HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF BRISTOL
A great portion of this world's history has no more enduring form than tradition. It is handed down from father to son, liable to perish altogether; or, by exaggeration or the forgetfulness of the narrators, fall into the forms of myths and mystery. And yet, incidents which pertain to "the times of old" - "which our fathers have told " - often wake a deeper interest in our breasts than any thing which is ordinarily deemed worthy of a place on the written page of history.
Before the settlement of this town by the whites, the Senecas, in their proud independence, roamed over these hills, and along the banks of these streams. Here were broad fields cultivated by their hands, and the early settlers found much of the country stripped of its forests and ready for the plow.
These aboriginal inhabitants were a numerous and well established people. This, was their home. Here they built their villages, and here they buried their dead. Here dwelt their aged warriors, their wives and little ones while the young men went abroad for wider hunting grounds and the strifes of war. And even here, council fires have doubtless gleamed, the noise of battle has been heard, and these heavens have been lighted up by the torch of war.
In the summer of 1687, the French, then in possession of Canada, fitted out an expedition against the Senecas, who were supposed to stand in the way of the fulfillment of their ultimate designs for the possession of territory within the present limits of the United States. This expedition was under the command of Count De Nonville and, including friendly Indians, embraced a force of nearly 2,600 men.
July 12th, 1687, they landed at Irondequoit Bay, and two days after, a severe battle was fought between them and the Senecas in the present town of Victor, where there was a large Indian village. The French were victorious; and the Indians committed their village to the flames and fled.
Two other villages shared a similar fate - one near West Mendon, and the other in the present village of Avon. The historian says: "In all these villages we found horses, cattle, poultry and an abundance of swine. The country which is the most beautiful, level and charming in the world."
All these things accomplished little else than to intensify the hatred of the red man for things French.
The compact made between the Indians and the Dutchmen at Fort Orange in 1617, with no high-sounding professions and for no higher purpose than the promotion of trade, fairly conditioned and for the most part honestly kept, was a key that, bequeathed to the English settlers, unlocked the gates of the Iroquois Confederacy to English immigration, and secured to the region it encompassed English civilization, the English tongue and the English faith.
Having mentioned these few incidents which pertain to a people that have passed away, we come to the settlement of this town by the whites, which was commenced in 1789. At that time all this portion of the country was embraced within the limits of the county of Montgomery, and the town of Whitestown.
The Town of Bristol was formed in January, 1789, and originally included all which now is Bristol and South Bristol. It was in the fourth range of the Phelps and Gorham surveys. It was purchased from Phelps-Gorham by a company called the Dithon Company. In 1838, South Bristol was set off and separately organized. In 1848, a part of Bristol was annexed to Richmond, but in 1852 the strip was restored. The town derives its name from Bristol in Connecticut.
The settlement of the Town of Bristol began in 1788, at which time several brothers named Gooding came to the region, made an improvement in the northeast corner of the town, sowed wheat and turnips, and then, with the exception of Elnathan Gooding, all returned east to spend the winter and prepare for an early return in the next spring.
Wherefore, the honor of being the pioneer of this town naturally falls to Elnathan Gooding, whose long watch and wait appear to have been somewhat relieved by the presence of an Indian lad known as Jack Beary.
In 1789, William Gooding and family, accompanied by his three brothers, returned to the town and settled near the improvement made the year before. In a year or two a number came from Dithon, Massachusetts, and Hatland, Connecticut. And indeed from this date the current of emigration began to flow steadily in this direction.
In 1793, "The Genesee Country" was supposed to contain 7,000 inhabitants, in 1795, 15,000 inhabitants.
While the town of Bristol was formed in 1789, it seems not to have been fully organized until 1797; the first supervisor was William Gooding.
The early settlement of Bristol was indeed rapid, and in fact the town reached its maximum population in 1830. The census of that year gave it 2,952, but in 1838 South Bristol was taken off; hence, in 1840 the number was reduced to 1,953. Since the last mentioned year the number of inhabitants has been steadily reduced, the result of the same causes that have operated to decrease the population in the majority of interior towns in this State. We find that a half century witnessed a diminution of Bristol's population by more than 500. Its location is such that the building up of large villages or trading centers is an impossibility.
