San Francisco County








     AMASA WRIGHT BISHOP, Postmaster of Oakland, is an old resident and prominent citizen, having been in this city for the past twenty-three years. He was born in Wallingford, Rutland county, Vermont, August 18, 1832; was educated for the bar, and at the age of twenty entered the law office of the Hon. David E. Nicholson.  By the laws of Vermont, five years’ reading in the office of an attorney was necessary before admission to the bar, and then only upon the certificate and affidavit of good character and thorough examination.  Mr. Bishop pursued his studies in the same office for five years, practicing in the meantime in the courts of justices of the peace in his own and neighboring towns, and was always very successful.  In 1857 he was examined and admitted an attorney of the Rutland County Bar. Always predisposed to literature, he wrote while a student more or less for the press.  In 1857, in connection with a school-mate and student in the same office, the late Hon. Philip H. Emerson, who for fifteen years served as District Judge and Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of Utah, he started a small paper, simply for amusement, called the Local Spy, which created no little stir in the staid community.  The paper was continued for more than a year, and until Mr. Bishop left for California, arriving in the Golden State early in 1859.

     He sought his fortune in the mines, as did nearly all new-comers at that time; but it did not require a great length of time to convince him that that calling was not for him.  He returned to Marysville and for eight or nine months was engaged in the saddle and harness store of John W. Moore, one of Marysville’s best citizens.  Early in January, 1860, at the request of Mr. Moore, he went to Red Bluff, Tehama county, to take charge of the same business for his brother, C. A. Moore. While in Marysville he was a constant writer for the press, and after locating in Red Bluff was a steady contributor to the Marysville Appeal and also to the Red Bluff Beacon.  At the solicitation of leading Republicans and anti-Lecompton Democrats, he gave up his position with Mr. Moore and started the Semi-weekly Independent at Red Bluff, the first paper issued oftener than once a week north of Marysville, and the first paper to take the dispatches – first of the Pony Express across the continent and afterward the telegraphic dispatches.  The first paper was issued August 14, 1860.

    In the fall of 1860 he was appointed deputy District Attorney of Tehama county; and, the District Attorney leaving the State soon after, he exercised that office until the next election.  Tehama county was at that time one of the firmest Democratic strongholds in the State, only thirty-nine Republican votes having been polled in 1859.  At the presidential election of 1860, however, through the untiring labors of Mr. Bishop and the influence of his paper, the Independent, this vote was increased to 242 for Abraham Lincoln, the remainder being divided between Douglas, Bell and Breckenridge.

     The next year, 1861, Mr. Bishop accepted the nomination of District Attorney from the Republican convention, and worked with so much energy and efficiency, visiting nearly ever voter in the county, that he beat the nominee of the combined Democracy (Breckenridge and Douglas) by seventy-six votes.   In 1862 the Republicans carried the county, electing its full ticket.  Such was the change in public sentiment; and the credit of that change was due in a great measure to the personal work of Mr. Bishop. At the session of the Legislature of 1863-64 his services were recognized, and he was chosen Assistant Secretary of the Senate by acclamation, and served during the session.  The same year the Democratic paper, the Beacon, succumbed, and was bought by Mr. Bishop and merged in the Independent.

     November 7, 1863, Mr. Bishop married an estimable lady of Red Bluff – Ellen M., the daughter of Captain E. G. Reed, the pioneer settler of the town, who located the town site and built the first house, a hotel, at the steamer landing.

     In 1865 Mr. Bishop sold his paper and devoted his time to his profession, holding at the same time the position of Collector of Internal Revenue for the division including Tehama, Colusa and Butte counties.  The people of Chico, Butte county, learning that he had sold out his paper at Red Bluff, prevailed upon him to locate at Chico and start a paper at that fast-growing and prosperous town.  He went to Chico in the fall of 1865 and started the Weekly Courant, editing the paper and practicing law up to May, 1869,when he again sold out his business, office and dwelling, and moved to Oakland.  In the summer he took a trip to his old home in Vermont, and visited many points in the Eastern States.  In July of that year he returned and opened a law office in San Francisco.  Never idle, always most happy when pressed with business, he started the Masonic Mirror, which he edited and published for four years.  In 1872 he was solicited by many prominent citizens of Oakland to purchase the Oakland Daily Transcript and make it a stanch Republican journal.   He yielded and succeeded in placing the paper upon a paying basis, although it cost him several thousand dollars – all he possessed, in fact—besides nearly breaking his constitution with severe labor, as he did the work of two or three men during the four years he conducted the paper.  In 1876 he sold his interest in the paper, having previously sold a half interest, and in the summer of 1877 received the appointment of Superintendent of Bonded Warehouses of San Francisco, which position he held until July, 1880.  The same year he was elected City Justice of the Peace for Oakland, and in 1882 was re-elected, without opposition.

     In 1884 he formulated the plan and organized the Mutual Endowment Association of Oakland, which has proven a success, having paid to members during the past seven years over $200,000 in endowments, death claims and disability benefits, furnishing a profitable investment for savings as well as life and endowment insurance.  At the city election of March, 1887, at the earnest solicitation of the citizens of the Fifth Ward, Mr. Bishop accepted the nomination for Councilman, and was elected; and on the assembling of the new council he was unanimously elected president of that body, and served in that capacity two years.  In May, 1890, he was appointed Postmaster of Oakland by the President of the United States, which office he now holds, to the satisfaction of the people generally, having in the short time of his incumbency made many important improvements in the postal service, and has many more inaugurated, which, with the assistance of the people, he will carry out during his term, in hopes that the culmination of his labors will be a new postoffice building creditable to the city.

     Mr. Bishop has always been active in politics, but he has never stooped to deceive or forfeit his integrity, ever holding that honesty should prevail in politics as well as in the business affairs of life.  If he could not support a man, he was ever free to tell him so.  When he does support a man at all, he does it with his whole might, mind and soul.  A friend he never forsakes; and if he has an enemy it never troubles him or disturbs his feelings.  His motto has ever been the golden rule.  It would be impossible, it is true, for a man to be active in politics and publish a strict, terse, incisive party paper and not make enemies; yet Mr. Bishop has probably as few enemies as any man in Oakland, for the reason that he has always avoided personalities, dealing wholly with principles and not with men.  When he combats what he considers false doctrines, his pen is as sharp and effective as a two-edged sword.

     His literary works are all of a high order.  A California romance, “Kentuck,” received the highest encomiums from the press throughout the coast, as the best exposition of California life ever given to the public.  He is also author of a romance entitled “Dandy Doane,” which also was highly commended, copied and re-copied by literary papers both West and East.

     Mr. Bishop is a member of all the Masonic bodies and a past officer of most of them, as well as a past officer of the order of United Workmen.

     Few persons in California have a more extensive acquaintance than Mr. Bishop, and those who know him best most appreciate his integrity of character, firmness of purpose, honesty of motives and upright life, while all admit his ability as a terse and forcible writer, a man of general information, well read in the law and a useful citizen.


Transcribed 7-29-05  Marilyn R. Pankey.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Page 253-5, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

© 2005 Marilyn R. Pankey.




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