An illustration of the murder of Jacob Snider appeared in the Rocky Mountain News April 2, 1911.

Vendettas and Violence: The Mystery of a Murder Etched in a Post-Civil War Headstone

Decades ago, Raytown historians tried to unlock the mystery.

By Diane Euston

  In Brooking Cemetery in Raytown, Mo., a headstone, broken and haphazardly repaired, has caught the eyes of more than one curious passerby. It isn’t an early famous settler or a surname that resonates with our area’s history. But the inscription, etched in stone 157 years ago, reads:

  Thomas F. Bishop, born June 25, 1849; Murdered by C. Quest and his men, August 15, 1866.

  A reader alerted me to this curious inscription, asking – as so many others have in the past – what happened to this young man. Decades ago, Raytown historians tried to unlock the mystery, noting in a 1988 article, “Bishop may have been part of a post-Civil War episode.”

  They were onto something, but the episode really didn’t directly involve Thomas; it was much deeper than that. It centered around his older brother, Jackson. Jackson’s story includes the harsh realities of an area deeply divided during the Civil War, the continuous havoc which continued for years after, and some of the more widely known characters – including Jesse James – who romanticized violence and vendettas sewn years earlier when they sided on the wrong side of history as bushwhackers.

A headstone at Brooking Cemetery in Raytown reading “Murdered by C. Quest and his men” sends an ominous message.

From Tennessee to Jackson County on the Eve of the Civil War

  David Bishop (1800-1876), an Irish-born farmer, married Margaret Carriger (1811-1886) in Carter Co., Tenn. in 1827. Her father, Godfrey, was a well-known settler of the county who served as the registrar and, being insistent on the importance of education, built the area’s first school. David and Margaret had at least 10 children: Godfrey (b. 1828), Tennessee (b. 1831), Henry (b. 1832), Ann (b. 1834), Samuel (b. 1836), Jackson (b. 1839), Thomas (b. 1842), Elizabeth (b. 1847), Mary (b. 1850), James (b. 1851) and John (b. 1853). By 1859, the family uprooted and removed to Jackson Co., Mo. 

  It’s unknown what led them in such a tumultuous time – on the eve of the Civil War and in the height of the Border Wars- to move. Regardless, David purchased land at current-day 39th St. and Prospect Ave. near the Montgall farm. Their oldest son, Tennessee, chose to start his life further west, settling in Sonoma Co., Calif. by 1853.

  The Border Wars between western Missouri and Kansas Territory inflamed the tempers of many families on both sides of the issue of slavery. Prior to the Bishop family’s move to the area, proslavery men living in Missouri wreaked havoc on the antislavery settlers moving into the newly-established Kansas Territory. In turn, the area was constantly under attack by men on both sides, pillaging and burning homes, stealing livestock and even committing murder.

  The Border Wars began immediately after the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and after seven long years of fighting, the Civil War erupted across the country. The war didn’t squash these personal vendettas and acts of violence; it only heightened it, especially when Kansas was admitted as a free state in 1861.

  The Bishops would have been aware, as was all the nation, of the partisan divide in the area. However, they wouldn’t have experienced the atrocities directly as earlier settlers had. Regardless, some of the family members became deeply involved in the conflict, and their participation greatly altered their lives forever.

Playing the Civil War on Both Sides: Jackson Bishop

  Jackson Carriger Bishop, born in 1839, was the sixth born of 10 children. At the start of the Civil War, Jackson opted to enlist in the Confederate army, serving in Company H, 12th Missouri Cavalry. But, like so many young men on the Missouri-Kansas border, organized service wasn’t in the cards for Jackson. 

  He deserted in Texas, came back to Missouri and joined up with an infamous group of pro-slavery bushwhackers who tormented the border. He became a member of Quantrill’s Raiders.

  William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865) is one of the most infamous of the bushwhackers who wreaked havoc on the border during the Civil War. He was born in Ohio and had no ties to enslavement, and after teaching in Kansas and claiming he was an abolitionist, he joined the Confederate army. Quantrill deserted and opted to assemble his own group of guerrillas who could operate outside the codes of war. 

  Starting with a small force of about a dozen men in December 1861, Quantrill’s Raiders multiplied in numbers and operated independently, attacking Union patrols, camps and citizens living on the Missouri-Kansas border.

  While operating as a bushwhacker under Quantrill, Jackson was captured by the 6th Kansas Calvary northwest of Westport in February 1863. Soldiers intended to hang him since he was a known bushwhacker, but Major Wyllys C. Ransom (1828-1908) with the regiment was able to stop them. “I interfered for his protection and had him committed to the guard house, under a heavy guard, and reported his case to my superior officers at Fort Leavenworth,” Ransom later recalled.

Major Wyllys C. Ransom (1828-1908)

  However, Jackson’s father, David was alerted of his son’s capture and intervened. He begged Major Ransom to reconsider and suggested that his son enlist in the Union army. Surprisingly, the arrangement was made. Major Ransom wrote, “[An] arrangement, after several days’ reflection and the most sincere promises on the part of [Jackson] Bishop, for his future conduct and loyalty, I assented.”

