Indian Tales of Bigfoot

By Ron Marlow

His name was Starr Wilkinson, son of a white father, Archer Wilkinson, who died by hanging, and the Cherokee Native African-American descendent mother. He had only a quarter Indian blood in him, but he proudly considered himself an Indian. The man was big, about 6' 9" tall, and weighed about 275 pounds of muscle and bone. His hands were big and his feet measured 18" from heal to toe.

He was shy around women. One tale tells of his leaving his native Oklahoma, traveling to Oregon by wagon train. In the same wagon was a petite girl that attracted him. His awkward advances caught the eye of a fellow passenger, who pulled out of gun and shot him in the shoulder. The infuriated Bigfoot grabbed the man by the throat, choked him to death, stripped him of his belongings, and when the wagon stopped to water the horses in the Snake River, he tossed the body in and fled the scene.

Thus his life of attacking and robbing miners and settlers in their homes, as well as stage coaches and wagon trains in Idaho, began. His specialty was horses stealing, because of their trade value. Seldom riding one, it is said he could travel faster than a horse in a long run and could go into places that a horse would not go.

At dawn, at Bluff Station, near the present New Plymouth, a freight train of 20 wagons was camped on the Payette River. Horses were being exchanged for fresh ones, when the drivers were surprised by Indians who rode off with ten head of horses. John Bivens, Al Jackson, Sam Pool, Lee Young and Peter Pence rode in pursuit. North of Weiser, the posse came upon the stolen horses. A gun battle ensued and two Indians were killed, but the third was a giant fellow who started running, herding the horses ahead of himself. The posse jumped back on their horses and galloped after the herd, but the riderless horses got to the Snake River ahead of them. The Indian drove the horses into the water and jumped in himself. He was last seen herding the horses up the bank on the other side. Dismounting, the posse checked the footprints. They were huge, twice the size of a normal man's print. It was Bigfoot.

In July 1868 an imported gunman, John W. Wheeler had some fine horses stolen, near Silver City. He learned that the thief and two Indian companions plan to hold up the stagecoach on the Boise-Silver City Road, south of the Snake River. Waiting in the brush, at the hold-up location, he saw the Indians coming. Firing, he killed one Indian and another took off running. Bigfoot came on standing up and demanding that Wheeler come out into the open. Wheeler stood up and fired. Bigfoot was hit and tried to run, but we shot twice more as he dropped his empty gun. Drawing his knife he lunged at Wheeler, who then emptied his rifle into Bigfoot's barrel-like chest. That didn't stop him! With his revolver, Wheeler broke the giant's leg and arm. That stopped him! As Bigfoot lay dying, Wheeler pulled out a pint of whiskey and the Indian finished it off before he died. Wheeler refused to collect the thousand dollar reward. There's an old superstition among thieves - that to collect a reward for a dead man who had been a fellow criminal, was to be haunted by him. Who would want to be haunted by Bigfoot?

Footnote: On August 22, 1974 at the site of Old Fort Boise, near Parma, a Monument was dedicated to Bigfoot. The Governor of Idaho, Cecil Andrus presided. Among the Idaho Indians of his time, Bigfoot was thought of as a kind of Robin Hood.

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© Independent Enterprise, Payette Idaho
First Printed in The Independent-Enterprise Newspaper, Payette, Idaho, Wednesday, March 21, 2001

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