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Elijah Bristow

Birthplace: Pleasant Hill, Russell County, Virginia, United States
Death: November 19, 1872 (84)
Pleasant Hill, OR, United States
Place of Burial: Pleasant Hill, Lane County, Oregon, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Bristow and Delilah Bristow
Husband of Susannah Bristow
Father of John Kennedy Bristow, Dr.; Elizabeth Elkins Hendricks; Sarah Brown Bristow; Abel King Bristow; Polly Bristow Callison and 9 others
Brother of Sarah "Sally" Miller; Elizabeth "Betty" Massey; Abel Bristow and James Bristow
Half brother of Delilah Clevenger Cherry; Hannah Cherry; Mary "Polly" Vance; Susannah Gray; Westley Owen Bristow and 1 other

Occupation: Gunsmith
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elijah Bristow

Elijah Bristow moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, probably with his stepmother and other members of his family. In 1845 he went west along the Oregon Trail. First settling in California, he soon went north to Oregon where he became the first white settler in Lane County. He named his home "Pleasant Hill."

During the Creek War Elijah Bristow distinguished himself as a sharpshooter and gained the admiration of Andrew Jackson. When the latter offered him a military commission he refused. Later he became a notable figure on the Oregon Trail. From his letters written to his wife from the North Fork of La Platto {sic}, 556 miles west of Independence, Missouri, one gets a somewhat more than modest self-appraisal:

I have made myself somewhat conspicuous here, he says, sometimes by argument, sometimes by integrity, and sometimes by the gun.

Wesley Shannon, one of his companions on the Trail, wrote a eulogy that closed with:

Elijah Bristow was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, April 28, 1788. He was a son of James Bristow, a soldier of the Revolution, and of Delilah Bristow, nee Elkins, of Maryland. He was in the War of 1812, and was a scout and sharpshooter under General Jackson, was in the battle of Horseshoe Bend and other famous battles with the Indians. He came to California in 1844 and to Oregon in 1845. He was the first settler and built the first house in Lane County, Oregon. He was a wonderful character of sturdy of old pioneer stock. He sent for his family and they all took up land in Lane County and formed a settlement which he named Pleasant Hill, for his old home in Virginia. It took the family six months to make the journey across the plains.

Elijah was born on 28 April 1788 in what is now Tazewell Co. VA (formerly Russell Co.). His parents were James Bristow (d. 1818) and Delilah (Elkins) Bristow (d. ca. 1795). The family moved to Cumberland Co. KY ca. 1805, then to Overton Co. TN ca. 1812.

On 7 November 1812 Elijah married Susannah Gabbert, and by 1820 they were living in Cumberland Co. KY. Circa 1828-1829 they moved to Macoupin Co. IL. By June 1840 they were living in Blandinsville, McDonough Co. IL. Elijah and Susannah had 14 children of whom 3 died in infancy.

In 1845 Elijah followed the Oregon Trail to Idaho, then cut southwest on the California Trail to Sutters Fort. He spent the winter there, then headed north to Oregon and settled in what is now Lane Co. as described in the history posted below. Susannah and all of his children except one followed Elijah to Oregon (Henry G. Bristow stayed in Illinois). Elijah died on 19 September 1872 in Pleasant Hill, OR.
[The following biographical information was provided by an unknown contributor, before this memorial was transferred to me. --K.S.]

A Pioneer The first settler in Lane Co. 1846.

A man's life is his monument, His deeds are the inscription.

Elijah Bristow: The First White Settler in Lane County

The first white settler within the present boundary lines of Lane county was Elijah Bristow, who here cast his lot in June, 1846. From that date until about the year 1850, all of the facts of much of the incident of its early settlement clusters around this individual; so much so, that, for the present, our account of it during the above period will necessarily take on much of the traits of a personal narrative.

This pioneer settler was born in Virginia in April, 1788, emigrating early in manhood to Kentucky and thence to Illinois. Imbued with a spirit of adventure inherited from his ancestors and fostered by his early associations, he was ever restless under the influences of thickly settled districts and soon determined to push farther westward, crossing the plains in 1845. Going first to California, he was dissatisfied with that country and came overland to Oregon the following spring, 1846. In June of that year, accompanied by Eugene F. Skinner, Captain Felix Scott, and William Dodson, Mr. Bristow started up the Willamette valley in search of a location suitable for the settlement of a large and increasing family. Their route was up the west side of the valley and after passing the Luckiamute river, not a white man's habitation was found; thence going south to the end of their journey. The country through which they traveled was one of the most beautiful on the northwest coast of the Pacific, and habitated as it was in all the luxurious freshness of nature, was peculiarly fascinating to these intrepid explorers.

On arriving at a point between the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette river, on a low rolling ridge, sparsely covered with oak, fir and pine timber, ever since know as Pleasant Hill, Mr. Bristow's eye was attracted towards the panorama of mountain and vale stretching out before him that reminded him of a like scene in far-off Virginia, where he was born. He halted and raised his hat, allowing the cooling breeze, fresh from the near rolling Pacific to play at will through his thin gray locks, he exclaimed: "This is my claim! Here I will live, and when I die, here shall I be buried!"

The party then camped at a spring near by and repairing to a grove of firs, cut the logs, erected what was in those early times termed a "claim cabin," and which stood as a sign to all comers that here had a white man filed his intentions, so to speak, of becoming a settler upon the public domain. This was the first "cabin" erected within the present limits of Lane county.

Mr. Bristow next measured off and marked his claim of six hundred and forty acres of land, the amount usually claimed by early settlers in a new country, which was done by "stepping" around the track, the marking being accomplished by "blazing" the trees adjacent to the lines and driving stakes at the corners. Mr. Dodson then marked off a claim for himself, south and east from and adjoining that of Mr. Bristow, while Capt. Scott appropriated one on the west, but this afterwards abandoned and took one up on the south bank of the McKenzie river, opposite the mouth of the Mohawk, upon which he finally settled.

As the party returned, on their way down the valley, Eugene F. Skinner, the remaining comrade, took up a claim where Eugene City, the county seat, now stands.

(Illustrated History of Lane County Oregon published by A. G. Walling, 1884, Portland, Oregon)

Elijah Bristow (1788–1872) was the first white settler to stake a claim and build a permanent cabin in 1846 in the upper Willamette Valley, in what is now Lane County, Oregon, United States. He and his wife Susannah Gabbert Bristow established the first church and donated land for the first school in Pleasant Hill.[1]

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Elijah Bristow's Timeline

April 28, 1788
Pleasant Hill, Russell County, Virginia, United States
June 28, 1813
Overton County, TN, United States
June 28, 1813
Overton County, TN, United States
March 26, 1814
Overton County, Tennessee, United States
October 9, 1815
Overton County, Tennessee, United States
May 11, 1817
Kentucky, United States
January 6, 1819
Overton County, TN, United States
October 28, 1820
Cumberland County, KY, United States