Town Archives

The Town of Bristol holds documents dating from Bristol’s earliest years; 1st as a town of Plymouth Colony (1680-1691), later as a Town of Massachusetts (1691-1747) and finally as a colonial Town in Rhode Island (since 1747).

These archives include early birth, death, and marriage records in addition to the records of the Town Meetings (prior to 1971) and Town Council records that date back to the 17th Century.

Process & Catalog Project

The Town Clerk’s Office is currently involved in a project to process and catalog a set of miscellaneous documents relating to the action of the Bristol Town Council in its capacity of the head of Town government and Overseer of the Poor from the early 18th Century to about 1900.

This project, funded through the State Archives and a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, should be completed and available for limited public use for educational purposes during 2007.

Collection List
A partial list of this collection includes:
  • Town Council action and Health Officers’ Report relating to an incident of small-pox found aboard the schooner Neptune in Bristol Harbor - 1799 (hand-written)
  • Order of the Bristol Town Council that a slave woman Philo “Bee Publickly Corrected at the Publick whipping Post” - 1796 (hand written)
  • Subsequent order of the Town Council ordering the Town Sergeant to return the slave woman Philo to Mr. Ebenezer Allen of Rehoboth. - 1796 (hand written)
  • An account of the charges assessed against the sloop Prosperity owned by Capt Simeon Potter and under the command of Mark Anthony D’Wolf, which arrived in Bristol Harbor “sick with the small-pox” - 1769 (hand written by Joseph Russell, Town Clerk)
  • Petition to the Town Council from the residents of Bay View Avenue requesting a street light (this contains the signatures of the entire neighborhood) - c.1870 (hand-written)
  • Warrant warning Phebe Richmond (an unsuitable person) to depart from town 1817 (hand-written)
  • Letter of George Wilson informing the Bristol Probate Court of the “disagreeable necessity” of bringing his “raven distracted” mother to the custody of the Town 1835 (hand-written)
  • Town Council petition of Thankful Munro requesting her board for the winter and a few yards of cloth to cover herself. 1810 (hand-written and signed with an X)
  • Invoice of Henry Wood, Surveyor for work completed on behalf of the Town - 1850 (hand written)
  • Documents related to the construction of the “Brick Schoolhouse” upon the common, signed by James D’Wolf, Charles Collins, and William Lindsay (all luminaries of the American triangle slave trade) - 1808 (hand written)
  • A contract noting the payment of $1,000 to the overseers of the poor as a condition resultant of the birth of a “male bastard child” of Mary Hoar which “hath or may become chargeable to the Town of Bristol -1808 (hand written)
  • Receipt to Peter Gladding, Bristol Town Clerk, accounting for $14 paid for passage of a Pauper to Illinois - 1853 (hand written)
  • Receipt of payment of $2 made to Nathaniel Adams for digging a grave on behalf of the Town of Bristol - 1832 (hand written)
  • Receipt from the Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Rehoboth to the Town of Bristol for payment received in consideration of “boarding and taking care of a poor boy who belongs in your town and cleaning him of lice” $4 - c.1800 (hand written)
  • Transcript of an examination of Mary Harpen (unmarried woman) before Daniel Bradford, Justice, regarding her pregnancy. - 1793 (hand-written)
  • Account of Town Council as trustees of the legacy left by B. Waldron for poor widows - 1833 (hand written)
  • Report of the Building Committee for the South Primary School (Burton School) - 1849 (hand written)
  • License for “retail wines and strong liquors for medicinal purposes only” granted to Lemuel W. Briggs - 1844 (fine printed form - filled in by hand).
  • License granted to William Reed to keep a “Victualling House or Oyster Saloon at the Corner of Bradford and Hope Streets...from the date hereof until the Thursday next following the first Wednesday in April next...” - 1885 (fine printed - filled in by hand)
  • Forms in the hand of Herbert Franklin Bennett - Town Clerk 1882-1908 - demonstrating the ‘proper verbiage’ for Billiard and Tavern licenses - c.1880 (hand written).