Colorado Springs family celebrates 135th annual reunion

August 5, 2013 Updated: August 5, 2013 at 7:15 am
photo - Fred Bishop's father,        Bishop, was one of twin brothers to start the Bishop family reunion in 1878. The Bishop family reunion for the 135th time on Sunday, August 4, 2013 in Bear Creek Park. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Fred Bishop's father, Bishop, was one of twin brothers to start the Bishop family reunion in 1878. The Bishop family reunion for the 135th time on Sunday, August 4, 2013 in Bear Creek Park. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

Most family reunions occur on holidays, but for the Bishops, their annual get-together dates back more than a century, to the first pair of twins born and registered in Colorado Springs.

A rambunctious and jolly group, the Bishops can trace their roots to John Edward "Edd" Bishop and Oliver Fredrick "Fred" Bishop Sr., born Aug. 19, 1878. This year, 162 family members - from 2 months old to 94 years old and spanning four generations - came together Sunday at Bear Creek Park for the 135th reunion.

In 1919, at their 41st reunion, the attendees decided on a specific date when they'd hold their gatherings: the first Sunday in August. Although the settings throughout Colorado Springs have changed over the years, the family keeps coming back from as far as Texas, Nebraska, Alabama, Virginia and even Connecticut to celebrate its heritage.

There's no such thing as a time-travel machine, but spending an afternoon talking with Oliver Fredrick Bishop Jr. is close. At the age of 92, "Uncle Fred" still remembers being a boy at a farm in Calhan living through the Depression and says those tougher and simpler times hold his dearest memories.

"When I got old enough, I used to milk cows, harvest beans and do all kinds of farm work," he said. "There were no tractors in my day, so we used to tie up three six-horse teams and plow the land. It was hard work, but I loved it."

At the reunion, his 80-year-old brother Tilman, who was a paperboy for The Gazette in sixth grade, was also present. His cousins, 93-year-old Everitt and 94-year-old Lloyd Baber, were the oldest in attendance.

Tina Bishop joined the family in 1996 when she married Chad, Uncle Fred's grandson, and moved to Colorado Springs from Georgia. In 2008, she took over maintaining the family genealogy and organizing the reunions.

"It has been an absolute honor to carry on all the work and dedication Uncle Fred and his wife used to do," Tina said. "I get homesick, but these are my family here, and they've embraced me from the very first day."

Facebook, Tina said, has been one of the greatest ways to keep the family connected and updated on plans and events. With the help of other Bishop mothers, sisters and wives, Tina is planning to compile a recipe book that will feature the family's most popular dishes, such as "Depression Fruit Cake."

During the Depression, goods such as sugar were hard to obtain so any fruit would come in handy to sweeten cakes. At this year's reunion, raisins and walnuts were used to make two delicious cakes.

Relaxing under the shade of a tree, Uncle Fred remembered the beginnings of Colorado Springs, when the courthouse was the one-stop shop for any resident's paperwork or business and the city's population was less than 10 percent of what it is now.

"We used to be friends and neighbors, everyone shared and knew each other," he said. "Now we are just people."

One by one, every relative stood in line to kiss and hug Uncle Fred as the reunion wrapped up.

"I'm just happy that after all these years, everyone still cares enough to stop by, at least once per year, and come together," he said. "I really hope that they'll still keep it up, even after myself and the other old-timers are gone."

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