The Bristol Post Office waltz

Updated so it makes more sense…

My friend Tony Scott reports in this week’s Kendall County Record that the unincorporated village of Bristol’s post office will not be closed as part of the Republican Party’s war on the postal service. Instead, it’s hours will be cut, but residents will still enjoy postal service.

The little post office has a somewhat complicated history, due to how the area was settled and also due to the area’s transportation history.

The original village of Bristol was what is today the north side of the city of Yorkville. The town got its name from Lyman Bristol, an early settler. An apparently footloose guy like lots of other early settlers, Bristol eventually headed farther west during the Gold Rush. He was killed in a wagon accident in California June 13, 1864.

Anyway, back to our story. Bristol was situated on the north bank of the Fox River, and the village of Yorkville grew up, more slowly, on the south bank. The old Village of Bristol Post Office was established July 1, 1839, and was one of the county’s earliest post offices. The community got the post office because it was on the Fox River Trail, the mail stage route running north from Ottawa up the Fox River through Bristol to Oswego and Aurora all the way to Geneva. Yorkville residents had to cross the Fox River on a footbridge to get their mail until the first bridge was built.

In the early 1850s, rail lines were pushed west of Chicago to Aurora, across the Fox River, and west through northern Kendall County. The railroad bypassed both Oswego and Bristol, running roughly two miles west of Oswego and two and a half miles west of Bristol, but the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad established stations along the rail line for both communities, and named after them: Oswego Station and Bristol Station. Regular horsedrawn stage service connected the two villages with the rail line.

A village did not grow up around Oswego Station, but one did grow up around Bristol Station. And on Dec. 22, 1854 Bristol Station got its own post office, shortly after the station was established on the new railroad line.

During the next several years, the question of the location of the county seat of Kendall County was debated and in 1859, county voters decided to remove it from Oswego back to Yorkville. The county seat had originally been located in the hamlet of Yorkville when the county was established in February 1841. But in 1845, voters decided to move it to Oswego, then as now, the county’s most populous township. Oswego, located in the county’s northeast corner, was a far piece to travel in the days of horse and wagon and many county residents grew tired of the long trips they had to take to do their official county business.

Largely because of the disruption caused by the Civil War, the new courthouse in Yorkville was not completed until 1864. In June 1864, the records were finally moved from Oswego. Because postal regulations required that every county seat have a post office, Yorkville was granted its post office on April 18, 1864, just two months before county records arrived.

So the neighboring villages of Yorkville and Bristol, separated only by the Fox River, found themselves each with a post office.

Another complication arose in 1870 with the completion of the Ottawa, Oswego, and Fox River Valley Rail Road, linking Ottawa and Aurora via Yorkville, Oswego, and Montgomery. With regular rail service running right through town, Yorkville became a distributing post office, sending mail to Bristol. Previously, Bristol had been the distributing office.

The Post Office Department put up with this situation until December 1881, when they decided to close the Bristol office. In 1882, they announced plans to merge the old Bristol and Bristol Station post offices. In June of that year, the old Bristol Post Office was finally closed and from then on, residents of Bristol had to cross the river and get their mail at the Yorkville Post Office.

There was still room for confusion, however, given that the villages of Bristol and Bristol Station were completely two different towns, separated by more than two miles. As a result, the post office department decreed that the post office at Bristol Station would be officially renamed Bristol, with no “Station” attached to it. Meanwhile, though, while the post office was named Bristol, the village retained it’s name of Bristol Station to differentiate it from the still thriving old Village of Bristol.

In 1957, residents of the villages of Yorkville and Bristol finally voted to merge, naming the new municipality the United City of Yorkville and Bristol. The old, original village of Bristol thus disappeared. And it wasn’t long before the “Station” was removed from Bristol Station’s name, resulting in the post office and village finally getting the same name for the first time since 1882.


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Filed under Illinois History, Kendall County, Semi-Current Events

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