Hundreds gathered at one of America's longest-held family reunions

Descendants of Sarah Wells and William Bull celebrate 300th anniversary of Goshen's first wedding


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  • Michael Brown re-acted the role of traveling minister while other cousins played the role as Sarah Wells and William Bull. Photo by Julie Boyd Cole




  • Family members were awarded blue ribbons for traveling the furthest, youngest and oldest picnic guests and longest married. Photo by Julie Boyd Cole




By Julie Boyd Cole

— The morning downpour didn't stop more than 200 people from around the country and Canada from attending the 151th Bull Family reunion Saturday.

The descendants of Goshen's earliest settler, Sarah Wells, and her husband, William Bull, celebrated the couple's 300th wedding anniversary on the grounds of the Bull Stone House in Campbell Hall despite the heavy, early morning rainfall that soaked much of the region.

"Sarah Wells’s strength is what brought over 200 people out in the pouring rain 300 years after she was married to William, our ancestor," said Nancy Boyd, a descendant who traveled with her family from Roseburg, Ore., for the event.

"It was great to be back at the picnic, despite the rain and mud," Boyd said. "I am very proud to be a part of the a family with a long-standing history in Orange County and our country."

Sarah Wells was the first settler in what is now the Town of Goshen when she arrived leading a small group of three American Indians and three hired carpenters from Manhattan in May 1712. She was just 16 years old and an indentured servant when she came. She married William Bull in August 1718.

The couple built a stone house that still stands today and is owned by the association of descendants. They had 12 children, who all lived to adulthood, married, and became parents.

Those descendants count into the tens of thousands. Every year since 1857, many of the descendants gather in Orange County for the family reunion. It is one of the longest-held family reunions in America.

On Saturday, the family held a reenactment of the ancestral couple's wedding with Michael Brown, former Stone House caretaker and historian of Hamptonburgh, officiating.

Brown described to the crowd how a traveling magistrate came to Goshen to marry the couple on the steps of a log cabin along the Otter Kill, on a road that is now called The Sarah Wells Trail.

"He would have been dressed in rustic clothing, much like I'm wearing today," Brown said before he performed the marriage ceremony.

In years past, there have been up to 1,000 family members who have gathered on the grounds for a picnic lunch, games and rekindling family bonds.

The president of the family association, Lyle Shute, who is nine generations removed from the settlers, said the picnic has become an important part of the legacy.

"For descendants, carrying on the traditions of the picnics is an important responsibility," Shute said. "But the single most important aspect of the picnic, is spending the day with family. For the memories created, are everlasting."

Plans for next year's reunion is already underway and will be the first Saturday in August 2019.



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