By Pat Loomis, News Staff Writer
Among latest acquisitions of the Statehouse Museum at the County
Fairgrounds are three large paintings, portraits of one of San Jose's late
pioneer businessmen and his wife and daughter.
They are Samuel A. Bishop, his wife, Frances, and daughter, Virginia.
Sam Bishop, a man of great energy and initiative, built early street
railroad lines in San Jose, helped set up the San Jose Savings Bank in 1870,
owned the San Jose Institute and Business College in the '80s, was a leader
in Masonic circles, and was one of San Jose's best-loved citizens for a
quarter of a century before his death in 1893.
The pictures were presented to the museum by Bishop's grandson,
William A. Barstow of 974 Willow St. Barstow also has a memo book in which
Bishop made daily notations during the year 1883, and some other pictures
of his grandfather.
Barstow was the son of Virginia Bishop Barstow. His father was
Theordore W. Barstow, Maine shipbuilder who came to San Jose and went into
the business of building cars for the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz narrow gauge
railway line with the late Martin Carter. He later raised trotters and
pacers, racing them on the old Agricultural Park track here and elsewhere
throughout California and the Middle West.
Sam Bishop had a reputation as a story-teller. Always joking, well-liked
by his fellow citizens, he was fond of telling stories concerning his alleged
experiences with the Indians in southeastern California and Arizona Territory.
William Barstow recalls one favorite story involved Indian fighting.
Grandfather Bishop had no trouble shooting Indians hiding behind trees,
because he just bent his rifle in a half-circle and shot around the trees.
He used to tell that in the days when he ran a general store at Fort
Tejon the whisky was kept in barrels in two small rooms. Holes were cut in
the wall between the rooms and the barrels fitted in. A faucet was attached
to each end of the barrels and sampling buyers never knew they were testing
the same whiskey when they were told in one room it was $2 a gallon and in
the adjoining room, $3. Same barrel, different faucet.
Bishop was born in Virginia in 1825 and came to California in 1849.
His grandson doubts that he spent much time panning for gold.
"That was right for a wiry fellow, but grandfather weighted about
300 pounds." Barstow said.
Bishop fought in the Mariposa Indian war and was one of the first
white men to see the valley of the Yosemite in 1851. He became an Indian
trader and later was in charge of an Indian reservation on the San Joaquin.
In the fall of 1853 he moved his Indians to Fort Tejon, located on a land
grant owned by Bishop and on which he had deeded the government a square
mile of land for the fort.
When the post was abandoned in 1859, Bishop donated the building for
a county seat. He was instrumental in the formation of Kern County in 1865,
but Havilah became the county seat because of a mining boom in that area.
Bishop served as one of the first supervisors in the new county.
The town of Bishop in Inyo County is named for Barstow's grandfather.
He settled in San Jose with his family in 1867, and a year later,
along with several other men, obtained a franchise to construct the San Jose-
Santa Clara Horse Railroad. The line ran down the left side of The Alemeda
from First street in San Jose to Main street in Santa Clara. It was later
extended to the Coyote River bridge and then to McLaughlin Ave. in east San Jose.
In 1871 he got a franchise for horse cars along First street and built
the first narrow guage tracks in this area. The line ran from the San Pedro
depot along Julian to First and south to Reed street.
His famed electric street railroad began operations in May 1888. It
had an underground third rail, and heavy rains and lack of proper drainage
proved a serious drawback in the winter. Also, children and adults alike
could not resist poking umbrelias in the slot to see the sparks fly. As a
result a passenger boarding one of Sam's cars never knew where he might be
stranded when a short circuit cut the power.
Bishop tried to get the city fathers to allow an overhead trolley,
but the citizenry was afraid it would be dangerous. He finally sold the
line and a short time later it reverted to horse cars and finally won
approval of an overhead trolley.
Bishop's 1883 diary is filled with notations on meetings held
concerning his railroad enterprizes, for instance:
March 5 -- "Commenced switch on 12 street"; March 8 -- "Selected place
to put switch to narrow guage RR between 4th and 5th street"; March 29 --
"Went to see Supervisor Wood about connecting Cinnabar street RR with narrow
gauge on Center street"; May 13 -- "Commenced to run extra car to East San Jose";
June 6 -- "Hottest day ever known in the valley--108 in the shade"; June 13 --
"Went with Owen to see about stringing electric mast in middle of street";
Nov. 24 -- "Put in crossing on Stockton avenue track for brewery."
Samuel Addison and Frances Ella (Young) Bishop Family