SAMUEL A. BISHOP.
(From "Resources of California.")
Volumes might be written upon the life and adventures of this well-known citizen of Santa Clara County, and yet much of his active, useful, and eventful career be still omitted. He is one of those many-sided men, whose indomitable energy, resolute firmness, broad and comprehensive views, undaunted courage and self-reliance, laid the foundation of this great empire of the West upon the shores of the mighty Pacific. A man of indefatigable enterprise and fertility of resource, he has carved his name deeply upon the records of the State and of the community in which he lives. In a new country and among such a people as dwell in this favored land, with its wonderful variety and wealth of resources, a man like Mr. Bishop becomes the "right man in the right place." To give even the most succinct narrative of Mr. Bishop's life and adventures, requires much more space than can be given on these pages.
Samuel A. Bishop was born in Albermarle County, in the State of Virginia, on the second day of September, 1825. Here his childhood was spent until he reached the age of ten years, when he moved with his parents to Montgomery, Missouri, where he performed the duties ordinarily required of a farmer's boy, and attended school at convenient opportunities until 1846, when his parents again changed their place of residence to Callaway County, in the same State. Mr. Bishop, although trained to the vocation of a farmer, at an early age manifested a decided taste for the mechanical arts, and acquired a knowledge of several useful trades, such as wagon-making, engine-building, blacksmithing, etc. He also built a mill in Callaway, and while engaged in these occupations and leading a somewhat prosaic life, the news of the wonderful gold discoveries in California broke upon the little community in which he lived, "like a clap of thunder from a clear sky." The excitement which ensued fully aroused the dormant spirit of adventure in the breast of Mr. Bishop, and he determined to seek the phantom fortune, in the land of golden dreams.
Closing out his interests in Callaway, he made the necessary preparations, and on the fifteenth day of April, 1849, he started with a party to undertake the dreary and little-known journey across the plains with ox teams. The route selected was that by Santa Fe, in New Mexico, thence along the Colorado River to a point near El Paso, Texas, from which he followed Cook's route to Tucson, Arizona, thence to the Gila River, where Fort Yuma now stands, and from there onward, towards the setting sun, to Los Angeles, which city he reached on the eighth day of October, 1849. This long journey was not made without many hardships and privations. When the point now occupied by Fort Yuma was reached, Mr. Bishop was compelled to abandon his teams and wagons, as there were no means of sustaining the cattle while crossing the burning desert which intervened between that place and Los Angeles; and shouldering his blankets, pick, and shovel—no light burden in such a climate—tramped the entire distance on foot, arriving, weary, foot-sore, and well-nigh exhausted, yet with courage undaunted and spirit undismayed. After a few days devoted to rest and recuperation, he again resumed his burden and took his departure for the Mariposa mines, where he arrived early in 1850, bearing upon his stalwart shoulders a pack weighing upwards of 100 pounds, after having performed a journey on foot of over 700 miles.
Mr. Bishop spent the summer of 1850 in mining on the Stainslaus and Merced Rivers, building extensive dams in order to deflect these rivers from their course, and reach the rich treasures supposed to lie concealed in their beds. The fates, however, were unpropitious, for in the month of September, an unexpected storm swelled the rivers to irresistible torrents, the dams were swept away, much valuable time and labor was lost, and the enterprise was abandoned. Mr. Bishop was not discouraged by this mishap, but immediately moved his camp to Mariposa, and was about to recommence mining operations, when the hostile attitude of the Indians in that section compelled the settlers to organize for defense and for the punishment of the marauding redskins.
This resulted in the campaign, recorded in the history of our State as the " Mariposa War." A battalion was raised by James Burney, and placed under the command of Major James D. Savage, a noted mountaineer, and Indian fighter, and Mr. Bishop, impelled by his love of adventure, was one of the first to enlist. The corps consisted of three companies, A, B, and C, which were commanded, respectively, by Captains John J. Kirkendall, John Bowling, and William Dill. Mr. Bishop was elected Orderly Sergeant of Company C, and was virtually in command nearly all the time that body was under arms, owing to the absence of Captain Dill. The entire battalion at once moved in pursuit of the hostile Indians, overtook and captured a band of them on the Merced River, and followed the remainder into the Yo Semite Valley, where they took prisoner the great chief Yo Semite himself, and captured or dispersed his forces, which put an end to the war. It may be well here to note, as a matter of historical interest, that the advent of this armed force into the Yo Semite Valley was the first appearance of white men in that now world-famed resort. After the defeat and capture of Yo Semite's band of savages, the various tribes of Indians in that region, and in the San Joaquin Valley, were brought together in an oak grove on the Mariposa River, and a grand pow-wow, or council, was held, at which a treaty of peace and amity was concluded, and the Indians were then permitted to depart for their respective hunting-grounds. Outside tribes were afterwards brought in at intervals, and separate treaties were made with them. Peace being now restored, and there being no further fear of molestation from the savages, the battalion was mustered out of service, and thus ended the famous " Mariposa War."
