Bristol and SouthBristol History


Land grants for service in the Revolutionary War was a common practice after independence was won from the British. William Gooding, was issued a land grant in the area we now call Bristol. William with younger brothers, James and Elnathan, walked to Bristol from Dighton, Massachusetts (Bristol County) in the spring of 1788.  They drove before them a flock of sheep, a herd of young cattle, and a cow for milk.  Their claim established Lot no. 1, in the northeast section of the town near Vincent Hill.  They cleared a few acres, sowed wheat and planted turnips, and built a rude log cabin for themselves, and a shelter for the animals.  William and James returned to Dighton for the winter, leaving seventeen year old Elnathan to care for the animals.  Elnathan was the first white man to winter in Bristol.

William and James Gooding returned with their families in the early spring of 1789 and soon built a larger and more substantial house and blacksmith shop.  William was always kept busy shoeing oxen or horses, and repairing and making tools for other pioneers.  His anvil was kept in steady use as Bristol continued to grow. 


South Bristol comprises a large portion of the hills or ridges known far and wide

as the Bristol Hills. Gamaliel Wilder of Hartland CT, settled in the area first.

In 1789 he led the first organized band of settlers into South Bristol, coming by way

of the Mohawk Trail, up Canandaigua Lake to what is now known as Seneca Point.

A year later he cut a road westward to the vicinity of Brown Stand,

the road was then continued through Boswell Corners and over the mountain to Frost Town, where he located the first sawmill in the area. In 1791 he erected the first Gristmill in Boswell Corners and in 1805 it was rebuilt by Ephriam Brown.

Seneca Point is now marked with a New York State Historic marker for the Native American orchard that was later used by Gamaliel Wilder. Vineyards, hops, orchards, gristmills, lumber mills and sheep farms dotted our hills and valleys. The township of Bristol organized in 1797 and divided in 1838, with the southern half becoming the Township of South Bristol.

The mission of the Historical Society is to promote an interest and appreciation of the rich history of the Bristol Hills area of the Finger Lakes Region, and Western New York. We cooperate with educational institutions, state and local agencies, other museums and community institutions, and county and town historians to offer programs of educational and historic significance. We also gather for social and fundraising events with neighbors at the our historic Grange Hall in South Bristol and at other locations in the Bristol Hills, including the ME Church building in Bristol. We encourage research of local history by accepting donations of appropriate artifacts, genealogical records and ephemera, and by allowing appropriate access to the public.