Dixie Bull

Dixie Bull

Piratical career

Nickname The Dread Pirate
Type Pirate
Allegiance England
Years active 1631 - 1632
Rank Captain
Base of operations Boston

Dixie Bull [or Dixey Bull] was an English sea captain, and the first pirate known to prey on shipping off the New England coast, especially Maine. A native of London, he came to Boston in 1631 and started sailing the Maine coast with a small vessel, trading with the Indians. In 1632, traveling in the Penobscot Bay area, he was attacked by a roving band of French in a small pinnace; or possibly he was present in Castine Harbor when a French force attacked the trading post there.[1] Whatever the details, his ship was captured and all his trade goods and provisions confiscated.

Fired with revenge, he traveled back to Boston, assembled a crew of 20-25 men, and entered upon a career of piracy to recoup his losses. Ironically, he did not target French shipping, probably because the English traders were wealthier.[2]

His fame as "the dread pirate" derived from his attack in 1632 on the settlement of Pemaquid, which was then center of the lucrative fur trade in Maine. Few pirates had the temerity to attack a defended town. Sailing into the harbour, with what is said to be three ships, he opened fire on the stockade there, and sacked the town. The booty seized is variously said to have been £55 or $2500.

Some stories say he joined the French, others that he returned to England, and others that he was hanged in Tyburn. Legend says that he buried treasure on Damariscove Island and Cushing Island in Casco Bay, Maine.

The legend of Dixie Bull was soon enshrined in ballads, the most famous of them being "The Story of Dixie Bull" and "The Slaying of Dixie Bull".[3] This ballad describes a duel between Dixie Bull and a fisherman from Pemaquid, Daniel Curtis, on an island near that town, in which Dixie Bull was killed, saving the town.


  1. Dixie Bull's hoard: Lost Treasure, March 1976 issue, p. 27
  2. Story of Dixie Bull: Discover Maine, Maine's History Magazine, Greater Bath-Brunswick Region, Vol. 3 (2006) Issue 3, p. 9
  3. Dixie Bull ballad: Minstrelsy of Maine, Folk-Songs and Ballads of the Woods and the Coast , Fannie Hardy Eckstorm and Mary Winslow Smith; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927
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