of the

Town of South Bristol

Ontario County, NY

Source: History of Ontario County, New York, with illustrations and family sketches of some of the prominent men and families; edited by George S. Conover, compiled by Lewis Cass Alrich. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co. 1893. pp. 421-430.


On the 8th day of March, 1838, township eight of range four was separated from the old town of Bristol and given a distinct organization under the name of South Bristol, and being not only one of the younger towns of Ontario county, but the smallest in point of population. The principal trading centers of this town are the hamlets known as South Bristol, situate in the central part; Bristol Springs, located about a mile and a quarter west from the lake shore, and in the eastern central portion of the town; Woodville, a boat-landing at the head of the lake; and Seneca Point, in the northeast part of the town, a summer resort of much popularity among the many similar locations on the shores of the lake. Boswell's Corners and Cold Spring are also names of settled hamlets, but neither is of any special importance. We may state, however, that on the formation of this town a part of number eight in the third range was included within its boundaries, and except for this additional area South Bristol would have had no lake front.

In 1788 Gameliel Wilder purchased township eight, range four, from Phelps and Gorham, taking title (except to several reserved tracts) in the name of Prince Bryan, the latter a land speculator, but who afterward conveyed the town to Mr. Wilder. The reserved lands were sold to Captain Charles Williamson, and by him were subsequently transferred to the Hornby estate, and as such are represented by the agency of John Greig, the prominent early lawyer of Canandaigua. On becoming proprietor of this vast tract Wilder prepared a plan for its division into lots, but not until 1794 was the survey made.

In 1789 the pioneer settlement of the town began, the first honor in connection therewith naturally falling to Gamaliel Wilder, although he was accompanied by quite a colony of pioneer Yankees. Besides Wilder were his sons, Daniel, Jonas, Joseph and Asa, Theophilus Allen and wife, Jonathan, John and Nathan Allen, Jeremiah Spicer, Aaron Rice, Jared Tuttle, Elisha Parish, and a few others whose names have not been preserved, as members of the colony. These families located in various sections of the town and at once set about clearing and improving their lands and building houses and other necessary buildings. In 1791 Gameliel Wilder built a grist mill, and a saw-mill was about the same time put in operation by the worthy pioneer. Associated with the grist-mill was also the indispensable distillery.

In the same manner may also be mentioned the names of other early settlers of South Bristol, among whom were Nathan Hatch, Pliny Hayes (wagon maker at an early day) and his brother. Hayes also operated the first carding-mill in town. Erastus Hill was an early settler, also an early schoolmaster. Nathan Hatch settled prior to 1800. David Gilbert was an early settler, as also was James Wilder, the pioneer blacksmith, and Warren Brown, Thomas Lee, Ephraim Brown, the wheelwright, the Kaufman family, Phineas Perkins, Deacon John Forbes, Richard Bishop, Abraham Roberts, Levi Austin and Mr. Fay are also to be mentioned in the same connection.

Pioneer Nathan Hatch settled before 1800. He had a large family of children, his sons being Nathan, George, John, Thomas, Charles, Lyman and Luman, whose coming added much to the town's population and enterprise. Other settlers were Aaron Spencer (1790), Nicholas Burbee, Capt. Reuben Gilbert, Deacon Parmelee, "Lawyer" Butler, Mr. Reed, Gideon Beaman, James Corel, John Wood, Ezra Wood, Gains Randall, Deacon and Jonathan Forbes, Jeremiah Spicer, Luke Coye, Thomas Francisco, Ezra Parmele, Clark Worden, David Knickerbocker, Mr. Maloy, John Perry, Thomas Standish, the Loveridge family, Amos Miner, jr., Phineas Lee, Lucius Lincoln, Thomas Lee, Richard Ingraham, Jonathan Green, Dr. David Williams, Anson Parrish, William Gates, John Fox, Harrison Salisbury, Pitts Walker, Jeremiah Spicer, Eleazer Parker, David Parker, Jonathan and Jacob Frost, Hazard Wilcox, Caleb McNair, William Dunn, John Lee, Erastus and Cyrus Hill, Franklin Pierce, Benj. Wilcox. There were undoubtedly other early settlers in the town whose names are equally worthy of mention, but through the inaccuracy and insufficiency of records cannot not be ascertained. However, of the early settlement of this town it is to be said that while the first inhabitants were as enterprising and industrious as those of other localities, they were possessed of less means, therefore were compelled to work harder to gain a permanent foothold and provide for their families.

As has been stated, South Bristol was not set off until 1838, and its population, as shown by the census of 1840, was then about 1,400. In 1840 it was 1,375, since which time it has fluctuated constantly, as will be seen from the following statement taken from the census reports: Population in 1840, 1,375; 1850, 1,120; 1860, 1,216; 1870, 1,218; 1880, 1,327; 1890, 1,225. It will be observed, however, that there has not been the same proportionate decrease in population in this town as is noticeable in some others of the county, the falling off in South Bristol in fifty years being only 150.

Referring again to some of the first events of the town, we may state that pioneer Gameliel Wilder built the first grist-mill, the first saw-mill, the first distillery, the first framed house, kept the first tavern, and was otherwise identified with local affairs so that he was the leading man of the town for many years. Eli Allen, born (1791) of the marriage of Theophilus Allen and Eliza Parrish, was the first white child born in the town. Ephraim Brown built a grist mill in 1805, which was succeeded by others on the same site for many years. George Wilcox kept the first store in town, it being near the locality known as Boswell's Corners. The first school house was built of logs, and Joanna Forbes and Eliza Parrish are said to have been the first teachers.

