History of Bristol Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota
From: History of Fillmore County, Minnesota
Compiled by Franklin Curtiss-Wedge
H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.
Chicago 1912


Bristol was an original government township, and is one of the southern row of towns bordering on Iowa, and is the fourth from Houston county on the east, and third from the western boundary It is contiguous to Carimona, Harmony, York and Iowa state, on the north, east, west and south, respectively. On the margin of the upper Iowa river, which impinges upon the southern part of the town, there is considerable bottom land, and back of this it becomes more broken and hilly. At first along the river there was a fine growth of timber. Back from the river is Bristol prairie with its rich dark loam. At the west of this prairie is Bristol grove, or "Verpe" grove as the Norwegians call it. The land in the northern and eastern part is somewhat uneven. The south branch of Willow creek arises from the north center of the town, and flows east and north into the town of Carimona. The middle branch of Root river is another stream with like characteristics. In the northern part of the town there were some fine groves of timber at an early day, but most of it has fallen before the woodman's ax, while new woods are springing up in the vicinity. In the southeastern part, where the first claim was laid, there was at first some fine timber land.

Early Settlement. The first claim known to have been made in Bristol was in the fall of 1852 by Samuel Drake, in section 36.

In July, 1853, M. C. and L. G. St. John, the first actual settlers, put in a personal appearance and bought Mr. Drake's claim, which was timber. M. C. located in section 36 and his brother, L. G., in section 35. These young men were natives of New York, but had been living for eight or nine years in Wisconsin, from whence they came here. William A. Nelson, another young man, was along at the same time, and he selected a quarter in sections 34 and 35, which he afterwards sold to Granger & Lewis as a part of Granger village. Mr. Drake was from Iowa, and did not remain. During the same year D. Crowell, a native of Boston, came up from Illinois, and he staked out a farm in section 32. It is thought that there were no more settlers that year.

During the year 1854 there were quite a number of acquisitions, among them James Springsteel, a native of the Buckeye state, arrived from Illinois and took his land in section 33. Torger Tonelson and Ole Flatastal came from Wisconsin and secured farms in sections 1 and 11. Thomas Drury and Charles Bellingham, Englishmen, located in sections 3 and 11. Mr. Bellingham moved to Lyon county in 1871, and in 1878 Mr. Drury died. With them came two other English families. Ole Skrabeck and Gunder Jurgenson settled on sections 1 and 12. Knut Halverson Verpe claimed large tracts in sections 18 and 20 and lived on a tract in section 17 until he sold his home in 1870. On June 7, 1878, he died at the residence of H. Halverson at the age of ninety five years. Samuel Bowden, from England, who had been living in Wisconsin, secured a homestead in section 1, where he surrendered his life in 1862. William B. Hutchison, James Springsteel and George Drury also came this year.

The year 1855 brought quite a number. John Rice, a Canadian, came here direct from Michigan and planted a homestead in section 13. O. Chase, from Ohio, stopped a short time in section 25. N. Boice came from New York State to section 25 and remained a few years. Thomas Armstrong, also from New York, secured a claim in section 34, which, the next year, he disposed of to Jason Damon. John and R. Sims came from England and procured farms in sections 29 and 32.

Edward Burnham, a native of Franklin county, Massachusetts, arrived here on June 9, 1856, and selected land in sections 14 and 23. Henry Mark came from Pennsylvania and his place was in section 11, but he went to Guthrie county, Iowa. Halver Halverson found a stopping place in section 18. In 1857, while attempting to cross the Root river in a boat, he lost his life. In 1856, a few other settlers arrived. Henry Aehatz, a Prussian, found a resting place in section 24. Orson Thacher, of the Green Mountain state, made a sojourn on section 2 until 1871, when he died. William McGowen, from Scotland, settled on a place in section 13. Isaac Campbell was on section 33 and Widow Myers on section 34. W. E. Adams and Michael O'Conner also came this year.

John Black, a native or Scotland, came in 1857, from Wisconsin, where he had been living, and found a place that met his requirements in section 30, where he lived and wrought up to the time of his death, May 1, 1874. James Arnst came with Mr. Black, and from that time the filling up process was rapid.

The story of the Holland and Bretheren settlements is told elsewhere.

Land Office Records. The first titles to land in Bristol township were issued by the government in 1855. The one who obtained land that year was as follows, the date of the issuance of the warrant being given first, then the name of the owner and then the section in which the land was largely located: November 30, Nelson Boyer, 13.

