Year 2 Day 169 Tracking Down The History of The Bulltown Massacre; Part 1


Today, I went over to the historical area of our campground where the US Corp of Engineers has built a little museum and history center. As it turns out, prior to damming the Little Kanawha River (a tributary to the Ohio River), forming Burnsville Lake in 1976, they discovered a number of historical buildings. They decided to save these relics of the past by disassembling them and moving them to this spot. This is also where Moses Carpenter built his family house and farm in the first half of the 1800s.



Thus, along with the museum and historical center, you have the original Carpenter house, many of his outbuildings, and two 1800s log cabins.





Besides all of the above, there is also the site of the 1863 Battle of Bulltown, where “Mudwall” Jackson, the cousin of Stonewall Jackson, fought a Union fortification that controlled this area. I will write about that battle in a future blog.

Todays’ blog is about what I learned of the Bulltown Massacre, where a friendly tribe of Delaware Indians were allegedly murdered out of revenge for another massacre the Indians were accused of committing near what is now Centralia, West Virginia, near the Braxton-Webster county line to the north.

As you will learn, according to local lore, which has been handed down from generation to generation, in 1772, the Indian chief, Captain Bull, with his family and about 20 or so other friendly Delaware Indians were supposedly massacred by frontiersmen. The lore states that Jeremiah Carpenter, whose family members were killed by Shawnee Indians, led the alleged massacre. It is told that the Shawnee created a false trail which led Jeremiah Carpenter to Captain Bull and his tribe. He mistakenly thought these were the Indians that murdered his family.

Before I get into what I discovered about this very interesting story, I wish to note that Jeremiah Carpenter was a remarkable fiddle player who wrote the tune “Shelvin’ Rock”. The tune is about the experience of escaping from Indians to a rock shelter where he hid with his Indian wife. She gave birth to their son. Solomon, under that ledge. You can read more about the Carpenters and their generations of remarkable West Virginian fiddlers by going to: CLICK HERE and you can listen to the tune “Shelvin Rock” by going to: CLICK HERE

While I was at the historical center, a US Corp Of Engineers volunteer gave me a personalized tour of the historical buildings and the Civil War battlefield. It lasted almost 3 hours. Along the way, we stopped in a clearing in the woods along creek that runs into the Little Kanawha River where the Bulltown Massacre allegedly occurred and he presented me with a detailed description of its history as if it was fact.


As I later discovered, the story is actually based on lore that was been passed down and modified through generations. The story he shared with me was so remarkable that I decided to research it further when I returned to LeuC.


What I learned contradicts the story of the massacre that I was told. In fact, it supports the position that the Bulltown Massacre never occurred. Instead, it appears that Captain Bull and his followers moved on and left the area safely. Furthermore, it appears that the massacre of settlers which occurred up near Centralia, did occur but it happened years later, closer to the 1790s instead of in the 1770s. In fact, Jeremiah’s brother, Benjamin, who was killed in that raid, actually fought in the Revolutionary War.

I found a report entitled: “History of Braxton County and central West Virginia”, dated 1919 which states:

“Of this interesting pioneer family, more than a passing notice should be given. As early as 1790 or perhaps a year or two earlier, Jeremiah and Benjamin Carpenter settled on the Elk river near the mouth of the Holly. Their mother and a brother named Enos lived with them. Jeremiah settled on what is known as the Samuel Skidmore bottom, and Benjamin’s cabin stood in the “bottom just below the mouth of the Holly. Their father’s name was “William and was killed at the Big Bend on Jacksons’ river by the Indians, and his son Jeremiah was taken prisoner and remained with the Indians from his ninth to his eighteenth year. He together with three of his brothers, afterward became soldiers in the Revolutionary army.

Their settlement must have been but a few years prior to 1792 as this is the date of the Indian raid in which his brother Benjamin and his wife were killed; and either at this time or perhaps a raid that was made a few months later, he and his family made their escape to a cliff of rocks, and within their stay there his son, Solomon was born, being the first white child born in the county.”


The following is a modified version of a 1940 article I found on the Internet. It is the most comprehensive history and analysis of Captain Bull and The Bulltown Massacre that I have found. Instead of writing about this bit of interesting history, I have revised the original text a bit and shortened it considerably. It is posted below. If you are interested in reading the original text, you can go to: CLICK HERE


Please note that West Virginia did not become a State until it ceded from Virginia during the Civil War. It was granted statehood by the Union in 1863, the same year that Nevada became a State. Until then, and during the time of Captain Bull, it was just part of western Virginia.


Also, note that because this text is so long, today’s portion of it is just on the background of Captain Bull and that period of time which led up to the alleged massacre. The rest of the text concerning the alleged massacre will continue tomorrow.



Don Norman

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 Susquehanna 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 (see below).
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 the territory.
Captain Bull was the son of Teddyuscung, the last chieftain of the Delaware tribe. 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. However, after General Braddock was defeated during the French and Indian Wars, 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, New York while he lay drunk.
After his father’s death, Captain Bull led a band of dissatisfied Delaware braves into the hostile camp of Chief Pontiac. He then led a series of raids on settlers which finally led to his arrest. 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 moldered 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 Montreal.
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 participant.
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 Delawares 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 Susquehanna 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.

“Dear Sir:
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 villain 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 sonveterate 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 Delawares moved to the site of present day Weston, WV and camped for a while before moving to the Bulltown site.  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 the 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.”

This story will be continued in tomorrow’s blog.

One thought on “Year 2 Day 169 Tracking Down The History of The Bulltown Massacre; Part 1”

  1. Hi! I just thought you might want to know that this massacre was noted in the diary of George Washington which is in the National Archives. In his hand it stated that it was that a Family was killed and the Chief Bull/Indians were falsely accused/massacred.
    Here is the excerpt from Diary entry on 24, September 1784
    “5. Bulltown, located on the south bank of the Little Kanawha River in present-day Braxton County, W.Va., was established as an Indian village about 1764 by the Delaware chief, Captain Bull, and a small group of followers. The Indian inhabitants were massacred in 1772 by white settlers who mistakenly blamed them for the murder of a nearby white family (MCWHORTER, 86–88; BULLTOWN, 1–8).”


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