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The Murder of Old Bishop

The first serious outbreak was occasioned by three of our people, namely: Richard A. Ivie, Y. Rufus Stoddard and Gerome Zabriskie, who met an Indian called Bishop Whitney, in the field and claimed a shirt the Indian had on. The Indian re- fused to give it up. Ivie claimed it as his and tried to take it, was resisted and in the scuffle that in- sued, the Indian was killed, and his body weighted with rock, was sunk in the river, so reported by the Indians, who found the body after 24 hours search.

This killing of the Old Bishop, so called, occur- red about the 1st of August, 1849, and immediately caused great excitement amongst the Indians, es-pecially the Timpanodes, located here. They first demanded the murderers, which, of course, was re- fused by the whites. They then required compensation in cattle and horses, but nothing was ever given, and shortly after this cattle and horses were found with arrows sticking in them, several persons were shot at while in the woods and other places. Meanwhile the people prepared for defense. Peter W. Conover was chosen Captain of Militia with E. T. Thomas and G. T. Willis, lieutenants, Miles Weaver, adjutant, Joseph Clark, sergeant. Guards were posted at night and armed herdsmen on horseback, kept the stock by day. The leading Indians ordered the people off their lands. They made serious threats in case of failure to leave and stock was stolen from time to time. - Source: Peter Gottfredson Indian Depredations in Utah

On a warm spring day three men were riding along the Provo River on their horses when they came upon a "friendly Indian" the whites called Old Bishop. The whites called him by this name because his mannerisms reminded them of a white man by the name of Bishop Whitney. The three men, Rufus Stoddard, Richard Ivie, and Gerome Zabrisky began to heckle the man, and accused him of stealing the shirt he was wearing from off a cloths line. Old Bishop denied having stolen the shirt from anyone, saying he had made a fair trade for it.

Ivie pulled his gun on Old Bishop and told him to take it off. The old Indian man stood his ground and refused. Ivie murdered the Indian in cold blood.

Concerned that what they had done would spark retribution from the Indians, the men then gutted the old man. They then filled his body cavity with rocks and threw him in the Provo River. Quoting from History of Utah Stake, James Goff, one of the colonists, stated later, "The men who killed the Indian ripped his bowls open and filled them with stones preparatory to sinking the body." Then making mockery of the murder he writes, "The Indians assert that, annually, on the anniversary of his death the "Old Bishop" appears on the bank of the river and slowly takes the rocks one by one out of his bowels and throws them into the river, then disappears. Some (white) fishermen have watched in hopes of having an interview with the ‘Bishop's ghost.’"

Satisfied, the men returned to the fort and boasted of having taken Old Bishop's life. Thinking they had committed the perfect murder they relaxed and fell back into their routines. So much for the alleged promises made by Dimmick Huntington and Higbee brothers to An-kar-tewets.

 

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