Those who obtained land in 1856 were as follows: February 9, Robert Burnap, 1-2; March 3, William A. Nelson, 34-35; March 3, Libeus G. St. John, 35; March 3, James Springsteel, 33-34; April 17, Thomas Drury, 3; June 13, Michael O'Connor, 3; June 18, Orson Thatcher, 2; June 23, Isaac Farnworth, 4; June 23, Nathaniel Ogg, 7; June 23, Peter Zebaugh, 7; July 2, William H. Cutter, 17; July 8, Connor Carroll, 6; July 10, Ole Oleson, 1-2-18; July 23, Johanes Knudson, 18-19; July 28, Joel Califf, 6; July 30, William E. Adams, 35; July 31, Betsy Long, 11; August 4, Tallman Whipple, 7; August 7, James Thorpe, Jr., 7; September 15, Andrew J. Whitney, 8; October 1, Anond Oleson, 19-20; October 2, Olciabiades Whittier, 22-23; October 3, Benjamin F. Brown, 22; November 7, Ole Oleson, 11; November 13, Thaddeus P. Chase, 15; November 14, Joseph Kinney, 25; November 18, Janson Damon, Jr., 34; December 3, Joseph Ogg, 5-6; December 9, Charles Bellingham, 10-11; December 13, Levi C. Howard, 28; December 13, George K. Sabine, 20-29.

Early Events. Emma and Effie Rice, twin daughters of John and Matilda Rice, were born April 18, 1856. Effie died in infancy, Emma married M. N. Bradley. Charlie Vail, son of John Vail, was born on May 31, 1855. The very earliest birth must have been Rose, daughter of L. G. and Annie St. John, in September, 1853. Aaron Ludden and Sarah Nelson were united in marriage in August, 1854, by Elder Bly. In 1855, by the same gentleman, John McQuary and Catharine Nelson were married. George Drury and Catharine Phfremmer were married in July 1858. Samuel R. Thacher and Mehitable D. Page, in January, 1859.

Political. The organization of the town which, while under a territorial form of government was merely a part of a voting precinct, took place May 11, 1858, when the first town meeting was held at the house of J. P. Howe. The town officers elected were: Supervisors, M. C. St. John (chairman) and George Horton; J. J. Jones was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy; town clerk, Charles Lewis; assessor, Charles Roberts; collector, Daniel Thacher; constable, L. G. St. John; justices of the peace, George Knox and M. C. St. John; overseer of the poor, E. Burnham. The judges at this election were William E. Adams, J. P. Howe and J. J. Jones. The clerks were David Seeley and H. L. Vosburg. The first tax levied was $650.

Postoffices. The first postoffice in town was established in 1855, and was named Alxbridge. Daniel Crowell was postmaster and mail carrier, going to Elliota, twelve miles, once a week. The office was at his house in section 32. In 1857 it went to Granger. Vailville postoffice was established late in the fifties on the southeast quarter of section 15. T. P. Chase was the first to handle the mail key, then Alanson Andrews, who moved the office to his house in section 24. He kept it for about three years when he was superceded by Edwin Teel, who moved the office to his house on the northeast quarter of section 21, and it was called "Bristol Centre." Sometime in the middle of the sixties it was discontinued and the citizens procured their mail matter from the most convenient office for the several parts of the town. In October, 1876, a postoffice for the town was established with Owen it Morris as postmaster, and it was opened at his residence in section 8. Bristol postoffice also flourished for a while, James Berning being the last postmaster. For a while after the office was discontinued the patrons received their mail from Greenleafton, but they are now served by rural route from Preston. Prairie Queen postoffice flourished for a number of years in section 4. E. N. W. Shook was the last postmaster. The patrons now receive their mail by rural route from Preston.


Granger is a hamlet in the southern part of Bristol township. While not enjoying the benefits of a railroad it is a flourishing trading place, and has the business and professional activities usually found at such points. Florenceville, which is really a part of Granger, is just over the line in Iowa.

Early History. The village of Granger was surveyed in 1857 by Brown L. Granger and C. H. Lewis, both being engineers, and the former a graduate of West Point. They came from Boston and were agents for a firm of capitalists under the name of Burgess & Greenleaf. The plat contained all but eighty acres of section 34, and eighty acres were in section 35. It was divided into 166 lots, 50 by 100 feet, except those made fractional by the Upper Iowa river, that sweeps up into the village. The streets are from 60 to 80 feet wide, and the alleys 12 feet, and the whole village was laid out in accordance with metropolitan ideas. Granger & Lewis opened a store and a postoffice was established. The same firm began the erection of a flourishing flouring mill of stone, but when nearly completed the west end fell out. Discouragement settled on the project and there it stood until 1864, when W. H. Wayman took it in hand, and during the winter got it in operation. The material for the building was taken from a quarry near by. In the fall of 1857 Ed. Slawson opened a hotel and kept it for about four years; then, for a time, there was no public house here, but in 1865 Dr. Lewis Reynolds built the State Line House and sold it to H. Slawson, who, in 1870, transferred it to S. Brightman. Dr. Reynolds was the first resident physician. A distillery was started by Mr. Wyman in 1865 in a building 32x80 feet, but in a few months it was closed by the internal revenue officers. He also started a vinegar factory. In 1859 Hiram Beebe started a blacksmith shop. In a few years he sold to S. Van Loan, who continued it but a short time. In 1864 John Finckh started a blacksmith shop. In 1865 John Hebeg opened a wagon shop. Haskins & Halstad introduced a drug store in 1870, but in a year or two it was closed. In 1872 Dr. D. J. Lathrop opened a drug store.

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