WILLIAM T. BRISTOW, a Justice of the Peace at Girard, is one of the oldest settlers in the county. He was born in Overton County, Tenn., February 13, 1829. His father, James Bristow, was a native of Virginia, and his grandfather, also named James, was born in England, and coming from there settled in Virginia where he ended his days. The father of our subject was reared in his native State, and removed form there at the age of eighteen years, making his home in Overton County, Tenn. In 1829 he brought his wife and four children and settled in the northwest part of a tract which became a portion of Macoupin County at the time of its organization. He took up land which afterward was included in Scottville Township, and when the land came into the market bought it from the Government. He erected a log cabin in which there were no nails used and the door was hung on wooden hinges and had a wooden latch, with the traditional latchstring, which hung outside in those friendly days. He also split puncheon for the floor.
The surrounding county was sparsely settled. The land where Carlinville now is, was bought of the Government the same year when Mr. Bristow purchased his tract. Deer, wolves and wild turkeys were plentiful. The settlers lived chiefly on the products of their farms and wild game. Our subject relates that oftentimes his father would start out in the morning and return before breakfast with a deer which he had shot. The mother used to card, spin, and weave, and dressed her children in homespun, making all their clothes herself. The father of the subject of this sketch purchased quite a tract of land and resided there about twenty years. This he sold and removed to Waverly, Morgan County, where he resided for two years. He then came to this county and took a tract of wild and unimproved land in Nilwood Township and resided there until the death of his wife when he sold his property and made his home with his children until his second marriage, when he with his wife, whose maiden name was Lucinda Edwards, removed to Greene County, where he spent the remainder of his days.
The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Mary Cherry. She was born in Kentucky and was the daughter of Patterson Cherry. She died on the farm in Nilwood Township, having been the mother of eight children. Our subject was five years old when he came to Illinois with his parents, and remembers well the incidents of the journey. He says he received his education in Brush College, meaning the pioneer schools in the woods. These pioneer schoolhouses were built of logs with stick chimneys. The seats were made by splitting logs and hewing one side smooth and boring holes to insert sticks for legs. There were no backs to the seats and no glass in the windows, greased paper being pasted over the openings which answered for windows. A slag resting on pegs in the wall, formed a desk for writing.
William Bristow resided with his parents until his marriage, and then bought a farm near home and lived upon it for three years. In 1850 he united with his brother and two brothers-in-law in buying four hundred and twenty-eight acres of land at $5 an acre, situated near the present site of Girard. In 1851 he built and settled on the place. At that time there was not a house where Girard now stands and in fact not a house in sight of this new home of his. In the winter of 1852-52 the first building in Girard was removed there from the country by Dr. Miller, and in the following spring another building was erected there. Our subject devoted his time and efforts to the improvement of his land until 1854, and then removed to the village of Girard and engaged in the mercantile business. After awhile he began buying and selling grain which he pursued until 1862. He was then for two or three years in other business enterprises after which he settled up his affairs and worked for some years at the carpenter's trade. In 1881 he was elected Justice of the Peace and has since continued to serve in that office as well as that of Notary Public. During this time he has continued buying and shipping hay.
The marriage of William Bristow with Sarah Sharp was solemnized March 28, 1847. Three children blessed this union, William M., Mary E., and Lemuel P. (deceased). Mary married Dr. Fuller, and makes her home in Cherry Vale, Kan. Mrs. Sarah Bristow died in 1857, and in 1858 Mr. Bristow was a second time married taking to wife Miss Louisa P. Burgess, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio; there are no children of this union.
Mr. Bristow cast his first vote with the Democrats, but in 1856 he became a Republican and has ever since adhered to that party. He belongs to the Girard Lodge No. 192, I.O.O.F., and both he and his good wife are earnest and consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church with which Mr. Bristow has been connected since he was fourteen years old.