But there were hardships to be endured in the settlement of this country. On one occasion, a man went to Geneva to obtain 50 lbs. of flour for his family, for which he paid $2.25. At another time the little colony became so straitened for provisions that they launched a boat at Canandaigua and went eastward, several days, to meet and hasten forward Gen. Fellows' boat coming west with fresh supplies. Wheat was carried on horse-back - there being no road but a foot path or Indian trail - to a mill which had been erected on the present site of the city of Rochester. Corn was beaten in large wooden mortars.
Sickness, especially agues and fevers, were prevalent in the early settlement of this country. And there was an impression that no one could go to the Genesee River and spend a night without great hazard of a fatal and prevalent fever called the "Genesee Fever."
The Indians sometimes assumed a very menacing attitude toward the whites and caused them great fear. At one time as they were going to Canandaigua to treat with Government Commissioners they declared if the treaty did not please them they would take the scalps of all the whites.
But these hardships were of comparatively short duration. Such was the policy of the General Government, the liberality of the State, the fertility of the soil and the enterprise of the inhabitants, that they soon surrounded themselves with the comforts of much older settlements.
The early settlers were a people well educated, civil in their morals, peaceable in their temper and kind toward each other. United in their religious principles, Congregational in their profession, strict Calvinistic in faith, doctrine and practice.
The principal families of those early days were Deacon George Codding with his five sons, William Gooding with his four brothers, two families by the name of Lowe, two Wilders, Alden Sears, Samuel Malory,
several by the name of Simmons and Spencer.
The people were religious, keeping the Sabbath by holding reading and praying meetings. Many had been members of churches in New England, while others had undoubtedly entertained skeptical sentiments. Religious opportunities may have been prized highly by some of the mothers and the loss of them sometimes bemoaned by the larger number of the men, but it is probable that the flame of piety burned low, though in Bristol it was by no means so nearly extinguished as in some of these new communities. The visits of ministers before 1793 must have been exceedingly rare.
In 1793, the Rev. Zadoc Hunn came from the same vicinity in Massachusetts that our pioneers did, and settled upon a farm in Canandaigua, close to the line of Bristol township. He often met with the people here, sometimes preaching to them. Mr. Hunn was not a pastor, but an earnest Christian worker, a faithful evangelist. He assisted in organizing most of the Congregational churches in this vicinity. His influence was notable and his memory will be cherished for many years.
History of the First Congregational Church of Bristol Valley
Although Congregational services were held in the town of Bristol as early as 1793, by the Rev. Zadoc Hunn, Rev. John Smith and Evangelist Seth Wiliston, the First Congregational Church was not organized until the month of June, 1799, which was brought about through the efforts of Hunn and Wiliston. The first members were Isaac Hunn, George and Sarah Codding, Ephraim and Lydia Wilder, Nathaniel and Hannah Fisher, Chauncey and Polly Allen, Marcius and Amerilus Marsh, William and Lydia Gooding, Samuel and Phebe Mallory, Selah Pitts, James Gooding, Alden Sears, Thomas Vincent and a Mr. Foster.
The first edifice exclusively for the worship of God in "The Genesee Country" was erected by this church in 1795. It was a log building constructed of unhewn logs raised to a sufficient height to admit of a gallery, and furnished with a very plain desk and seats.
It stood on what is now known as the Chauncey Taylor place. In the year 1810, it was deemed advisable to build a new meeting house which was completed in 1812 and dedicated in 1814. A permanent sale of pews was made in order to secure finances with which to erect the new building. Those below the gallery brought $5,875 and the gallery $999, a total of $6,874. The original pew owners were as follows:
George Codding Jr.
Zenas Briggs Jr.
George Codding Jr.
George Codding Jr.
William T. Codding
Francis J. Warollo
George Codding Jr.
Ephraim Wilder and George Codding Jr.
Ephraim Wilder and George Codding Jr
George Codding Jr.
George Lee and James Gooding
Asa T. Bissel
Samuel B. Warren 63.00
Ephraim Wilder 57.00
Anthony Lowe 23.50
Francis Baxter 21.00
James Bowen 52.00
Seth Goodwin 54.00
Simeon Crosby 61.00
George Codding 65.00
The building, standing on ground (1 1/2 acres) donated by Anthony Lowe, was refitted in 1832, and again in 1846 was thoroughly repaired. In 1875, it was altered and redecorated. In 1890 the pulpit, which was of high colonial type, was removed and a desk installed, the gallery removed and it was redecorated gain at this time. In 1907 the building was raised and painted, and new carpets laid. In 1825, a new roof was added as well as an entrance and portico to the kitchen and the church buildings were complete renovated and redecorated. The church sheds were erected in 1907 but have outlived their usefulness, as very few horses are driven to church at this time. Altogether the church building is in a remarkable state of preservation and it might be well to add that the original structure from outward appearances still remains.