The following is a copy of the discharge given to Mr. Bishop upon his retirement from the service of the State :‑
"STATE OF CALIFORNIA,
"MARIPOSA COUNTY. )
" This is to certify that Sergeant Samuel A. Bishop was mustered into the service of the State of California as a volunteer, in Company C, of California Battalion, commanded by Major James D. Savage, on the tenth day of February, 1851, and has faithfully performed the duties of First Sergeant of Company C, to this date, and that he is this day honorably discharged.
" Given under our hands this first day of July, 1851.
"WM. DILL, Captain Corn. Co. C,
M. B. LEWIS, Mustering Officer."
After the events above narrated, Mr. Bishop engaged with Major Savage, his former Commander, and L. D. Vincent Hailer, as a mechanic and manager of their business. In 1852 Major Savage was killed in an altercation with Major Harvey, when Mr. Bishop became a partner in the firm, together with Dr. Lewis Leach, under the name and style of Leach & Co., conducting the business of Indian traders on the reservation established by the government on the Fresno River. Here Mr. Bishop had entire control of the Indians until Gen. Edward F. Beale was appointed by President Fillmore, Superintendent of Indian affairs in California.
In 1853 General Beale determined to remove the Indians to a point on the San Joaquin River, where the Southern Pacific Railroad now crosses that stream, and Mr. Bishop was employed to conduct them to their new home. While here an incident occurred that is worthy of mention. For some time portions of the State had been ravaged by a desperate band of robbers and murderers, under the command of the notorious bandit, Joaquin Murietta, who had for his Lieutenant a villainous desperado, known as Three-fingered Jack. A considerable reward was offered for the capture of these outlaws, dead or alive, and they were finally killed while resisting arrest, by a party under the command of Captain Harry Love. Captain Burns and one John Sylvester came one day to the bank of the river opposite the Indian rancheria, and asked to be ferried across. Mr. Bishop took a boat and brought them over, when they exhibited to him the heads of Joaquin and Three-fingered Jack, together with the hand of the latter, which had been cut off for identification. As it was feared that decomposition would rob them of their ghastly trophies before they could reach Fort Miller, Mr. Bishop gave them a ten-gallon keg of whisky to preserve them in. The head of Three-fingered Jack was buried at Fort Miller, but that of Joaquin Murietta was saved and brought to San Francisco, where it may now be seen at Dr. Jordan's Anatomical Museum, on Market Street.
In the fall of 1853 Mr. Bishop was instructed by General Beale to transfer the Indians from the San Joaquin to Fort Tejon, near the pass in the mountains of that name, at which place they were located in December of that year, and in the following year a large crop was raised under his superintendence by Indian labor alone. About this time he formed a copartnership with General Beale, for the purpose of conducting the business of stock-raising, buying lands, etc., which partnership continued for several years under the firm name of Bishop & Beale. At Fort Tejon, Mr. Bishop held the respective offices of Justice of the Peace, Notary Public, and Judge of the Plains, at one and the same time—a weight of dignity which required no little strength of character to bear successfully in those rough and lawless times. He, however, acquitted himself with credit and satisfaction to the people, and was greatly esteemed by the Indians, whom he always treated with kindness and consideration so long as they were peaceful. In 1854 he associated himself with Alex. Godey, the mountaineer, scout, guide, and friend of General John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, for the purpose of supplying provisions, etc., to the troops stationed at Fort Tejon, and this business connection continued, to their mutual benefit, for about four years. The Hon. Peter Dean, now President of the Merchants' Exchange Bank and Sierra Lumber Company, in San Francisco, was also a partner with Godey in the stock-raising business, and the time spent in company with these old pioneers, Beale, Godey, and Dean, Mr. Bishop emphatically says was the happiest period of his life.
In 1859 he contracted to construct a military road from the Colorado River, at Beale's crossing, near Fort Mojave, through Arizona Territory into New Mexico, an extremely hazardous undertaking, when the topographical difficulties and the hostility of the Indians are considered. So determined was the enmity of the aborigines along the line of the Colorado and within the borders of Arizona, that the government dispatched a force of 1,000 troops to bring them to terms. These were sent from San Francisco by steamer, via the Gulf of California, to Fort Yuma, thence by land and light-draft steamers to Beal's Crossing, where several immigrants had been massacred during the previous year, and at which place it was hoped the enemy would be met. Knowing of the expedition, Mr. Bishop completed his arrangements so that he should arrive at the crossing at the same time as would the soldiers, and have their protection in crossing the river; but unfortunately he reached there a month in advance of them, and was forced to cross, unguarded, the swift-running stream, with his party of forty-two men, besides twenty camels and trains of wagons and pack-mules, loaded with the necessary supplies for the support of such an expedition. While making their way across the stream, the Indians attacked them and compelled them to retreat to Beaver Lake, two miles distant, where they fortified themselves by drawing up their wagons in line, thereby forming a breastwork, with the lake in their rear, and on either flank they were protected by a ditch, four feet deep, forming an inclosure, within which their supplies, animals, and other property were gathered in comparative security. Here they were vigorously attacked by some fifteen hundred armed savages, who were received with a withering fire which quickly sent them to cover, but so determined were they that they renewed the attack daily for seventeen days, being successfully repulsed on each occasion, when, despairing of overcoming the gallant little party of brave men who were rapidly thinning their numbers, they sent a flag of truce into Mr. Bishop's camp, requesting that a counsel be held. This was acceded to, and an armistice was arranged, and the party permitted to proceed on its way.
