William Bull (governor)

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William Bull's House, Charleston

William Bull (1683 – March 21, 1755) was a landowner and politician in the Province of South Carolina.

He was a captain in the Tuscarora War and then a colonel in the Yamasee War before becoming the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1721.[1] He served on the governor's council and was lieutenant governor under James Glen from 1738 to 1755 and acting governor from 1738-44. In 1733 he assisted James Oglethorpe in the founding of the new Province of Georgia, laying out the town of Savannah. His father Stephen Bull was Lord Ashley's deputy and one of the leaders of the expedition which came from England in 1670 and settled Charles Town.[citation needed]

He was married to Mary Quintyne and his descendants include a son, also named William Bull, who was also a South Carolina acting governor, as well as William Henry Drayton and Charles Drayton, sons of his daughter Charlotta Bull and John Drayton. A monument to Governor Bull (c. 1791) is located at Ashley Hall Plantation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.[2][3][4] In the aftermath of the Stono rebellion, Lieutenant Governor William Bull wrote to the British King's Royal Council to inform them about the revolt. In his letter, he describes the "daring" actions of the determined Stono rebels, as well as the measures the militia took to subdue the rebellion. He also proposed that the council employ Indian slave hunters to track down runaway slaves.

The Tuscarora War[edit]

During the Tuscarora War William Bull took part in John Barnwell's expedition into North Carolina.[5] Bull was made captain of a company of Native American warriors from the Watteree, Pedee, Weneaw, Cape Feare, Hoopeng .and Wareper tribes, totaling 117 in number. During the march from the Pedee River to the Cape Feare River Barnwell split his forces in two and placed about 200 men under the command of Captain Bull. Upon reuniting he took part in the assault on Narhonte's head town and his company suffered 1 dead and 6 wounded while his company took 16 scalps. After taking the fort the marched to Tonarooka where they camped while Barnwell searched for boats to cross a branch of the Neuse River. While camping at Tonarooka Captain Bull's entire company deserted along with a good portion of another company, leaving only the Yamasee warriors to continue Barnwell's expedition.

Time as Governor[edit]

In 1737 Thomas Broughton's time as acting governor of South Carolina came to an end and James Glen took his place but a dispute over his salary kept him from arriving in the colony until 1743.[6] William Bull, who was Lt. Governor at the time, served in Glen's place until his arrival. His time in office was marked by the dual threats of a war with the Spanish in Florida and a Native American uprising. The first major push to settle the deep interior of South Carolina had taken place in the 1730s and had brought with it renewed tensions over land rights between the colonists and the Native Americans. Change was also happening within the government of South Carolina as the Commons House of Assembly was becoming more influential. Bull responded by creating a close working relationship with Charles Pinckney who was the Speaker of the Assembly and was Bull's protege.

The War of Jenkin's Ear[edit]

In 1739, two years into Bull's time as governor, the War of Jenkin's Ear broke out and put South Carolina in direct conflict with Spanish controlled Florida. Traditionally the governor of South Carolina was responsible for defending the southern colonies against foreign threats and received an extra 1,000 pounds in salary for fulfilling that roll. With the creation of the Georgia colony that role had been moved to the Georgian governor, James Oglethorpe. This change had two effects on William Bull; the first was that it made him the acting governor when James Glen, who had been appointed to that position, stayed in England to dispute the matter. The second effect this change had was that it forced Bull to watch from the sidelines as Gov. Oglethorpe waged war on his behalf.

Oglethorpe moved to attack St. Augustine, in Florida, and South Carolina supported his effort. The campaign was a failure and South Carolinians were highly critical of the way in which Oglethorpe had managed his forces, accusing him of bungling a siege of that city. With Oglethorpe out of favor with South Carolina and St. Augustine still firmly in Spanish hands, the southern colonies were now left vulnerable and concerns ranged from a potential Spanish-backed slave uprising to an assault on Port Royal, South Carolina. The Spanish finally struck in 1742 with an assault on St. Simon's Island in Georgia involving 3,000 attackers which were ultimately defeated.

Slave Codes[edit]

In 1740, in the aftermath of the Stono Rebellion, the Commons House of Assembly of South Carolina introduced a comprehensive slave code in hopes of regulating that institution.

The Priber Incident[edit]

Towards the end of Bull's time as governor an incident that had been building up for some time finally came to a head.[7] In 1734 a man named Christian Gottlieb Priber arrived in South Carolina and began to live among the Cherokee. His vision was to create a town called Paradise which would be located deep within the South Carolina frontier and would serve as a refuge for criminals, debtors and runaway slaves. He instructed the Native Americans on the use of scales or weights in dealing with dishonest traders and he dreamed of forming the southern tribes into a confederacy. Priber's presence among the Native Americans began to exacerbate tensions between South Carolina the Creeks and Cherokees and so in 1743, Bull's last year in office, Priber was arrested.

Preceded by
Thomas Broughton
29th Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
James Glen


  1. ^ "The Bull Family of South Carolina". The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine. 1 (1): 76–90. 1900. JSTOR 27574894.
  2. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ John W. Califf and Elias B. Bull (February 1975). "Rosemont Plantation" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  4. ^ "Ashley Hall Plantation, Charleston County (Address Restricted)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  5. ^ Barnwell, J (1908). "The Tuscarora Expedition. Letters of Colonel John Barnwell". The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine. 9 (1): 28–54. JSTOR 27575182.
  6. ^ Jones, Lewis P. (1971). South Carolina: A Synoptic History for Laymen. Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-0-878-44004-7.
  7. ^ Mellon, K (1960). "Christian Priber and the Jesuit Myth". The South Carolina Historical Magazine. 61 (2): 75–81. JSTOR 27566279.

4. William Bull to the Royal Council, October 5, 1739, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia.