stole" the manuscript for "Chronicles of Border Warfare"
from William Hacker. The fact that William Powers and William Hacker
advertised the sale of a forthcoming "History" in a Morgantown
newspaper lends credence to the story. The book was to be published
in 1825, if sufficient subscriptions were obtained.
The "Hacker's Creek Journal" Vol.10 Issue 2, p.23, states that
Withers was hired by Clarksburg, VA (WV) publisher Joseph Israel to
rewrite chronicles by Hacker and Powers that "... are said to have
been published in the 1820's by a newspaper in Morgantown."
If these things are not enough, let us examine the stories
rationally. Withers was writing 59 years after the event and was not
sure that the story was true. McWhorter was writing more than a
hundred years after the event. The alleged "deathbed confession" of
John Cutright was supposed to have occurred in 1852, 80 years after
the event, and more than 20 years before McWhorter's writing. Any
deathbed statement of a person 105 years old probably owes more to the
questions and perceptions of the hearer than of the dying person. And
any verbal report of such a confession 20 years in the past is highly
A history of the Hughes Family, published in "The Hacker's Creek
"In 1786, a party of Indians murdered Jesse's father, Thomas
Hughes and in 1787, another party of Indians led by the white
renegade, Leonard Schoolcraft, captured Jesse's daughter. Although
Jesse was able to purchase his daughter's freedom the following year,
the two incidents turned Jesse and his brother Elias into implacable
enemies of the Indians."
Note that Jesse and his brother were not turned into "implacable
enemies of the Indians" until four years after the Bulltown massacre
is alleged to have occurred.
Killing more than forty persons and throwing them in a river
would be quite a warm days work for five men, even if the victims were
totally passive. Considering that the Indians were experienced
warriors, albeit somewhat out of practice, and given the rather
primitive weapons of the period, the slaughter of so many by so few
seems highly unlikely, if not impossible.
The Little Kanawha River at Bulltown is a rather small and
shallow affair and throwing a hundred bodies in such a river in June
is not quite the same as throwing a handful of pebbles in the
Mississippi at Memphis. It is doubtful that a hundred bodies could be
thrown in such a river by five men in "a day or two", the time frame
from the WPA paper, in such a manner that they would not be visible.
And even if the bodies were sunk in the river, they would not stay
sunk. The writer of this sketch has participated in several body
recovery operations and has ample experience to know that bodies sunk
in a shallow river in warm weather usually surface within 48 hours.
If the Bulltown massacre did occur as alleged, someone should have
commented to some author or other about the disproportinate number of
dead Indians in the Little Kanawha at a specific period.
The WPA paper mentions the coming of John and Benjamin Conrad to
Bulltown in 1800 and mentions that Adam O'Brien blazed a trail from
Sutton to Bulltown in 1792 and says that "many 'squatters' came to the
Bulltown Country before the Conrad brothers, but only for the purpose
of hunting and obtaining salt from the springs."
From these statements, we must conclude that the village site was
regularly visited in the years following the alleged massacre, but
there have been no reports of bones and other traces that one would
expect to find on the site of such a massacre.
The writer of the "Awhile Ago Times", article terms the entire
story "A Ridiculous Tale." Perhaps Smith's statement describes
such a situation best:
"If these five men could attack Bulltown, where sixteen warriors were
fortified in twenty cabins and they being in the open and fighting
behind trees, the Squaws were no doubt loading weapons for the
warriors and they all being aware of the approach of the white men, it
would be a feat unheard of and unsurpassed in all history of the
frontier, to believe that they could kill all sixteen of the warriors,
the fifteen squaws and eight children, dump their bodies in the Little
Kanawha River and never suffer wound or casualty themselves. This
unbelievable and much too much to comprehend."
Withers, "Chronicles of Border Warfare", 1831
WPA Writers Project, "Bulltown Country", 1940
Smith, Robert B., "Hacker's Creek Journal", Spring 1988
"Hacker's Creek Journal" Spring 1992 P.23