The parsonage, a ten-room house, was built sometime about the middle of the last century. From time to time it too has been papered and redecorated. It has a pipeless furnace, is lighted with natural gas and very comfortable. The furnace was installed in 1923 and at that time a galvanized cistern replaced the old wooden one. In 1925 it was generally repaired and redecorated, a splendid porch was added at this time.
The church has had a long line of pastors. It has frequently been said that this church is a school for preachers, many leaving to enter into large and substantial pastorates in other communities. As has been previously mentioned, the Rev. Joseph Grover was the first pastor. In July, 1799, he visited the society and preached to them as a missionary. He received a call to become the pastor in October and accepted. He came to the town with his family February 24, 1800, and was installed June 11, of the same year. Mr. Grover performed pastoral duty about fourteen ears, and having become incapacitated for service by infirmity was relieved, at his own request, but remained an associate pastor till his death, July 11, 1826, aged eighty-three years. A grand old man of God, who builded better than he knew.
In June, 1814, Rev. Ezekiel Chapman began his labors with the church, and was installed colleague pastor October 13. The ordination sermon was preached by Rev. Griswold. Mr. Chapman remained till March, 1820, when at his own request he was dismissed.
A year or two passed without a regular pastor. Rev. Aaron C. Collins met with the people frequently. Rev. Archy B. Lawrence supplied the pulpit from May, 1822, for a brief interval. Other preachers were Rev. Edwin Bronson, Warren Day and S.C. Brown.
Ebenezer Raymond began his labors October 1824 and continued as stated supply till 1830. In the spring of that year William P. Jackson began, and after a short time was succeeded by Edwin Bronson and he by a Rev. Mr. Bryson.
Rev. William Jackson was installed pastor February 19, 1834, and dissolved pastoral relations August 23, 1836. He was succeeded by Rev. Eliphalet A. Platt, who continued his ministration till April, 1841, and was followed by Rev. Hiram Harris, who began April 25, 1841, and closed his pastorate in 1843.
In the fall of 1843, Rev. E.C. Winchester preached to the society. He ultimately became the pastor and so continued till March, 1846. In August, 1846, Rev. Timothy Stowe began his ministration. He was followed in April, 1850, by Rev. H.B. Pierpont, who preached on year.
The succession of pastors was numerous for a few years, this being the time preceding the Civil War, when there were many conflicting opinions regarding Abolition. It might be interesting to note here, that at one time there were more than 300 slaves in Ontario County.
There follows the names of pastors: Rev. Tyler, 1851; Rev. Lewis P. Frost, 1852-1854; Rev. Silas C. Brown, one year; Rev. Jeremiah Woodruff, one year; Rev. Harry E. Woodcock, one year; Rev. A. Spencer, May, 1858, to the fall of 1859; Rev. Ezra Jones, October, 1859, till 1861.
In April, 1862, the Rev. Milton Butolph came and remained during the war until April, 1866. It is said of him "That he was an ardent supporter of the Federal Government, preaching patriotic sermons and exhorting the people to support the cause of anti-slavery." Many enlisted in the army from the block in front of the church.
Rev. S.M. Day served two years as pastor 1867-1869. Rev. Nathaniel T. Yeomans remained five years, 1869-1874. In June, 1874, Rev. William Dewey came and continued for seven years closing his pastorate in 1881, the year Christian Endeavor was first organized.
Again the church had a number of pastors over a few years. Rev. Samuel Manning, 1882-1884; Rev. Rufus A. Wheelock, 1885-1887; the church was without a pastor for one year, when Rev. Wheelock came back and served from 1888-1890.
In 1891 the Rev. J.T. Badgeley came and continued till 1893, Rev. E.V. Ostrander following the same year and remaining till 1894. Under these two men the young people's work was organized and flourished for some time. Rev. G.A. Chatfield preached from 1894 till 1896, when he was succeeded by Rev. Aurilian H. Post, who remained six years leaving in 1901 after the Spanish-American War.
