Alpheus Bull was born at Bullville, Long Island, New York on June 16, 1816 he was the fifth of fourteen children born to Henry and Jane Stitt Bull. Little is known of his early life except that he was an ininerant preacher of the Universalist Church, who spent his time in the East traveling, preaching and doing church related work.
In March of 1849, Alpheus Bull joined the Lafayette, California. Mercantile Mining Company which was organized for an overland trip to California. The Gold Rush was well under way and although Alpheus Bull was not convinced of the abundance of gold in California, he anticipated using his ministerial calling during an exciting trip. The party left Lafayette, Indiana and traveled through Mexico to Mazatlan and by ship to San Francisco, arriving in late July of 1849.
Alpheus and several others were successful prospecting at Nigger Hill.
(This name has disappeared, but research shows that Murphy's Flat is on
the side of Nigger Hill and Watson Gulch, nearby.) Within the year Alpheus
Bull, George Baker, and William Robbins decided to become merchants of
Baker went to San Francisco to purchase supplies and ship them by riverboat to Red Bluff. Bull established a business in Red Bluff to receive this merchandise, sell it to miners there or send it by wagon to Shasta, where Robins maintained their other store.
Eventually the firm supplied mining camps from the Sacramento River east to the Sierra foothills as well as to the northern mines. By 1854, they were acting as a bank for local miners. The firm's other ventures included the first flour mill in Northern California, livestock, building materials. mining equipment and even a bakery at the Red Bluff Store.
Alpheus Bull and several others also owned the Shasta, the first steam vessel built in the state of Cailfornia.
In 1855, Alpheus visited his family in Bullville, New York and returned to Red Bluff with his bride, Sarah Carey Acres of Boston. They built a house and started a family. Henry Harding Bull, born in 1856, was the only child born in Shasta County; the other children were Emma, 1857; Mary, 1858; Esther, 1859; Alpheus II (who designed the Dutch windmill in Golden Gate Park), 1861 and Horace, 1863.
Bull's ear1y life had been quite exciting. He had been involved in at least one gun fight and several skirmishes with Indians. He was also arrested and held without bail for participating in the lynching of a mule thief. In 1854 he also was the victim of a robbery: "The thief or thieves effected an entrance into the store of Bull, Baker & Robbins through a back window cut the safe key from the pocket of Mr. Bull, opened the safe, took therefrom the sum of $ 11,950 in dust and coin, departed without making the least alarm. This robbery will appear the more remarkable when it is known that the key was abstracted from a pair of pantaloons lying directly under the shoulder of Mr. Bull. while asleep and there were no less than seven men sleeping in the room at the time. We understand that the money stolen, the greater portion belonged to Goodwin & Co., only about $2,500 belonged to Bull, Baker, & Robbins. Bull, Baker, & Robbins offered a reward of $2,000.
By 1857, Alpheus had accomplished many of the things that other pioneers had merely dreamed of. He was ready to think about moving back east. He sold part of his interest in the store and his real estate, holdings (much of the older part of Red Bluff) to his former prospecting companion, J. Granville Doll.
The Bull family traveled only as far as San Francisco before putting down permanent roots. In closing down his west coast investments. Alpheus apparently found too many interesting opportunities. During the latter half of his life, He was the co-founder of the Bank of California, the Pacific Insurance Company and the Firemans Fund Insurance Company. He became interested in silver mines and served as president of five of the nine major mines in the Comstock Lode. His building on front street in San Francisco had the first commercial switchboard on the West Coast.
According to one Newspaper article, "His house was open to all and the leading figures of the day could often be found there." Among his associates were William Ralston (whose Belmont home he eventually owned), William Sharon, Leland Stanford, D. J. LStaples, D.O. Mills, Thomas Bell, and Thomas Starr King. His association with King started when he became a member of the Board of the Universalist Church.
In 1871, Sarah Bull died after a long illness. In 1874 Alpheus married again; his second wife was Jennie Caldwell of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The children of this marriage were Charles (who served in the Roughriders), 1877; Edith, 1879; Marie, 1881 and Kathleen, 1884.
On May 16, 1890, Alpheus and his family were visiting Old Fort Point in San Francisco. Bull who had been ill for several months, apparently suffered a dizzy spell and drowned after falling from the seawall.
Source: Shasta Historical Society