Charles B. Bishop
Goshen County, Wyoming
Charles B. Bishop was a member of the Washington City and California Gold Mining Association, a forty-niner gold rush company captained by J. Goldsborough Bruff. Bishop died July 8, 1849, while encamped with his company near the river.
Of Bishop, virtually nothing is known. He is listed in the company roster as a twenty-five year old citizen of Washington, D.C., and according to Bruff, was a veteran of the Mexican War. Many members of the company were federal employees and perhaps young Bishop had worked as a clerk in a government office. On April 2, 1849, he left the city with his companions and headed for Pittsburgh, where they would board steamboats for St. Louis and then St. Joseph. From there they would take the trail to California.
Of Sunday morning, July 8, Dr. Henry Austin wrote, “I was called to a man who was sick — about 5 A.M. I found him with symptoms of Cholera of which he died at one this day – The train started on the march leaving one wagon in which the sick man was behind. I stayed of course to attend to him the symptoms continue to be less favorable – the train stopped before it proceeded far on this road and returned and layed by for the day – Several of the [men] are preparing for the funeral.”
Captain Bruff described the preparations, “The messmates of the deceased laid him out, sewed him up in his blue blanket, and prepared a bier, formed of his tent-poles. I had a grave dug in a neighboring ridge, on left of the trail, about 400 yards from it. Dry clay and gravel, and coarse white sand-stone on the next hill, afforded slabs to line it with, making a perfect vault. (Bruff himself carved the lettering on the head and footstone.) I then organized a funeral procession, men all in clean clothes and uniforms, with music (a key-bugle, flute, violin, and accordion) and two and two, with the Stars & Stripes over the body, we marched to the measured time of the dirge, deposited the body of our comrade in the grave, an elderly gentleman read the burial service, and we filled up the grave, erected the stones, and returned to camp.”
The funeral was attended by another company, the New York Colony Guards, a military-style company complete with uniforms. They provided a firing party of eight men, giving the ceremony a military air, apparently in honor of Bishop’s Mexican War experiences. The long-lost grave was rediscovered in 1988 by trail historians William and Jan Hill of Centereach, New York.
South of Torrington, Wyoming
Permission is required to visit the site which is on private land.
Source: Randy Brown and Reg Duffin, Graves and Sites on the Oregon and California Trails, OCTA, 2nd edition, 1998, pp 30-31
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