  The onetime Confederate soldier-turned-bushwhacker was then a member of the 6th Kansas Volunteers in February 1863. Major Ransom kept a close eye on him since “his old comrades. . . were. . . giving great trouble on the border.”

  Jackson behaved well, attended parties hosted by Major Ransom’s wife in Westport and “was quite a favorite of the ladies.” He served just over four months, and Major Ransom thought it was time he was rewarded. On June 25, 1863 – one day after he was paid – Jackson Bishop disappeared while returning from Independence with a detachment.

  Jackson “had gone back to his old love,” the Quantrill Raiders. 

  Several months later, Major Ransom was in the southern portion of the county near the state line just west of current-day Martin City when his detachment came across a group of gunslinging bushwhackers. Major Ransom recognized Jackson as one of the men “just as [Jackson] pulled the trigger and sent a bullet whizzing past his old commander’s ear.” Ransom was not injured, but a message was clearly sent.

  Jackson participated in the Lawrence Raid in August 1863 where about 160 men and boys were killed. Likely in retribution to his desertion and his role as “one of Quantrill’s best scouts,” Jackson’s family was not safe from Union soldiers. David Bishop testified, “A detachment of soldiers. . . then station at Westport came to my house and abused my wife, threatened her life, put a loaded pistol to her head, and finally burned and destroyed the house and all the property in it.” 

  Incidents like this were common in midst of the war on the border, and it only further inflamed men like Jackson Bishop.

  The guerrillas were successfully driven out of Missouri, and the young men became fragmented over time as they rendezvoused in Texas. While Quantrill opted to travel to Kentucky, Jackson Bishop, along with Jesse James, continued on with Archie Clement (1846-1866) who had refused to surrender. Jackson was forced to surrender in May 1865.

A Family Divided: Thomas Bishop

  Jackson’s younger brother, Thomas, born in 1842, chose a different path before the war that demonstrates how the Civil War was oftentimes “brother against brother.” Thomas joined his older brother, Tennessee in California in lieu of staying with his family in Jackson County. 

  In October 1861, Thomas Bishop enlisted in the 6th California Infantry. Within two months his time as a Union soldier was spent laid up in a hospital bed. He had contracted syphilis. Thomas spent until August 1862 in and out of hospitals, “incapacitated to perform the duties of a soldier” due to syphilis, chronic dysentery and rheumatism “of a serious character.” 

  Due to his illness, he was discharged from service; however, he reenlisted in September 1863. His time as a soldier was spent mostly in New Mexico, but his service was short-lived. He deserted in April 1864, likely returning home to Missouri a short time later.

A Showdown on Kansas City’s Streets

  Although it’s hard to imagine today, part of picking up the pieces after the Civil War included offering amnesty to those who fought against the Union. In addition, most people who months earlier fought on opposite sides were able to return home and resume their lives as neighbors.

  Reconstruction required that partisan ideas were pushed to the side in order to reorganize the Southern states. Missouri had remained neutral during the war, but the men who had served in the Confederacy were banned from ever serving in office. This left room for the Republican party and Unionists to take control. 

  There were some who had a harder time returning to “normalcy.” After bitter fighting as bushwhackers, men such as Frank and Jesse James, Cole Younger and Archie Clement chose to target Unionists. On February 13, 1866, these men along with other former bushwhackers robbed the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Mo. in the middle of the day, successfully taking about $60,000. This was the first robbery attributed to the infamous James-Younger gang.

  There were other less-publicized incidents involving violence and robbery. At the end of June 1866, an immigrant train heading west near the Shawnee Mission was robbed. Major Ransom had taken a job as clerk of the circuit court, and as part of his job, he had issued an arrest of some men in Independence. Although Jackson was allegedly not named, he was “offended” that his old commander would target his friends.

  On July 21, 1866, Jackson Bishop set his sights on his own form of retribution. As Major Ransom headed home and was walking near 7th and Main St., Jackson Bishop came riding up with at least two other men. Jackson appeared drunk. One report indicated that Jackson asked Ransom whether he had threatened to kill him, and Ransom stated the war was over and he had no plans to kill anyone.

  Jackson Bishop drew his gun, and along with his companions, shot Ransom through the nose, grazed his cheek and shot him through his leg. The damage to his nose caused his face to “differ somewhat from a perfect Grecian outline.” Major Ransom was able to narrowly escape inside a nearby building as Jackson rode off.

  This event on the streets of Kansas City caused the deputy marshal, Charles F. Quest (1832-1916) to search for both the robbers of the immigrant train and for Jackson Bishop. Quest organized a posse at Independence. 

  On August 15, 1866, Quest ran across a group of men, including Jackson’s younger brother, Thomas F. Bishop. Certainly aware of the events of the prior weeks, Thomas wasn’t willing to cooperate; he “immediately threw himself behind his horse, and on the run, commenced firing on the Sheriff’s posse.” 

