Who was Bristow?
The following excerpt is from Carolyn Moreau’s article entitled, “What’s in a Name? A School’s Identity” published in The Hartford Courant, October 4, 2004. Bristow signifies the archetypal American story — a man who makes something of his life through hard work, despite incredible adversity. From the few documents that exist on the former slave, local historians surmise that he was kidnapped in Africa and brought to the New World. He bought his freedom from Thomas Hart Hooker as Hooker left to fight the Revolutionary War; Hooker reputedly said that he “would not fight for liberty and leave a slave at home.” After Hooker was killed in the war, Bristow continued to live with Hooker’s family in what is today called the Sarah Whitman Hooker Homestead, the oldest house in West Hartford.
Bristow earned money advising local farmers on agricultural problems. When he died, he left a will — an extraordinary thing for a black man of his day. His estate included books, which he left to the children of his former owner.