REV. JOHN BULL, of Cimarron, Gray County, has been actively identified with Western Kansas since the year 1878. He has been a moving spirit in many enterprises, merchandising, manufacturing, church and civil affairs. His name and activities could hardly be neglected in any account of the leading citizens of this section of the state.
Reverend Bull was born in the Province of Quebec, Canada, July 15, 1847, and has now attained the dignity of three score and ten years, His ancestors were of Welsh stock, were identified with the Society of Friends, and came to America before the Revolution, first locating in Now England. His great-grandfather, Gideon Bull, cut the timber off a part of the site of Burlington, Vermont. Gideon's uncle was arrested as a Tory, condemned without trial, and hanged three times, each time being let down before life was extinct, and was finally banished from the colony. Gideon Bull was also a loyalist and moved to Canada, locating in Broome County, Quebec. His son Aaron, grandfather of Rev. John Bull, married Philadelphia Knowles. Their children were: Samuel, Aaron, Joshua, John, Sallie, Hannah and Mary. All these lived in Quebec. Samuel Bull, who was a farmer, was born and spent his life near Cowansville in Broome County. He married Sophronia F. Taber, a daughter of Benjamin and Mary (Freeman) Taber. She spent her last years in Cimarron, Kansas, where she died in January, 1917, at the venerable age of eighty-seven. She had two sons, John and Irving. Irving subsequently had his name changed to Irving Taber, and is living at Mount Pleasant, Ohio.
The Kansas experiences of Rev. John Bull identify him with some of the lost localities and forgotten counties of Western Kansas. His first home was in Buffalo County, on the Pawnee, a community that is now Garfield Township of Finney County. His coming heralded the advent of a young and vigorous farmer, with wife and three children, his previous home having been in Cass County, Iowa. That section of Iowa, while he lived there was almost on the frontier, and he bought land at $2.50 an acre, and was there several years, contributing something to its improvement and development. He brought with him to Kansas a few head of cattle, some horses, and came with the intention of embarking in the cattle industry.
In the locality already mentioned he filed on the northwest quarter of section 3, township 22, range 28. The date of the filing was November 16, 1878. A few scattered settlers came into the locality the same spring. For his first shelter he built a half dugout of stone, containing a single room, and that accommodated the family a few months. His efforts to get a water supply proved unavailing, and he was compelled to abandon his site and take another claim nearer a spring, some three miles away. This he also released later. He commuted his first claim in 1880, and pre-empted the southwest quarter of the same section. This latter quarter was the scene of his activities for several years.
He responded to the urgings of some of the settlers and put in a stock of merchandise at his place in section 3. The store became the first post office of the locality. This office was first called Mason, in honor of Seaman Mason, the first settler there, but after two or three years it was changed to what seemed a more appropriate name, of Cowland, to correspond with the character of the country and its industry. When the region settled up more numerously and farming commenced, objection was made to the name Cowland and the name of Ravanna was selected, which at the present time is only a post office and store.
From 1880, when he first established his store, Mr. Bull continued to sell goods at Ravanna for eleven years, under the name of John Bull & Company. His wife was the "company." Subsequently other parties came into the firm, and the trade was expanded over a wide section and the store was the chief business center throughout the history of old Garfield County. Mr. Bull was the leading factor in the organization of that county and in the location of its county seat. He was appointed one of its first board of county commissioners, and the civil and legal struggle for town supremacy began in 1887. The county seat was established at Ravanna, but the Town of Eminence soon entered a contest, and at one time was declared the county seat. The court house was built at Ravanna by bonds voted and issued by the people, this court house being a stone building of two stories and basement. The county records did not remain there unmolested, since at one time the people of Eminence came in and forcibly removed them. This was one of the most interesting county seat fights in Western Kansas. Eminence finally won the victory, but about that time it was discovered that the county was not of sufficient area to form a separate organization, and the court dissolved it. The old court house fell into disuse for its original purposes and afterward served as a school room, as a store room for hay, as a hall in which people met for social gatherings, and finally its history came to an end by fire.
At one time Mr. Bull was not only proprietor of the leading store, but of the blacksmith shop, harness shop and butcher shop at Ravanna. Somewhat later other stores were added to the town. A building for church purposes was erected, the first preacher being Elder Booth, of the Methodist denomination. Mr. Bull was the first pastor of the Church of Christ, while the first teacher was Miss Agnes Sinclair, whom Mr. Bull hired to teach the neighborhood private school.
In the course of a few years it became evident to Mr. Bull that the region was better adapted to cattle than to grain raising, and in order to build up that industry he conceived the idea of establishing a cheese factory. He thought this would inspire the settlers to raise cattle and engaged in the dairy business. He accordingly put in a factory and conducted it for several years, afterward removing it to Cimarron. His cheese products were shipped as far as Chicago, and the industry was a big thing for the early settlers at Ravanna and also in Cimarron. In Cimarron the business had even larger proportions than in the former location, and in a single year the output of the factory was $6,000 worth of cheese. Finally, on account of failing health, Mr. Bull abandoned the business and cheese making has since become a lost art in that section.
While his business activities have been so numerous and important, Mr. Bull is doubtless most widely known as a minister of the Gospel. At Ravanna he became an elder of the Church of Christ through the efforts of Evangelist White of that church, and he preached at Ravanna while his church existed and was afterward invited to the Buda community in Ness County, where he served the church three years. While there he was regularly ordained a pastor and evangelist. Four of the young men who listened to his sermons at Buda have since entered the ministry and are now successful in that calling. Reverend Bull has carried on evangelistic work in Western Kansas and is really the father of the Church of Christ at Cimarron. He has also been called upon to conduct funerals and weddings in all the counties adjoining Gray, and a great many people have entered church life through his efforts. He has made converts to religion in the Province of Quebec, in the State of Florida, in Missouri, and at Kansas City a few years ago was called upon to deliver lectures on the Book of Revelation, which he has charted so simply that a little child can understand. He has done church and lecture work in Illinois and Ohio.
Reverend Bull married first in Broome County, Quebec, February 11, 1868, Miss Martha Ann Clarkson. They were devoted companions for almost forty years. Mrs. Bull died at the age of sixty-two. Her children were: Lizzie M., wife of D. G. Warren, of Cimarron; Samuel J., of Woodward, Oklahoma; J. Bert, of Minneapolis, Kansas; Nettie G., wife of Clyde Hannah, of Cimarron; Charles T., of DeQueen, Arkansas. For his second wife Mr. Bull married Mrs. Rebecca Agle, who died in November, 1915. On February 11, 1917, he married Mrs. Vinnie M. Richardson, a native of Pittsfield, Illinois, and a daughter of Hardin J. and Mollie Pulliam Westlake.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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