Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Digging through and organizing folders this week, we came across a document titled "JOHN LAPHAM BULLIS, Letters to his Mother, Mrs. Dr. A. H. Bullis"  followed by a list of dates and synopses of some of Bullis's correspondence with his mother between November 1863 and February, 1867.

We had looked over this document a year or so ago, and this morning, we reread the entry titled "3 Dec 1865."  At that time John Lapham Bullis was in the 118th Infantry, which was located in "Brownsville, opposite Matamoros." The entry reads:

"Near mouth of Rio Grande. Across the river, Maximilianists still determined to hold out against Liberalists. Fearful they will be successful, as L's badly equipped. But L's captured a vessel and turned it over to Americans. French Commodore demanded it be delivered to Imperialists. (Not done) at Bagdad and also captors of it but Weitzel would not and secret orders to guard same. Health good. Johnnie."

We are puzzled by this entry and would appreciate any information and insight that would help explain exactly what happening on the Texas-Mexico border, 149 years ago today--both from the standpoint of our nation's history as well as John Lapham Bullis's personal and professional life.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


The next time you're in the library, we suggest you stop by and take a look at these two Bullis books:

The Pilgrim Fathers of New England: A History


A History of the English Puritan

Both of these books were written by W. Carlos Martyn and published in New York by the American Tract Society, in 1867.

We suggest, however, that you take more than just  "a look." Rather, read through the introductions, look carefully at the detailed names and descriptions of the chapters, and zero in  on some of the subtopics. Why? Because these books give us an in-depth, nineteenth century look back at the beginning of this country: starting with the Pilgrim experience in Europe (England and Holland) and their search for a new colony. 

In the preface of The Pilgrim Fathers of New England: A History, Martyn writes: "...however well history may have been written, it is desirable that it should be re-written from time to time by those who look from an advanced position, giving in every age to the peculiar and marked developments of the past, a simple, compact and picturesque representation." Martyn accomplished this by giving us his 1860s perspective of events that occurred over 200 years in the past.

Martyn wrote for those of us who look to the past with the possibility of gaining a new perspective of the present.  Is that why we, in general, write books? and collect volumes of them? and put them in special places like the Bullis Room?  (Something to think about as you digest your Thanksgiving meal today.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


This week we've been reading through the article "John L. Bullis: 'Farsighted and Keen' Trans-Pecos Land Speculator" by Jim Fenton,  published in  the Journal of Big Bend Studies, Vol. 2, January 1990 (pages 73-86).  This article focuses on "... the remarkable business success of one of the most accomplished Indian fighters in Texas."

The author points out that JLB's interest in business got an early start with his trapping activities while still a teenager. There is also a record of his having owned a horse and a flock of sheep during that time. Following his service in the Civil War, "mid-1866,  found Bullis on Saint Francis Island, within the Mississippi River channel and near the mouth of the Saint Francis River in Arkansas, selling firewood to the steam boats moving along the Mississippi."

Records show that in early 1867 he continued his wood business in Helena, Arkansas. Later that same year, he re-entered the Army in  the Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant and was sent to Texas where he became involved in land speculation. "His land holdings reached an all-time high in 1883, slightly over fort-three sections."  Then in 1884, "... he nearly matched this figure buying thirty-nine and a half sections." He continued to purchase land and property in various parts of Texas over the next several years, and profited from the leasing and resale of these holdings to cattlemen and settlers. He also became involved in mining operations.

At the time, this article tells us that many wondered how much JLB was worth as a result of this business dealings. A former clerk on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation who worked for Bullis, "... recalled years later that Captain Bullis was understood to be a millionaire."

Other members of the Bullis family also exhibited exceptional business acumen during their lifetimes.  Like her Uncle John, Nettie Bullis also achieved financial success. And fortunately, she shared her wealth during her lifetime and left a lasting legacy for her community.

Again, we thank Nettie Bullis and her family for their wise and thoughtful generosity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Today, rather than talk about rare books in the Bullis Collection, we're going to talk about a book that was published just one week ago today. The title is For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.  Written by Howard Schultz, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the book celebrates "...the extraordinary courage, dedication, and sacrifice of this generation of American veterans on the battlefield and their equally valuable contributions on the home front." (from description)

How does this book connect to the Bullises?  The Bullis family  has a long and distinguished history of serving their country's military. Beginning with Philip Bullis, who served in Major Savage's Company during King Philip's War in 1675-1676; continuing with Charles Bullis who served in the Revolutionary War in the Vermont Militia; John Lapham Bullis, whose lengthy military career spanned the Civil War, Indian Wars, and Spanish-American War; and Charlie Bullis, who served in World War I.

