Biography of Hon. William H. Spurgeon

The Honorable William H. Spurgeon founder of the city of Santa Ana, and the principal factor of its subsequent growth, is a native of Henry County, Kentucky, born October 10, 1829, his parents being Granville and Levina (Sibley) Spurgeon, the latter a native of Virginia, the former of Kentucky. The Spurgeons, of English origin, chose for their first location in this country, North Carolina. From those of the family who afterward removed to Kentucky, our subject springs. When he was but a year old, the family removed to Indiana, and ten years later they settled in Clark County, northeast Missouri. When he was but twelve years old his father put him in a dry-goods store, so that he had the opportunity to learn business methods at a very early age, which served him in good stead in the later years.

In 1852 he joined the tide of emigration directed toward California, making the trip via New Orleans, Havana and Panama. From New Orleans to the Isthmus he made the trip on the steamer Philadelphia, and on the Pacific side he was a passenger on the New Orleans. He landed at San Francisco, but soon afterward proceeded to Oregon, where he was engaged in ranching during the summer of 1852, in the Willamette valley. He spent the fall and winter of that year in the Siskiyou mines, of what is now Josephine County, on the Althans creek. He mined in that region and throughout southern Oregon until 1856, with fair success. During the last two years of that time, however, his attention was only partially directed to mining, as he had charge of a trading post for a part of the time just across the line in California. For a portion of the time while he was up there the natives were hostile, and he put in one campaign against the Rogue River Indians, in the commands of General Joe Lane and Captain Williams.

In the spring of 1856 he started to go back East, and while on the way arrived in San Francisco, during the reign of the vigilance committee, and saw Casey and Cora hung. After two or three weeks at San Francisco, he resumed his way eastward, and going back to Missouri went into business at Athens, twenty-five miles west of Alexandria. He was in business either there or at the last named place until the fall of 1863, when he sold out, and in the following year returned to California. This time he made the trip overland, via Council Bluffs and South Pass, proceeding into California by the Reese river route. He had driven thirty or forty mules and some horses across, and during the winter of 1864-’65 he kept his stock at the head of Napa valley. In 1866 he went to Monterey County, and in the following year, on account of his wife’s ill health, he again removed to Los Angeles, where, about the first of January, 1868, death claimed his companion. Her name was Martha Moreland, and he married her in Missouri in 1860. Mr. Spurgeon then went back East, and in the fall of 1869 he again returned to California, locating at what is now Santa Ana. His choice of location was partially due to some conversation he had had in Los Angeles, in 1867, with an engineer who had assisted in the partition of the rancho, and spoke very favorably of the locality. Ten days’ looking around convinced him that what he had heard of its advantages was correct; hence his settlement here. He laid out the town of Santa Ana, named it, and started in business on the northeast corner of Fourth and West streets. In 1875 he erected a frame building on the corner of Fourth and Sycamore streets, and moved into it.

In 1880 he moved that structure, and in its place erected the handsome brick business building known as the Spurgeon block, which has a frontage of 137 feet on Fourth street, and two stories in height, and is a credit to the city.
In 1870 he was appointed Postmaster of Santa Ana, and held the office until 1879. He caused the location of the post office here, a box in Anaheim having offered the only previous mail facility for the community.

The stage line, running between Anaheim and San Diego, left Santa Ana two miles to one side. He subsidized the stage company, and built a road from Santa Ana intersecting the old stage route mentioned. He put in watering facilities in front of his store, where the stage horses were watered after they commenced running here, and after- the line commenced operating he secured the location of the post office. In 1877, while yet Postmaster, he was elected a Supervisor of Los Angeles County. In 1887, being about to retire from mercantile business, he allowed his name to be put forward as a candidate for Representative in the Legislature of California for the Seventy-eighth district. As a proof of his popularity it may be stated in this connection that, though he is a Democrat, he overcame a Republican majority of about 360. In the Assembly he served on the committees on Irrigation, County and Township Government, and Viticulture.

He took an active part in securing the partition and separate organization of Orange County, with Santa Ana as the county seat, and at the first election of the new county, held July 17, 1890, he was elected a Supervisor, and on organization made president of the board.

He is a stockholder in the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company, of which he was for five years a director and three years its president. He is a director of the Santa Ana Land and Improvement Company, and also of the Newport Wharf and Lumber Company. He is a director and one of the incorporators of the Santa Ana & Newport Railroad Company. He is also President of the First National Bank of Santa Ana. There has never been a movement giving promise of material benefit for Santa Ana that has not had the benefit of his assistance and encouragement as an aider and leader. Truly the people of Santa Ana may look upon him as a public benefactor, and his memory will live as long as the city he founded exists.

Mr. Spurgeon’s present wife, to whom he was married in Santa Ana, April 17, 1872, was formerly Miss Jennie English, a native of Missouri. They have five children, viz.: Grace, Lottie, Mary, W. H., Jr., and Granville Robert.


The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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