  Quest raised his gun and fired, killing Thomas Bishop on the spot.

  The young Thomas Bishop, a former Union officer, was killed likely defending his brother, a former bushwhacker.

  The family put Thomas to rest in a small cemetery at current-day 41st and Agnes, carefully etching “murdered by C. Quest” on his headstone. 

  The violence was far from over.

Georgetown, Colo. as it appeared in 1890.

Escape to Colorado

  Jackson Bishop was clearly a wanted man, so he headed back to Carter Co., Tenn. where he married Martha Ann Hull just months later. 

  By the early 1870s, Jackson had set up as a miner in Clear Creek Co., Colo. with brothers Samuel and John. Although successful in the business venture, Jackson couldn’t help but to divert back to his old ways. Described as “a notorious scamp and ringleader,” Jackson was charged in November 1873 with killing a rival miner but was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

  Mining was full of men who lived a little outside the law, and there were plenty of mining disputes over claims that inflamed them. On May 20, 1875, an ongoing dispute between Jackson and his group ended in murder.

  Jacob Snider, a 54-year-old banker, had financed another group which had allegedly infringed upon Jackson’s claim. The dispute went to court, and when things didn’t go Jackson’s way, he “was wrought up to a pitch little short of madness.”

  Jacob Snider was riding into Georgetown, Colo. when Jackson rode up to approach him. As Jackson approached a bridge by the town hall, he shot at Snider but missed. Snider retreated but wasn’t fast enough for the bushwhacker. Jackson approached on his horse and kicked Snider to the ground with a blow of his pistol. 

An illustration of the murder of Jacob Snider appeared in the Rocky Mountain News April 2, 1911.

  While Snider laid helpless on the ground, Jackson “fired at him with a navy revolver, the ball entering his skull and killing him instantly.”

 Shockingly, Jackson was able to quickly ride out of town and into the mountains without being stopped. Even though 20 men were after him and there was a $5,000 reward on his head, he slipped away undetected.

  Over the following months and years, sightings across the west all proved to not be Jackson. One report put him in California, but by June 1878, he had dropped off the earth.

  The men searching were closer than they could have ever known. Jackson had slipped away to Sonoma Co., Calif. onto a deserted cabin on his brother, Tennessee’s land. But Tennessee was planning on running for county sheriff, so after a few years, he asked him to leave.

Headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 4, 1875.

An Ongoing Friendship 

  In September 1876 while Jackson was on the run for murder, the James-Younger gang tried robbing a bank in Northfield, Minn. that led to the capture of Bob, Jim and Cole Younger. Jesse and his brother, Frank moved to Tennessee and lived peacefully for three years.

  Jackson never lost track of his old friend, Jesse James. He was a known “companion of the James boys in many of their freebooter expeditions,” although it is unclear as to what robberies he may have participated in. Likely inspired by a lack of cash, the James gang robbed the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis train seven miles east of Independence with around 15 masked men on October 8, 1879.

  A dispatch sent to Kansas City, allegedly sent by the robbers, read: “Blue Springs, Mo., Oct 8. We are boys that are hard to handle, and we’ll make it hot for the party that ever tries to take us.” It was signed, “Jack Bishop, Jim Connors, James Brothers, Cal. Carter, Flinn, Underwood, Jackson.” 

  Just as quickly as Jackson Bishop resurfaced in Missouri, he disappeared again. Although his whereabouts were known by his family, his presence in the public as Jackson Bishop all but vanished. Jackson turned into John Hall, a miner in Josephine Co., Ore. where he lived with his wife, Martha (now known as Mattie) and their children. 

  His days of crime and murder were over, and he died peacefully in his bed in 1914 at Grants Pass, Ore. of pneumonia at the age of 75.

Grants Pass, Ore. in 1885. This was the final home of Jackson Bishop, alias John Hall. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

A Headstone Tells Only Part of the Story

  Jackson, alias John Hall, did return to visit his old friends in Jackson County in 1898 as a part of one of the Quantrill reunions. 

  He likely continued to visit his family over the years, isolated in Oregon as a miner under a new name. When the old country cemetery where his brother, Thomas was buried in 1866 was being vacated, his body and his headstone were moved to Brooking Cemetery where its ominous message remains today. Curiously, the headstone may mark his death as murder, but his birthdate is off by seven years.

  Charles F. Quest, the retired deputy marshal whose name has stood the test of time on a headstone, took an unexpected trip before his death in 1916 with his grandson. “I went to the little graveyard and looked at my name on the tombstone,” Quest stated. “It didn’t make me angry; it only made me sad. Those were terrible days, and I was doing my duty.”

  The duty of some men like Quest and Ransom and the vengeance of others like Jackson and Jesse James splashed the headlines post-Civil War. And, it is stories such as this that remind us of deep divisions of the Civil War and the Wild West.

Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read more of the stories, go to

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