The Hunt for Dixey Bull

DIXEY BULL, having turned from peaceful trader to pirate, and encouraged by his successful raid upon the settlement of Pemaquid, continued his attacks upon the settlements; but in order not to arouse too great feeling concerning his acts he caused a written message to be sent to the Governors of the various colonies. He signified his intention of doing no bodily harm to any of his fellow countrymen if his band was not resisted in its plunderings, and that he would soon sail to the southward. He gave warning, however, that in case vessels were sent to capture him he was resolved to sink his ship with all hands, rather than be taken.

Men returning from the Penobascot spread abroad the news of the pirate's attacks, which threatened the very existence of the trading posts of that region, of the "Perils that did abound as thick as thought could make them." The pirates almost cleared the waters of coasting craft, for what they did not capture they drove to cover.

This state of affairs alarmed and aroused the authorities of Massachusetts Bay. Late in November, they decided to take steps to end the situation. They arranged with Samuel Maverick of Noddles Island, now East Boston, to outfit a pinnace to go in pursuit of Dixey Bull and his gang. Twenty armed men were recruited to compose the crew, and they sailed to the eastward to unite with a force which was being organized at Piscataqua for the same purpose. This party consisted of 40 men and four small pinnaces and shallops.

The united fleet set sail, laying a course along the coast. Their progress was slow, for they searched each cove and bay, looking in behind the islands, questioning all they met for news of the pirates. Rumors and wild tales were poured into their ears, but nothing authentic was learned concerning Bull and his movements. Finally they reached the village of Pemaquid, and there gained first hand knowledge of his assault.

Winter had now set in in earnest, and it was not a season to be taken lightly with only small open boats to go to sea in. Strong easterly gales, with angry seas and snow, made it impossible to continue the search in their little craft and they were glad to lie safe in the Pemaquid's snug harbor. For three weeks they were storm bound here before there came a break in the weather.

The gales finally abated, and the little fleet sailed again. On to the eastward they went, questioning all they met. The Muscongus was searched, Monhegan and the outlying islands visited, and yet no word of Bull was received. They came finally into the Penobscot, where the pirates had begun their activities, but they met with no better luck here.

Storms again hindered their search, and after enduring the rigors of the bitter Winter weather and the perils of the angry seas they decided to give over the attempt and return. Turning back, they returned home to report their lack of success.

Finally, news of Bull came from three members of his crew, who had deserted and returned to their homes. They claimed that the pirates had sailed to the eastward and joined the French.

Two years later Gov Winthrop of Massachusetts, repeated this statement as accounting for the disappearance of Dixey Bull. Capt Roger Clap, however, records that Bull finally returned to England. This, as far as New England was concerned, ended the forays of the first pirate to cruise these waters, but there is an additional report that Bull was arrested in England. This was apparently done at the suggestion of the Earl of Bellomont. Bull was brought to trial and found guilty. He was hanged at Tyburn, ending his career in true pirate fashion.

Arthur Cornwell Knapp, Daily Boston Globe, Aug 10, 1928, p. 14