History of Idaho, Gem of the Mountains, Volume 2, by James H. Hawley
S. J. Clarke Publishing Co, 1920, Page 997-999
John Bivens, a farmer of Fruitland, was born in Pike county, Missouri, May 27, 1854, his parents being David M. and Honor (Reyley) Bivens, the former a native of Tennessee and the latter of Illinois. However, the mother went with her parents to Missouri and was married there. David M. Bivens was a farmer and stock raiser, devoting his entire life to that occupation. In 1862 he came to Idaho, crossing the plains with the Atchison train, of which he was a lieutenant. They passed through Idaho the same year and went to Oregon, laying out the site for the town of Union, located between Baker City and La Grande. In the fall of 1863 they returned to Idaho and settled near Falk, in Payette county.
They had but one encounter with the Indians in crossing the plains, one of their company being killed, but the Indians paid a heavy score for the life they took. With the return of the Bivens family to Idaho the father established a stage station at Weiser and also one at Falk, where later the family made their home. In 1864 the William Stuart family also located in the same locality and the Stuart and Bivens families established the first school in southern Idaho. Both families were connected with the cattle business on an extensive scale and as the ranges were open they had thousands of head. Each spring saw them on the road east to the nearest railroad station in Nebraska with hundreds of head of cattle which they had prepared for the market.
In 1876 David M. Bivens made a trip to Mexico and brought back with him some alfalfa seed, thereby introducing the crop into this state. To raise that product it was necessary to have water, so accordingly his son, John Bivens, began the building of an irrigation canal, which at that time was called the Bivens and Pence ditch, but is now known as the Lower Payette ditch. They built about sixteen miles of ditch and the system has since been extended until the ditch is now thirty-four miles in length and serves more than two hundred farmers. At one time in the early days the family received a great scare about the Indians. A man was seen lying in the sagebrush apparently dead and it was reported to the settlers that Ben Bivens was out there dead, with the addition that no doubt he was killed by the Indians.
The settlers went out in fear to hunt for the body but upon reaching the spot found the man alive and beside his camp fire. He had been drunk and was sleeping off his intoxication. Ben Bivens was found at his camp in good health. The day before the outbreak of the Bannock war John Bivens was carrying the mail from Payette to Indian valley and while stopping at Sand Hollow to eat his lunch an Indian overtook him and pulled a gun on him, but Mr. Bivens managed to get his horse between himself and the Indian and get out his own gun, whereupon the Indian decided to engage in conversation. He then rode along with Mr. Bivens to the Indian valley. Mr. Bivens, however, was convinced by the actions of the Indian that trouble was brewing and advised the settlers to that effect. During the Bannock war the Indians stole a large number of horses, many of which belonged to Mr. Bivens, who was one of a party of ten who pursued them through the Indian valley to Council valley, at which place five of the party started on the return trip, while the other five followed the Indians into the Weiser canyon.
One of these men was William White, who was captain of the party, and all were filled but a Mr. Keetley, who was badly wounded and was without ammunition. He saw there was nothing for him to do but roll over the rocks and down the river bank into the river, and , swimming up the stream instead of down, he thus saved his life. The Indians made a close search for him but he managed to evade them. He remained in hiding until after dark and then worked down the stream in the water, never touching the bank, for a distance of twenty-five miles and extending over a period of three days. Although severely wounded he immediately went to the fort and reported the trouble with the Indians.
A message was sent to the lieutenant governor of Boise, Mr. Bivens acting as messenger and making the trip alone. He delivered his message to the governor and troops were dispatched to Payette, where Peter Pence, Mr. Bivens and ten other men accompanied them to the scene of the murders and buried the dead white men but found no Indians. The parents of Mr. Bivens passed through all the hardships and privations of these pioneer times and the troubles incident thereto. The father died in 1883 at the age of fifty-four years and the mother passed away in 1899 at the advanced age of eighty-nine years, the death of both occurring in the Payette valley. During the Bannock war, while a freight train of about twenty wagons were camped under a bluff just north of New Plymouth on the Payette river, they were surprised by the Indians, who attempted to steal their horses and did succeed in getting ten head.
A battle followed, Mr. Pence and Mr. Bivens being of the posse who pursued the Indians. In the morning they found traces of blood, which assured them that their weapons had not missed their aim. They tracked the Indians by their footprints and one among them made a print eighteen inches long. He was known as Big Foot. In the morning, at the top of a bluff, they found three newly made graves. They followed the Indians to Indian Grove, north of Weiser, and there found the horses grazing. Here Mr. Pence ordered caution. They formed a circle around the Grove and when the Indians found they were trapped they made a run for their horses and in the skirmish that followed two Indians were killed, but they got away with six of the ten horses. Big Foot was so swift a runner that he could outrun a horse and so ran the six horses into the Snake river and swam them across, carrying his rifle on the back of his neck, and as soon as he reached the opposite shore he discharged his rifle at his pursuers. Such were some of the conditions which the early settlers faced, making the history of that period a lasting memory to all who participated therein.
On the 12th of January, 1884, Mr. Bivens was married to Miss Fannie E. Stuart, who was born in Sullivan county, Missouri, and in 1882 came to the Payette valley to be with her sister, Mrs. J. B. Nesbit. She passed away at Payette, July 6, 1918. She had become the mother of six children, three of whom are deceased, Walter, John and Albert. The three living are as follows: George S., who was with the Ambulance Corps of the United States army, is still in France. The engine was blown off his car but he was uninjured. Emily F. is at home. Jessie E. is the wife of Alonzo H. Heap, who is a farmer near Falk. He was born at Montpelier, Bear Lake county, Idaho, his parents having been pioneers of this state. By her first husband, J. P. Schall, Mrs. Heap had a daughter, Josephine E. Schall, who is now a pupil in the sixth grade.
Mr. Bivens is living on a ranch of twelve acres at Fruitland and has witnessed notable changes in the country and its development, bearing his part at all times in the work of general progress and improvement. He made government surveys and helped to survey the railroad from Weiser to Salmon Meadows. He furnished the meat to the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company when they were building the line through this state. In connection with the public life of the community, he has also figured conspicuously. He served on the school board of Payette and for two terms represented his district in the territorial legislature, aiding in framing the early laws of the commonwealth.
It is to his daughter, Mrs. Heap, that we are indebted for the interesting material concerning her father and pioneer times. Mrs. Heap was born at Payette and there acquired her education. Having been reared in Idaho when it was a frontier region, she relates many an interesting story and reminiscence concerning the early days. She tells of a man by the name of Ward, who was a bronco buster, and while breaking a horse the hackamore came off and he naturally therefore could not manage the animal. He accordingly called to Mr. Bivens and an Indian buster; "Oh, please corral me." Every time that he would attempt to get off the horse would strike at him with his front feet. One day when Mrs. Heap had been riding she passed the house of Tom White, who was sitting on his front porch loading his old muzzle loader gun. She asked him what was up and he replied; "A bear has eaten all of my pigs and now he has begun on the garden, so I am going after him."
That night they heard the man shooting and after waiting for a long time for his return went out to look for him. They found him all out of breath. He said that he had been kicked. In the morning they found the bear dead and when they skinned him they found his hide so full of carpet tacks that they could hardly get it off. This accounted for the kick, for instead of loading the gun with shot, in the dark the man had used a package of carpet tacks. Payette county certainly owes much to the Bivens family for what they have done in the development and upbuilding of this region and there is no one who has been more closely associated with the district from pioneer times to the present.