We could learn so much from these Bullis men, if we could sit down and talk to them on this Veterans Day, 2014. Unfortunately, that is not possible.

Fortunately,  we can read Schultz and Chandrasekaran's book and gain knowledge of and an enhanced appreciation for all of this country's citizens who have served us through their military careers. And we can look for ways to show that appreciation to each and every one of them for their valuable contributions to us individually and collectively.

(We think Nettie Bullis would approve.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, From the Bullis Room. Our treat for you is a repeat of the posting we did four years ago: 


If Nettie Bullis could speak to us from her grave in the Village of Palmyra Cemetery, what would be her message?  Here is our version of what she might say to the people on this year's cemetery walk:

"I am new to the walk this year because some of my friends thought I should be included. I feel somewhat uncomfortable with all of this attention. I've always shied away from that sort of thing.

"However, since you’ve all come here this evening and paid your entrance fee, it is appropriate that I offer you some information about myself and my family so that you will get your money’s worth.  My family always lived by the principle of getting your money’s worth and never wasting anything.  When my great-grandfather Charles H. Bullis and his family moved from Vermont to Macedon in 1837, they brought with them the New England frugality that they had always lived by, and that way of living was handed down from generation to generation.

"A second principle my family lived by was life-long education.  When my brother Charlie and I were growing up, my father insisted that our toys were things we could learn something from.  He got this idea from his father who was a local doctor and who greatly valued education. After my father graduated from Cornell in the early 1880s with degrees in mathematics and civil engineering, he continued his education by collecting and reading science, math, engineering, and medical books.

"In fact, you can see many of these books today at Macedon Public Library. They have a special room there—they even named it for my family—and it houses the remaining books from our collection.  My father and grandfather would be very pleased about that. And of course there is a significant number of books on horticulture that belonged to my brother Charlie. But that’s another subject.

"Honest, hard work was a third principle of the Bullises. The first Bullises in Macedon built the cobblestone house that served as a home to three generations of the family. It is where my brother Charlie and I grew up, and it still stands today on Canandaigua Road. By the way, every year in May Charlie’s poppies bloom in the front yard and make a wonderful display for several weeks.

"Hard work was never a stranger to me. In my earlier years, I did chores around our place, and when I was older I accompanied my father on many of his surveying jobs, taking notes that he used in his engineering drawings.  After high school graduation in 1911, I attended Cornell University for a while and then taught school in Marion. Following that, I took a position as bookkeeper at Gleason Works in Rochester. While at Gleasons, I was fortunate to have several opportunities for advancement and was serving as Assistant Secretary of Gleason Works when I retired.

"It was not my intention to be a wealthy woman, but I did accumulate a tidy sum through careful planning, saving, wise investments, and my New England frugality. When I wrote my will, I was pleased to be able to benefit a number of individuals and organizations here in Wayne County.

"As you can see from my headstone I lived for 86 years, from March 23, 1893 to October 1, 1979. Most of my life was spent in Macedon, but upon my death I took up residence here in Palmyra in my family's plot. It's a quiet, peaceful place to spend eternity, and I greatly enjoy the company.

"Well, I feel I've taken enough of your time this evening. Thank you for stopping by and giving me your kind attention. I must say that I've enjoyed our time together. So much, in fact, that I hope I'm invited to do this again next year."

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Bullis Room volunteers continue to focus on Nettie's uncle, John Lapham Bulls, and his military career. This week we read again an article in the PRESERVATION FORT SAME HOUSTON publication titled, "A Visit to Macedon, NY, hometown of BG John Bullis."  Here's what it said:

"While in New York for a family wedding, Capt. (Ret) Richard Whynot visited the hometown of General John Lapham Bullis, Macedon, NY and the Bullis Collection at the Macedon Pubic Library. Dick says to understand why a native of a small town in upstate New York became a hero of the Texas Frontier, we need to go back to the 1650's when the Bullis family emigrated from England to the Boston area and then some of the family to Manchester, VT. The Northwest Ordinance in 1797 opened land in western New York and the wealthy and educated bought land in this area, funding cities such as Syracuse, Rochester, and Macedon.

