By Robert H. Dreyling
Every Memorial Day the Civil War re-enactors hold a memorial service at the Civil War Monument in Brainerd Cemetery. I've been attending this service for a number of years in recognition of their service and sacrifice. A couple of years ago I happen to see a monument on the back side of the War Monument. A closer look revealed it to be a monument "In Perpetual Memory of William S. Bull, M.D., First Lieutenant, Medical Corps. 114th Infantry, 29 Division, American Expeditionary Forces, U.S. Army" Killed In Action at Molbrouck Hill, Brabant, France, October 11, 1918"
My curiosity aroused, I had to find out who William Shorter Bull was and why a monument to a soldier who fought in the 1st World War would be placed behind the Civil War Monument.
Over the next couple of years as time permitted I learned he was born Oct. 1886 in Circleville, NY. His parents were John T Bull and Martha Shorter. The Bull family has a long history in Orange County, New York. William was a decedent of William Bull and Sarah Wells who were among the first settlers in Orange County. William was an English stonemason who immigrated to New York in 1715. Sarah was an indentured servant who at the age of 16 became the first settler of European descent in Goshen, N.Y. The history of the Bull family is very interesting and most definitely worth researching. The original stone house built by William and Sarah in the 1720's still stands and is on the National Historic Register. The Bull family also has their own web site www.bullstonehouse.org and has been having family reunions since 1867, the 2nd longest continuous reunion in the U.S.
But why is there a monument in Brainerd Cemetery for William Shorter Bull?
After contacting the Bull family they provided a transcript of the newspaper article about his death.
William had attended the public school in Circleville and High School in Middletown. He went on and attended an academy in PA. where he was prepared for college. He selected medicine and surgery as his field of study and attended Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn and graduated in 1912 from Flower Hospital, NYC. After attending several clinics and practicing surgery at several NY hospitals he came to Newark Hospital, Newark, NJ As reported in the Cranbury Press on August 14, 1914 William S. Bull, M.D. of Newark is expected to come to Cranbury in the middle of September. On October 9, 1914 it was reported that he had opened an office on North Main Street and will be ready to answer all calls from those needing medical attention.
William's attraction to Cranbury was most likely due to Cranbury being a historical town and farming community very much like his home town Circleville, NY.
On February 19, 1915 an announcement was posted in the Press by Dr Bull that "Reports have reached me that I only do office work but I wish to inform the public that I am ready to answer calls at any time or any place".
Several times during 1915 he had a visitor, Miss Marie Ledos of Irvington, N.J. and on July 25, 1916 it was reported that on July 22 they had secured a marriage license in Albany, N.Y. After replying satisfactorily to the customary questions they were granted the matrimonial certificate.
William seems to have quickly become part of the Cranbury community, joining the First Church (First Presbyterian Church), and joining the Middlesex County Lodge, No. 90, I.O.O.F. He was soon being invited to many social events such as a "Linen Shower for Miss Grace Peppier" a "Kitchen Shower in honor of the approaching marriage of Miss Edna F. Hoffman". He joined the Cranbury baseball team playing right field (see attached photo). He became very involved in community events helping with the annual 4th of July celebration. In April 1916 it was reported that Dr William S. Bull had purchased a Ford Runabout automobile. And in November 1916 he attended the Princeton-Harvard football game in Princeton along with a large group from the Cranbury area.
On April 14, 1916 it was reported that Dr. Bull had moved to the David Grover property in South
Cranbury. As well as attending to patients in his office he was called out on many occasions to attend to injuries and illnesses. He was even called out to attend animals such as reported in the Press on April 13, 1917 "The faithful horse of F.S. Davis was found in the stable on Thursday morning with his leg broken.
The animal was shot by Dr. W.S. Bull."
During these years he would also spend time visiting his parents in his home town Circleville, N.Y
On March 23, 1917 Dr Bull move again from South Cranbury to the property where John Winar had previously maintained his shoe sales and repair business. This appears to have been a temporary move since in July the building was sold to Emma Harder who moved her milliner store to that location.
