Thomas Bull Stone House and Memorial Park
Montgomery, NY
The Hill Hold Museum in Orange County, NY comprises a stone house, barn, and farm. The stone house was built in 1769, over 240 years ago, by a farmer named Thomas Bull. He was the son of William Bull and Sarah Wells, pioneer European settlers in the region.

William Bull was a stonemason from Ireland. He came to America when, as a young man in 1716, he contracted to build a stone arch bridge near the city of Dublin that collapsed just when it was about done. He boarded a ship for America, being told by a ship’s officer that he had enough money for passage. But when he reached New York, he was told by the captain that his money was not enough. He will have to be “sold” until his labor paid for the difference.

By some twist of fate, a man came looking for fresh immigrants to help him build a homestead. William quickly presented himself as an artisan and asked the man for an advance so that he may pay the ship’s captain. The man agreed and effectively bought William’s freedom. The two journeyed to Orange County, a wilderness about 70 miles north of New York City that at the time was inhabited only by Indians and wild beasts. There, William would help build the man’s settlement.

Just a few miles away was another settlement where Sarah Wells lived. She was an adopted 16-year old Dutch immigrant. She was sent there by her stepparents who, thinking they could make a killing when Europeans eventually settled in Orange County, bought land from the Indians (which Queen Anne then wrote a patent for called the Wawayanda Patent). But years passed and no one did. Soon, the stepparents were going broke. They would also have to build a homestead and live there to beat a deadline that, if left unoccupied, will allow their land to be reclaimed.

Upon sending Sarah, however, her stepparents felt regret. They have just sent a teenaged girl in the company of strange men -- two Indians they deemed friendly and some sailors who commandeered the sailboat (a “sloop”) up the Hudson River from New York City. So the following morning, they traveled on horseback to join Sarah Wells.

And so it was that William Bull and Sarah Wells lived in settlements just a few miles apart. Eventually, they met, fell in love, and -- despite the protestations of Sarah Well’s stepparents -- got married. Their descendants today number more than 20,000. Their son Thomas Bull’s stone house was willed to the county by descendants in 1969. The family’s names can be found in places throughout Orange County.

This is but a small piece of American history that hardly anyone ever hears about, except maybe by those who live in the county, like us.

When we decided to settle in Orange County years ago, we knew nothing of its history. Places like Bullville, Thomas Bull Memorial Park, and Sarah Wells Trail were just names to us, unaware that they originated from just one family.

I was curious, though, and at the time bought and borrowed books on local history. I believed that history played a hand in forming the backbone of future generations and by choosing to settle here and not anywhere else to lay the foundation for ours, I may as well know about it.

Seeing that it all began with a romance young and innocent, I thought we’d stay the course because we can hardly go wrong with that.


Click on a picture to enlarge.
Thomas Bull Stone House.
The Stone House was home to the Bull-Jackson family for two hundred years.
Gift shop.
A one-room schoolhouse not originally part of the property was relocated at Hill Hold to give museum visitors a fuller experience of everyday life in the early 1900s.
Outhouses (restrooms) by the schoolhouse.
Thomas Bull Memorial Park.
Lifetrail Outdoor Fitness stands were placed around the lake to give the elderly a chance to workout in Nature.
One thing about the park, though, was that there were plenty of mosquitoes. Good thing I was  wearing an unbuttoned workshirt on top of my T-shirt so I used it to cover for my head and arms while I took pictures.
Back in the day I guess places like this were sprayed with insecticide so picnickers can revel in the great outdoor in comfort. 
But today, we are finally understanding how “ecosystems” work and finding out that we should not have introduced chemicals like we did in the past, including the so-called
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