At San Francisco Mountain, in Arizona, Mr. Bishop met his partner, General Beale, and, after consultation, it was decided to return to the crossing, where they met the troops, who found no fighting to do, the Indians having had quite enough of that pastime during the previous month. This expedition, so barren of glory to the army, cost the nation $400,000, while the brunt of the battle was borne by Mr. Bishop and his companions, who reaped all the glory of the contest.
When Fort Tejon was first located, in 1854, its site was supposed to be on government land, but it was subsequently found to be upon the Castec Grant, which Mr. Bishop purchased of one Albert Packard, of Santa Barbara, who bought it from the original grantee. An agreement was entered into with the government, the conditions of which were, that Mr. Bishop should deed to the United States one mile square of the land on which the post was situated, to be held for military purposes, so long as it should be deemed necessary, and when no longer required for such purposes, it was to revert to the owner of the grant with all the improvements made thereon. The title to this grant was confirmed by the government in 1859, and upon the outbreak of the Rebellion, the troops at Fort Tejon were ordered to the seat of war and the post abandoned. The premises, with the keys, etc., were turned over to Mr. Bishop in accordance with the agreement, and he suddenly found himself the proprietor of a ready-made village of fine houses with no one to occupy them. With that keen intelligence which has earned for him his high position among business men, Mr. Bishop conceived the idea of forming a new county out of the northern portion of Los Angeles, the eastern part of Santa Barbara, and the southern section of Tulare, and by donating his buildings for county purposes, such as Court House, hospital, jail, etc., a county seat would be found complete in its chief requirements, and at the same time confer a benefit upon himself. He succeeded in his enterprise, and in 1865 the Legislature created the new county, which was called Kern. In the meantime, however, a great mining excitement broke out, and thousands of people were attracted to the mountains of Kern River, and when the election for county officers took place, the majority located the county seat at Havilah, and thus the fruits of Mr. Bishop's enterprise and intelligence were reaped by others. At this election, Mr. Bishop was chosen one of the Supervisors of the new county, but resigned the office in the fall of 1866, when he went on a visit to the Atlantic States, and on his return to California, with his family, established his residence in San Jose, in April, 1867, and his subsequent career forms a portion of the history of Santa Clara County.
Mr. Bishop has been for many years, and still is, actively engaged in many important enterprises calculated to promote the interests of the county in which he resides. In the month of February, 1868, he, with others, obtained a franchise to construct the San Jose and Santa Clara Horse Railroad. Mr. Bishop was elected President of the company, and work was commenced on the first day of August, and on the first day of November following, cars were running between the two cities. He is President of this company, the road having since been greatly extended and improved, and the cars are now run by electric motor. In 1870 he became interested in the San Jose Savings Bank, and for several years was Vice-President of that institution. In the same year he became the owner of the San Jose Institute and Business College, having associated with him Mr. and Mrs. Freeman Gates. In 1871, in company with P. O. Minor and Judge Rhodes, he obtained a franchise from the Mayor and Common Council of the city of San Jose to lay the First Street Railroad. He is also President of the San Jose Homestead Association, and Director in the Sierra Lumber Company, which has important industries established in the Sierra Nevada, as well as in the counties of Butte, Plumas, Tehama, and Shasta.
In 1876, with six others, he purchased the Stayton Quicksilver and Antimony mines, situated in the mountains dividing Fresno from San Benito County. In 1883 the San Jose Agricultural Works were established, an institution which now occupies a prominent place in the manufacturing interests of California. Mr. Bishop was elected President and still holds that important office. He is also a Director in the Paul O. Burns Wine Company, established in 1885, and the largest viticultural organization in Santa Clara County.
Few of the pioneers of California have led a more active and useful life, or contributed more largely toward the advancement of this State to its present proud position than Mr. Bishop. He is endowed with rare natural abilities, and a genial, kindly disposition. The burden of sixty-three years sits lightly upon him, and his regular habits and systematic activity have solidified and knit into a column of enduring life his whole organization. Of fine presence and dignified manner, he moves among men a perfect type of American manhood, commanding the respect and confidence of all. Mr. Bishop is a life-member of the Society of California Pioneers, and of the Santa Clara County Pioneers, and is also a life-member of the Santa Clara Agricultural Society. He holds high rank in the Masonic fraternity, being a Knight Templar and member of the Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
In 1856 he
married, in Los Angeles, Frances E., daughter of William and Amanda Young, by
whom he has two children, a daughter and son, who inherit in an eminent degree
the domestic virtues of their mother, and the energy and perseverance of their
Pen Pictures From The
Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated.
- Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.