Rev. H.L. Hubbard supplied from 1901 to 1903; Rev. Wm. Walton, 1904-1906; Rev. Hosmer McKoon, 1906-1907; Rev. T. Smith,1907-1910.
In 1911, Rev. H. Clay Searles took up his work and was succeeded by Rev. Hugh F. Graham in 1914 and was followed in 1916 by Rev. Chas. Pusey, who only remained a little over a year. Rev. Mr. Searles returned in 1918 for a second pastorate and buried his wife during his term of service. She will be remembered for her earnest work among the young ladies of the church.
For a time the church was without a shepherd of the flock when finally Charles A. Paille was persuaded to leave his Y.M.C.A. work (he being the Secretary of Ontario County at the time), and take up the work of preaching. He began early in 1921 and was ordained on June 8, 1923, he leaving January 1, 1924.
J. Raymond Mills served as stated supply from the fall of 1924 until the spring of 1927. Rev. Halsey Carstens was called and took up his work in the fall of 1927, remaining till the spring of 1928.
Rev. Charles A. Paille, after an absence of five years in Endicott, returned to take up a second pastorate October 1, 1928, having received a call in July. He is the present pastor.
During the history of the church, five men have been ordained to the Gospel ministry. They are as follows: Rev. Ezekiel Chapman, June, 1814; Rev. William L. Jackson, June, 1834; Rev. George A. Chatfield, April 2, 1895; Aurilian H. Post, October 28, 1896; and Rev. Charles A. Paille, June 8, 1923.
In 1823 the church was in care of the Ontario Presbytery but withdrew in 1844 and joined the Ontario Association of Congregational churches and has remained a Congregational church, although it never relinquished its right of congregational rule during the period of Presbyterial connection.
DEACONS OF THE CHURCH
The first deacon of the church was George Codding, who came from the church at East Bloomfield. The record of that church reads: "At a church meeting at Ehud Hopkins', October 14, 1797, voted: That the sacrament of the Lord's Supper be administered every twelfth Sabbath; voted, that George Codding be deacon of the church." His memory will be kept ever green by the bequest he made to the support of this church.
James Gooding was chosen in 1803; Samuel Crosby, 1806; Marcius Marsh, 1815; Theodore Brown and Stephen A. Codding, 1832; J. Ingraham, 1837; Ezra Luther, 1838.
Dewitt C. Sears was chosen in May, 1872; N.W. Randall, February 1887; A.W. Beach, P.P. Bliss, April 1887; H.W. Sears, 1897; John C. Walker, 1910; E.J. Springsteen, 1915; Harry W. Bliss, 1918; Addison B. Parmele, 1919; Spencer G. Sisson, 1920; Alfred J. Henish, 1922; Lester P. Bliss, 1923. The deacons at the present time are the last two named.
These men have borne the burden of church work down through the years. Many can bear willing witness to their sustaining words and helpful hands.
Whenever our nation needed men to support the cause of Freedom, Patriotism and Humanity, this community has answered the call, and so we find the members of the Congregational church represented in the
service of their country.
Among those who assisted in organizing this church were veterans of the Revolutionary War, Captain Pitts probably being the most prominent. The church was built during the War of 1812 and in the great Civil struggle its members were well represented.
The Spanish-American War again finds the Congregational church of Bristol on the roll of honor. The present pastor, Rev. Charles A. Paille, is a veteran of that struggle.
And now we come to the "World War" and at the very outset we find our young men eager to "make the world safe for Democracy." As a result two of our boys gave their lives on the altar of patriotism, both having been killed in action "overseas."
Over the chancel of the church a bronze memorial tablet has been placed sacred to the memory of Corporal Murray L. Savage and Wagoner Howard L. Pierce.
Howard L. Pierce enlisted in the 11th Field Artillery, June 15, 1917, and was sent to Camp Harry Jones at Douglas, Ariz. He sailed for France sometime in July, 1918, and was killed at Beaufort on November 8, 1918, and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfacon, Department of the Meuse, France.
Murray L. Savage was drafted in September 1917, and assigned to Company "G" 328th Infantry, 82nd Division. After spending a period in training in the camps on this side, he departed for the front in the summer of 1918. He was a "bunkie" of the famous Sergt. York and was killed in the "Great American Offensive" on October 8, 1918.
On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
Gone? In a grander form they rise.
Dead? We may clasp their hands in ours,
And catch the light of clearer eyes,
And wreathe their brows with immortal flowers.