In April 1917 with the war building up in Europe, the citizens of Cranbury and vicinity held a meeting for the purpose of organizing a Defense League. Many people were in attendance as well as Dr Bull. Approximately fifty people joined and the following officers were appointed and sworn in. D.J. Wilson, Dr W.S. Bull, W.H. Havens, Wm. Bishop, Fred Grove, Thos. Hickey, Raymond Britton and Chief officer, W.H. Havens.
On May 4, 1917 it was reported that Dr. Wm. S. Bull at the age of 30 has received his commission as lieutenant in the Medical Corps of the army and is awaiting his call. While waiting he continued to serve his community holding a First Aid talk to the ladies of Cranbury and vicinity. Sometime in the Fall of 1917 Dr Bull and other men from Cranbury were called to duty. In recognition of their service a service flag with seven stars was present to the First Church in November 1917 by the Ladies Aid Society. The stars represented boys of the church in their country's service. In the beginning of December a service flag with eight stars was presented to the Church by the Ladies' Guild, the stars representing the boys from the church in the army and navy.
In mid-July 1918 Mrs. W. S. Bull received word that Dr. Wm. S. Bull had arrived safely across the sea having left New Port News, Virginia, June 14
It is not known exactly when Mrs. W. S. Bull received word that Dr Bull had been killed in action in France on October 11, 1918. However, after the news of his death reached Cranbury he was mourned by his friends and community. During 1919 there were services held in communization by the First Church and the Middlesex Lodge. A Special Easter Service was held by the First Church and at the end it was noted that an elm will be planted and dedicated to the memory of Lieut. Wm. S Bull, M.D. a member of the church who was killed in a battle against the Hun. In March 1919 the Middlesex Lodge held a memorial service in memory of Dr Bull at which time a number of eulogies were read and a very long poem was presented and read.
In May 1919 two letters which had been received by Mrs. W.S. Bull describing the circumstances of Dr. William S. Bull's death were printed in the Press. The first letter was from a Major John C. Taylor and the second from a First Lieutenant William E. Mclivaine. Both reported that while following his battalion he had been hit by a shell and died a short time later.
Over the next few years Mrs. Wm. S. Bull remained in contact with friends from the area. She did remarry to Maurice Asher and died on June 15, 1966
It wasn't until 1936 that there was any report of a memorial for Dr. Wm. S. Bull. At an informal meeting of veterans it was proposed that a Cranbury Post be formed in Dr. Bull's name. It isn't clear if this was ever achieved.
In 1949 following the Second World War plans were made for a War Memorial Monument. The monument was to include all those who served in both WW I and WW ll. A list of the names of those who served was printed in the Press at that time. The monument now stands in Memorial Park by the
Fire House. On the north side the names of those killed in the WW I and WW Il are listed. Dr. William S. Bull is listed as the only man from the Cranbury area killed in World War l.
Since the monument was erected the veterans of Viet Nam have also been added.
William S. Bull is also listed in the American Battle Monuments Commission as follows: Date of Death 11
Oct 1918, Buried at Plot B Row 35 Grave 27 Meuse-Argonne, American Cemetery Romagne, France, Rank: First Lieutenant, U.S Army, Regiment: Medical Detachment, 114th Inf. Regt.. 29th Division, World War I
Although today those of us living in Cranbury had no knowledge of whom Dr. William S. Bull was he was certainly admired and liked during his short time living in Cranbury. He had quickly become part of the community and was mourned at the news of his unfortunate death serving his country. None of his peers are with us today but I'm sure they would say they had been honored and proud to have known him. So now we know who Dr. William S. Bull was but the mystery of why and who erected a monument to his memory behind the Civil War Monument continues.
Please see the following attachments.
1) Picture of Civil War Monument in Brainerd Cemetery
2) Monument to Wm. S. Bull behind the Civil War Monument
3) Plaque on Monument to Wm. S Bull
4) Monument to all the men who served in World War l, World War Il and the Korean War Located in Memorial Park by the Cranbury Fire House
5) North side of monument showing those men who gave their lives during WWI, WWII and Vietnam
6) Picture of the 1917 Cranbury Baseball Team. Dr. William Bull is seated next to last on the right side of the second row.