Descendants write book about Sarah Wells Bull's pioneering life and times

Authors Julie Boyd Cole and Sarah Brownell will sign their new book on Feb. 10 at Linda's Office Supplies

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  • Julie Boyd Cole

— In 1712, young Sarah Wells’ future in the New World didn’t look very promising. She was 16 years old, an orphan, an indentured apprentice, and at the mercy of her master in the tiny new settlement of Manhattan. When she reached 21, she would have just two choices — marry or sell herself to a new master for another seven years.

Instead, she changed her fate. Her master, a land speculator with a sketchy reputation, offered her an unprecedented 100 acres if she would serve as his representative to make a claim in the wilderness of the Hudson River Highlands. She set aside her overwhelming fear and headed north with a handful of hired carpenters and three Native people in a single-mast sloop. Not only did the young woman survive the journey into the wild, but she thrived for nearly a century in Orange County. In the wilderness and with the assistance of the Munsee tribe of Indigenous People, she eventually married, had 12 healthy children, and built a stone house that still stands today, survived the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, outbreaks of yellow fever and small pox, and the unbelievable uncertainty of frontier life. Her neighbors were many of the most important men and women of this new democracy and her descendants now number more than 76,000. She was an American pioneer.

Two direct descendants of Sarah Wells Bull, Julie Boyd Cole and Sarah Brownell, will be at Linda’s Office Supplies, 22 Main St., in Goshen from 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, to sign copies of their book, "Sarah, An American Pioneer: The Circumstantial and Documented Evidence of the Courageous Life of Sarah Wells Bull." Linda’s will have copies of the book available for $19.99 on the day of the signing.

Cole and Brownell are first cousins, and two of more than 76,000 descendants of Sarah Wells and William Bull. Their book digs deep into Sarah’s early life, her settlement in Orange County, her family life, and ultimately her legacy.

"Sarah's story is inspirational story for anyone in Goshen," said Cole. "At just 16 years old, and as an indentured servant, she took a chance. She accepted an offer to be the first European settler in the township in 1712. She left the comforts of a Manhattan townhouse to live in a stick wigwam among the Native people. She was terrified, but incredibly hopeful, that living in the wilderness would bring her independence. As it turned out, the Munsee Native people were protective and helpful. She eventually met and married two husbands and raised a dozen children. Not only did her bet pay off, but she lived an incredible life for another 84 years."

Cole recently became the editor of The West Milford Messenger, a sister paper to The Chronicle, published by Straus News.

"I am very happy to be working back in my home community of Orange County," she said. "I am honored to be a part of the Straus News team and so impressed with the important work done here every day."

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