1863 - 1938
Class of 2010
Contributor to the Sport
John Compton was born September 28, 1863 in Flint, Michigan.
At age seven, his family moved to
Nebraska, where the young Will
lived among the Sioux Indians. From the Sioux he learned the
ways of making bows and arrows, and of hunting with these
weapons. He also gained much wisdom and learned humility, traits
that would influence his pattern of life for many years to come.
In September of 1877, at the age of 14, he shot his first deer.
Later that same year he took another deer with his bow. In the
next few years Will would take up to 20 deer, four antelope, two
elk and a bison, all within a 100 mile radius of his home, and
all before his 20th birthday.
Will Compton spent many years
living and working in Nebraska,
Wyoming and Oregon. His interest in archery grew each
year and would soon become the most important force in his life.
While working in Montana he
became aware of the bowyer F.S. Barnes who lived in
Forest Grove, Oregon.
In 1894 he moved to Forest Grove and went to work for Barnes.
From Barnes he learned how to make the English style of longbow,
and how and where to harvest yew wood.
In 1913 F.S. Barnes passed away and Compton,
quite confident in his abilities as a bowyer, packed up over
1,000 billets of yew he had harvested and moved to
California. Some time later, after
Compton had met and become friends with Saxton Pope,
Pope wrote that Compton had, “...an unlimited supply of
Not long after he
arrived in California, Compton went to meet this wild Indian known as Ishi at
the Museum of
in San Francisco.
Upon entering the museum, Will met Dr. Saxton Pope and the two
men spent much time talking with Ishi. During the course of that
one meeting Dr. Pope became even more interested in archery and
bowhunting and soon the three, Ishi, Compton and Pope,
became close friends. Pope, up until this time, had only known
how to make Indian bows that Ishi had taught him. From Will he
learned how to make the English style longbow, a weapon that Dr.
Pope quickly became proficient with, and one he would use for
his entire bowhunting career.
Will attended an event called the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
While he was in a room that displayed Japanese archery equipment
and rituals, he chanced upon a handsome young man who happened
to be Art Young. The two men shared their similar interests in
archery and Will, who was 52 years old at the time, took Young
under his wing and taught him the art of shooting a bow.
Will took Art to meet Ishi and Dr. Pope at the museum. The four
became inseparable and spent the next year together making and
shooting bows, and hunting the woods. It was during this time
when Pope and Young coined the term “Chief” for Will after they
had learned of his Sioux upbringing. After Ishi died in 1916
Compton, Pope and Young continued to hunt
together taking many birds and larger game. But while Pope and
Young started turning their interests to bigger game and far
away places, Will was content to stay in California and hunt the local animal
populations, as well as to teach others the ways of the bow and
passed away in 1938 at the age of 75. Because of his influence in
archery, the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) created
the Compton Medal of Honor in 1947.
This is awarded to
those individuals who have proven themselves as not only
excellent archers, but strong supporters of the sport of
William “Chief” Compton
was instrumental in the future of bowhunting. His skills and
chance meetings helped forge one of the most well-known and
important friendships of modern archery Saxton Pope and Art
The COMPTON TRADITIONAL BOWHUNTERS founded in 1999 to encourage
traditional bowhunting was named after “Chief Compton.”
Notes of Interest:
Bowhunter and Close Friend of Saxton Pope, Art Young, and
First Deer with a Bow at Age 14; Arrowed Additional Deer,
Elk, Antelope, and Bison Before His 20th Birthday
Befriended Art Young and
Taught Him Bow Shooting Skills
Northern California Game Hunts with Young, Pope, and Ishi
NFAA’s Compton Medal of Honor Was Created to Recognize His
Contributions to Archery
Compton Traditional Bowhunters, Created in 1999, Encourages
Traditional Archery Hunting and Values