The western portion of South Bristol is devoted principally to general agricultural pursuits, and the land is of such a character and quality as to produce good returns to careful cultivation. During the last score or more of years, the lands in the eastern part of the town, which were formerly under general farm cultivation, have been turned into vineyards, for which the locality and soil are peculiarly adapted, and the returns of which are far in excess of anything that could be realized from the average farm. In fact the lake shore lands throughout the north and south extent of South Bristol have been changed into an almost continuous series of vineyards, well attended and carefully cultivated, while here and there, nestling comfortably in groves of forest trees, are numerous cottages, the summer homes of at last half a hundred business men and pleasure seekers. Within the town of Bristol, between the north line and the hamlet of Woodville, are dozens of landing-places, while at Seneca Point and Cook's Point are summer houses of some note. The hotel at Seneca Point is a large an well arranged building, owned by a company of shareholders, and is unquestionably the most popular resort on the lake. The summer house at Cook's Point is for summer boarders, and small and of less capacity than that last mentioned, but is a comfortable place and one well patronized.

Of the several hamlets of South Bristol, that known as Bristol Springs is the largest and of the greatest importance. The first settler of this vicinity was Frederick W. Holcomb, who located here in 1812 and made an improvement. The population of this hamlet never exceeded 300, and its industries have been confined to saw and grist mills and the stores usual to such settlements. However, the village is prettily situated, and is in all respects a quiet and peaceable place of residence. The merchants of the village are A.M. Gardner, Frank Holcomb and Willis W. Holcomb, and there are also two blacksmith shops and other light industries. A saw-mill has been in operation here for many years, also a feed mill, the present proprietor of both being B.T. Hawkins. An evaporater is also operated during the fruit season, its proprietor being John Ricketson.

The Congregational Church, formerly one of the important institutions of the town, is now only a thing of memory and fast passing from recollection. It was organized in the latter part of 1796, and owed much of its early prosperity to pioneer Gameliel Wilder, Ephraim Wilder and other prominent persons. The church edifice was built in 1814, on the Wilder farm, and was forty by fifty feet in dimensions. Mr. Wilder left a fund to help maintain the society, but even his generosity failed to maintain its permanency. The first pastor was Rev. John Rolph, followed later by Revs. Aaron Collins, Andrew Rawson, Benj. B. Smith and others. More than twenty years ago the old edifice was torn down, and the society passed out of existence. More recently, and within the last score of years, a free church has been built, at the joint expense of members of various denominations. Here religious services are held by such clergymen as are appointed or invited to officiate.

South Bristol is the name of a small hamlet and post-office situated near the center of school district No. 8. It was at one time a busy settlement, and was the site of several milling industries and some trade. Its chief public buildings are the town-hall and the school-house.

Boswell's Corners is a very small settlement near the central part of the town, and contains the store of William Heard, while in the vicinity is the saw-mill and flour-mill of Henry Loose.

The town of Bristol is divided into twelve school districts, each having a good school house, and the total value of school property in the town is $6,230. In 1892 the town had a population of 307 children of school age, to instruct whom twelve teachers were employed, and the total expense of maintenance was $2,821, of which $2,369 was paid to teachers. During the year mentioned the town received school moneys from all sources to the amount of $2,821.15.

As has been stated, South Bristol was set off from the mother town by an act of the Legislature passed at the session of 1838. The first town meeting was held in April following, at which time officers were chosen as follows: Supervisor, Franklin Crooker; town clerk, S. Collins; justices of the peace, John Stetson, Philo Judson, G. Hays; assessors, David Coye, Cyrus Hill, Allen Brown; collector, Peter Cameron; overseers of the poor, Thos. Corel, M. Hayes; commissioners of highways, Ephraim Randall, Silas Reynolds, Joseph A. Allen; commissioners of schools, J.S. Penoyer, H. Pennell, S.P. Page; constables, Gains Randall, David Parker.

Supervisors of South Bristol. Franklin Crooker, 1838-39; Cyrus Hills, 1840; Simri Collins, 1841-42; James Parmely, 1843; John Stetson, 1844; Joseph A. Allen, 1845-47; Franklin Crooker, 1848; Joseph A. Allen, 1849; James Parmely, 1850-51; Joseph A. Allen, 1852; James Parmely, 1853-54; David Coy, 1855-56; John Stetson, 1857; Charles H. Sheldon, 1858-60; Ephraim Randall, 1861-62; Edwin Brown, 1863; James Parmely, 1864-66; Joseph E. Fellows, 1867; Edwin Brown, 1868; Charles Hemenway, 1869; Edwin Brown, 1870; Chas. G. Hemenway, 1871-74; Elias Allen, 1875; Chas. G. Hemenway, 1871-74; Elias Allen, 1875; Chas. G. Hemenway, 1876; Geo. T. Standish, 1877; Wm. Templar, 1878; Geo. T. Standish, 1879-80; Wm. Templar, 1881; John Ricketson, 1882-83; Wm. Templar, 1884; Avery Ingraham, 1885-87; George B. Hemenway, 188-89; Edward Smyth, 1890-92; Elmer N. Coye, 1893.

Present town officers: Supervisor, Elmer N. Coye; town clerk, Fayette Ingraham; assessors, D.P. Allen, John F. Erdle, John S. Burnham; justices of the peace, A.W. Hovey, Wm. H. Hicks, C.R. North, S.L. Smith; commissioner of highways, George W. Reed; overseer of the poor, John Helfer; collector, Miner H. Butler; constables, Charles S. Achison, Joseph Fox, jr., Thomas J. Corel, Miner H. Butler; commissioners of excise, Chas. P. Johnson, Lyman A. Holcomb.

Created: 10/22/03
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