Sam Bishop was born in Virginia in 1825 to a family that soon moved on to Missouri. As a young man, Bishop was lured further west by the “Gold Rush” . He hitched a ride with a wagon train to Arizona and then walked the rest of the way, some 350 miles, to the Gold Country!
While in Northern California, he enlisted in Company C of the California Volunteers fighting Indians for their lands in the “Mariposa War” and was among those who captured “Chief Yo-semite” . It was about this time that he went into the more lucrative cattle raising business of providing meat to miners and to the new Indian Reservation System being established in the new state.
With his knowledge of California’s Reservation system, in 1853 he was hired to oversee moving Indian people from gold country to the Sebastian Reservation in Southern California, in Tejon Canyon.
While in Southern California he decided to buy the Castac Mexican Land Grant that ran from below Grapevine Canyon to the lake by the future community of Lebec. It was on his land that Fort Tejon was built at the top of Grapevine Canyon. Bishop established himself in a home built by original owner of the Grant and continued to raise cattle to sell to reservation and the military at Fort Tejon.
Samuel Bishop also served as the local “Justice of the Peace, Notary Public and Justice of the Plains” – responsible for settling cattle disputes and presiding over rodeos. A rodeo in that day was the gathering of cattle from the open plains and cutting out those of your brand.
A good description of Bishop was written by Captain Gardner of Fort Tejon who said:
“I have here a Justice of the Peace on my hands, who I sent for on some public business. I have given him an intelligent soldier for a clerk, and he, the Justice, is now preparing himself by reading a thick volume of California laws. His appearance is not very judicial. He is in his shirt sleeves, with a hat considerably the worse for wear, a huge pair of Mexican spurs, with buckskin leggings, and of course, what no Californian travels without, a revolver in his belt.”
Samuel married Frances Ella Young of Los Angeles. Her father, William, was the first school master of that growing village. Two of her brothers settled in the future area of Frazier Park, where locations still bear one of their names – Sam Young.
In 1861 the Bishop’s establish a new ranch in the Owens Valley, named for Frances and called the San Frances Ranch. They drove some 650 head of cattle over there from the Castac Ranch . The creek they locate on is called Bishop Creek near where the town of Bishop was soon established.
Meanwhile the government abandoned Fort Tejon due to Civil War and returned the property to Bishop. He tried to have an new county designated throughout the area, Tejon County, with the buildings of the Fort to be used as the county seat – after all it was the largest community between Stockton and Los Angeles. This not achieved, Bishop sold his rancho to Edward Beale to add to his collection of Mexican land grants which now make up the huge Rancho El Tejon.
Samuel & Frances Bishop and their children later moved up to San Jose where he developed the street car system – a man of vision.
Additional information may be found in “A View from the Ridge Route” series.