"In 1823, the Erie Canal opened for canal traffic and changed the economy and population of upstate New York. Though the canal was designed to bring raw materials and agricultural products to the eastern markets, upstate New Yorkers soon realized that they could do the manufacturing, and many factories sprang up in the Erie Canal towns. An example is the roll top desk used by BG Bullis, which was made by Standard Furniture Company of Herkimer, NY, located on the Erie Canal. With a ready supply of wood from the local forests, Standard Furniture Company became the largest manufacturer of wooden desks and furniture in the United States. The Hammond typewriter, invented in  1884 and used by Bullis as early as 1889, is another upstate New York product that benefitted from the canal. Other major manufacturing firms that began in the area were Kodak, Xerox and IBM.

"Charles H. Bullis, his wife Eleanor, and their two children left Vermont in November 1837, heading for Ohio and a promised land grant. They went by Erie Canal boat from Troy NY and stopped in Macedon to visit family. After several weeks in Macedon, Charles decided they would stay in the area. He bought 60 acres of land next to lock 61 on the canals. Charles raised wheat, corn and cattle and shipped the harvests to market on the canal. He built a large house with cobblestones collected from his fields. Dick believes that the expert stone masons who had built the canal between 1817 and 1823 stayed and built the Bullis home and many others.

"Abram, one of Charles' sons, became a doctor and married Lydia Porter Lapham, member of another prominent family that had emigrated from England to Rhode Island in 1635, and from there to Macedon. The Laphams built a large brick home in the center of town and called it Waverly Manor after their home estate in England. The children of Dr. Bullis, including John Lapham Bullis, attended Macedon Academy. The academy building is now the headquarters for the Macedon Historical Association.

"Several months before Dick Whynot's visit, the Bullis Estate attorney presented a number of boxes of Bullis data to the Macedon Library Bullis Room. Among these were photos of BG Bullis and his first wife Alice probably taken at the time of their marriage in 1871. The photo was taken by Kuhn Company, Main Plaza, San Antonio, TX. Alice died in 1887.

Another significant find were two letters from Josephine Withers Bullis to John Bullis’ aunt Emma. The first was written in 1890 before their marriage. The second was written in 1898, when they lived in Quarters 2, Fort Sam Houston. In it, Josephine does make clear that she does not support her husband’s deployment to Cuba during the Spanish American War. He left the paymaster job at Fort Sam Houston to fight in the war.

An interesting item in the letter is the reference to Marie de Jesus Olivarri Rodriguez as the Major’s mother-in-law, Alice’s mother. Dick Whynot says this lends credence  to his long-held belief that the Withers and Rodriguez families, both Canary Island families, were related and visited each other often.

Dick Whynot’s talk gave us a more personal and intimate understanding of the man for whom Camp Bullis was named.”

Monday, October 13, 2014


(This is the final entry of the document first posted September 27.)

Mr. Bullis at once returned to his home but soon after entered the regular army and was appointed a lieutenant. For twenty years he has now rendered the country valuable service on the frontier. For nine years he had command of the Indian scouts on the Texas frontier, and was the Government agent for the apaches for four years. His fearless and commendable service among the savage warriors won recognition in the United States Congress, which twice breveted him for his splendid work. The people of Texas who more fully appreciate what he has done for them, presented him with two beautiful swords, one of them ornamented with scenes and designs commemorative of his achievements. The designs are wrought in gold and the sword cost $1000. The captain prized it still more highly because the poor people whom he had protected and whose homes he had made safe were the contributers to the gift fund, giving of their meager possessions as evidence of the gratitude and love which they had for the Captain. On the sword are two inscriptions one reading “He has protected our lives and homes” another “He has driven the desperado from our territory”. In speaking of his gift the Captain modestly said “I did nothing but my duty”, but it was a duty heroicly and nobly performed, nay it was more, for on the frontier as he entered into combat with the treacherous savage he did not think I am doing my duty but was prompted to his noble deeds by the thought that he must save the lives and homes of his fellow men.
         Captain Bullis has accumulated some property, owning interests in mines in Texas and Arizona, some of which are now being operated. He has a very pleasant home in Santa Fe, where he makes his head quarters in the midst of his family. He was married in San Antonio, Texas, in 1872, to Miss Alice Rodregnez, but death claimed her on the 14th of August, 1887. On the 14th of October, 1891, he led to the marriage altar Miss Josephine Withers of San Antonio, and this union has been blessed with three lovely little daughters – Lydia C. and Anita W., twins, and the baby, Octavia M. The Captain makes friends wherever he goes for he is as man of genial, kindly disposition, whose genuine worth is easily recognized and who is in the truest sense of the word a gentleman. In politics he is a republican, and in his social relations is a Mason.