As a representative of a class of pioneers who have been the builders of a great commonwealth we present Captain Abraham Bristol, of Lincoln. He has the honor of being numbered among the California pioneers of 1849, his memory serving as a link between the primitive past with its mining camps and the progressive present with its thriving towns and cities having all of the improvements and accessories known to the older civilization of the east. The Captain was born in St. Lawrence County, New York, on the 27th of June, 1824. On crossing the Atlantic his ancestors, natives of England, located in the Empire state. His father, Levi S. Bristol, married Miss Olive Day. They were both natives of St. Lawrence County and removed to Oswego, New York, where the father engaged in taking and executing contracts on city works. In 1839 he removed west to Chicago, finding there a small town which had been incorporated only two years previous. From that point he made his way into the country, securing a tract of government land in Du Page County and transforming it into richly cultivated fields. There he resided until his death, which occurred in the sixty-fifth year of his age, his wife surviving him for four years. On their removal to Illinois they were accompanied by their five daughters and two sons.
Through the summer months Captain Bristol, during his boyhood, might have been found in his father’s fields, assisting in the work of plowing, planting and harvesting. In the winter season he attended the public schools of the neighborhood. On beginning to earn his own livelihood he worked as a farm hand, being thus employed until 1849, when lured by the discovery of gold in California he crossed the plains with a company of young men from Will and Du Page counties. They started with thirteen wagons drawn by oxen and took with them provisions for a year. They made a safe and successful, though tedious journey, being for one hundred and twelve days upon the way. They came by way of Carson Valley to Placerville, which was then known by the less romantic but more suggestive name of Hangtown. Captain Bristol began mining in the gulches and obtained plenty of gold. On one occasion he secured a nugget worth one hundred dollars. His company, consisting of five members, secured an average yield of gold to the value of twenty dollars each day. In 1853 he returned to his home in the east, by way of the Isthmus, for his brother had died in the meantime and he felt that it was his duty to be near his parents and care for them in their declining years. After remaining at home for about two years he engaged in steam boating on the Mississippi River in the employ of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, and had command of a vessel for many years. In that way he earned his title of captain.
While in Illinois he was married to Miss Carrie Hugnin, and two children were born to them in that state: Herbert, who is now operating a gold dredge at Calaveras River, and a daughter. In 1875 Mr. Bristol returned to California, where two years later, he was joined by his son. In 1883 he sent for his wife and daughter, but the daughter’s health was poor and they remained in the east, where both died.
Captain Bristol has been in the employ of the Pottery Company since the establishment of its works at Lincoln, and for fourteen years acted in the capacity of stationary engineer and he is still one of the trusted and valued employees of the firm. As one of the brave California pioneers who crossed the plains in 1849 he certainly deserves representation in this volume. He engaged in hauling lumber for the Marshall saw-mill from Coloma to Hangtown. The lumber sold for four hundred dollars a thousand feet and was manufactured into gold washers, at a cost of sixty-five dollars each. People who now reside in California can form little conception of what the roads were in that day, making teaming very difficult. Everything else was in a primitive condition. Mining camps, consisting mostly of tents or rude shanties, were scattered over the state, but there were no churches or schools, commercial or industrial enterprises of any importance and the miners who came from the east in search of gold laid the foundations of a commonwealth that is now second to none in the Union, and is recognized as a leader in many branches of industrial activity.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.