Published: April 15, 2016
DEERFIELD, MASS. — Historic Deerfield has acquired the circa 1700 desk owned and signed by the Reverend Nehemiah Bull (1701-1740) of Westfield, Mass. Reverend Bull was the father of Deerfield blacksmith and gunsmith John Partridge Bull (1731-1813).
The museum verified the ownership of the desk by comparing a signature on the bottom of two drawers to the writing in an account book and journal of Nehemiah Bull, which are owned by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield.
“The acquisition of this ancient desk, made before desks as we think of them today were made, is doubly important for documented ownership by a card-carrying New England Puritan minister,” Philip Zea, president of Historic Deerfield, said. “This rare desk is a terrific acquisition for the museum that has been in our sights but out of reach for years. Outside support for which we are most appreciative has been crucial to this purchase.”
The desk, which appears to be a special commission designed to store separate files of papers, was likely made in Springfield, Mass., about 1700 or somewhat earlier. The turning style of the legs and the brackets are related to other objects in the same time frame with Springfield associations.
The Reverend Nehemiah Bull was born in 1701 and was ordained in Westfield in 1726. Bull was a colleague of the Reverend Edward Taylor of Westfield, who was born in England in the 1640s, came to Westfield in the early 1670s, groomed Bull as his successor in the Westfield pulpit after 1726, and died in 1729.
“Taylor was a renowned clergyman in his day but is also remembered for his nationally important poetry and journals, which all had to be stored somewhere, such as the Bull desk. It is conceivable that this desk could have originally been owned by Taylor, as very few people in Bull’s realm would have commissioned a special design of this sort,” said Christine Ritok, Historic Deerfield’s associate curator. “In fact, Taylor’s 1729 probate inventory lists ‘1 Studdy Table’ at ten shillings. Could this refer to Bull’s desk? It’s possible.”
The Bull desk will be on view in the Ashley House at Historic Deerfield later this spring. The Reverend Bull’s connection to Deerfield’s Reverend Jonathan Ashley, as contemporaries and natives to Westfield, make Ashley’s home the perfect place for the desk to be on view.
Historic Deerfield is at 80 Old Main Street. For general information, 413-775-7214 or www.historic-deerfield.org.
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