This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is “Twelve,” and instead of highlighting a relative with twelve children or an ancestor with twelve siblings, I decided to trace my family tree back twelve generations to one of my 10th great-grandparents. If you follow my paternal line of Cook ancestors–winding from my great-grandmother Fern through a handful of Methodist circuit riders, past Betsy Mariah Penfield and Tristram Blish–you’ll find Tristram Hull, a captain from Yarmouth and Barnstable, Massachusetts whose grandson married a descendant of the Mayflower Fullers. His story is a unique one–full of seafaring voyages and protests against the community’s laws–and it’s a story I should have researched and shared long ago.
Tristram Hull was born in 1624 in Massachusetts to Reverend Joseph Hull, a magistrate in the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as well as a minister in Weymouth and Barnstable, and Joanna Hull (about whom much less is known). “Tristram” is a name of Welsh origin meaning “noise” or “tumult,” but some have interpreted this translation as “bold;” the first record of Tristram in the colonies after his birth definitely lives up to this interpretation. By 1643, at the age of 20, he was living in Yarmouth and had been mustered into Myles Standish’s militia in Plymouth Colony. Standish acted as the military advisor to the colony and traveled with the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in 1620; while the militia was well-known for its courage and strength, it was also known for its brutality toward Native Americans living in the area, an inexcusable part of the colony’s and Hull’s history.
Tristram married Blanche Hull in 1643, and the couple had moved to nearby Barnstable, Massachusetts by 1648. According to one source, he was “evidently bred to a sea-faring career,” and it was in Barnstable that he purchased two ships–The Catch and Hopewell–and frequently made long sea voyages, trading throughout the West Indies. When on shore, Tristram took a “lively interest” in local affairs and “unhesitatingly performed the multifarious duties expected in those days of prominent and spirited citizens.” He served on the town’s juries on multiple occasions, was one of the town dignitaries appointed to wait upon the Assembly Committee, was appointed to a constable position for one year and was a leading member of the town board of selectmen for the last six years of his life. But my favorite account is from The Hull Family in America:
In the government’s fanatical and inhuman persecution of the Quakers his sympathies were with the latter, and he boldly rendered them assistance and succor whenever and wherever occasion offered. For this he was subjected to much annoyance and heavy fines, but there is nothing to indicate that this made him change his course. In spite of the government’s unjust and cruel attitude toward the Quakers, or rather we should doubtless say because of it, several of his children and many of their descendants publicly espoused the Quaker faith, and some of them became prominent leaders in the denomination.
Tristram and Blanche had six children together–Mary (b. 1645), Sarah (b. 1647), Sarah (b. 1650), Joseph (b. 1652), John (b. 1654) and Hannah (b. 1656)–and he died in 1667 in Barnstable. It seems he amassed a small fortune throughout his life: in the inventory of his estate (in addition to the ships in his possession), there were 36 cattle assessed at 118 pounds, 105 pounds in cash and an estate worth 300 pounds. He left his homestead to his son, Joseph; 150 pounds to his wife, Blanche; 100 pounds each to his daughters, Mary, Sarah and Hannah; and 30 pounds and a “certain lot” to his son, John. Tristram, it seems, lived up to his name: he lived boldly, unafraid to sail the seas or stand up for what he believed in. And I’m very grateful that he paved the way for so many of my Quaker ancestors to come.