Boyd County's first post office originated in 1890 in a little store located immediately west of the present town of Bristow. Named in honor of Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow by postmaster Charles Brooks, the original mail route came by way of Niobrara.
The present town site was established when the railroad came in 1902. The company purchased land for the depot, section house, and stockyards, then established a gravel pit with a spur over to it. With the advent of trains, the entire area received supplies and shipped livestock, grain, and produce by rail. The previous overland route, from the Missouri River boats at Iron Post Landing, immediately ceased to exist.
The town grew fast with early business houses run by Holt, Bogelman, the Gross Brothers, Granlund, Hedlund, Hinton, Witherby, Harris, Frostrom, Renard, Olson, Nelson, Harting, Moore, Ericson, Londquist, Rickgauer, Bostrom, Talich, Pasek, Reed, Rysavy, McMeen, Anderson, Hebner, Kloke, Fiala, Munson, Smith, Schneider, and Hahn. The "Bristow Boomer" was published by S.C.Davis. There was also a cigar store, a pop factory, a creamery and cheese factory, and a photo gallery.
Three doctors served in those early days, Dr.Alexander and both Dr. and Mrs.Hewitt. Dr.Hoover homesteaded south of the neighboring settlement of Rosedale and accepted payment in produce, earning the gratitude of many pioneers of Boyd County.
Bristow was isolated by the "Great Flood" in 1891. Heavy winter snows caused severe flooding of all streams. This blocked the road to Niobrara so relief had to come from Fort Randall, due north on the Missouri River. Another flood in 1905 hit the town following a cloud-burst, doing considerable damage on main street, and forcing people to vacate their homes. Dams built in Boyd County, and upstream on Ponca Creek since then, have minimized the chances of further damaging floods.
During 1910-20 Bristow had a fine band that played regular concerts at the town band stand, at all Bristow celebrations, and were invited to play in area towns on special occasions.
In 1912 Bristow fielded a great baseball team, having the services of an excellent pitcher, Doctor Diers, and other talented players including Nygren, Chore, Hight, Lindberg, Yengliss, Lewis, Whiting, Maynard, Hebner, Chris Andersen, and Bostrom. In a game with Meek (a town in Holt County) Doc struck out 31 batters, but the team lost after 19 innings -- 3 to 1. In the 1930s Bristow also fielded teams in the Boyd County League.
Bristow's first school was a sod building, soon replaced with a frame structure. In 1913 a two-story schoolhouse was built. A high school was maintained until 1960 when the district merged with Lynch six miles away.
Bristow has always been a church-oriented community. A Baptist Church was first, but it no longer exists. The Rosedale Evangelical Covenant Church, organized northeast of Bristow in 1891, met in a schoolhouse until the church was built in 1899. The present building was dedicated in 1917.
An Evangelical Lutheran Church (Augustana Synod), established five miles north of Bristow in 1894, built a brick church in Bristow in 1920. Later, when the Anoka and Baker churches joined this congregation, it was renamed Trinity Lutheran. The church, now a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1984.
In 1902 a Methodist Sunday school was organized in a small building on Main Street. A church was built in 1907, with additions in 1915. At the time of its origin, it was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1968, when all Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches reunited, they adopted the name United Methodist Church. On Thanksgiving eve, 1981, a service was held to observe the placing of the cornerstone 75 years before.
Civic organizations include; American Legion Post and Auxiliary, Home Extension Club, and Lions Club.
The town, with a current population of 123, maintains a neat and attractive business area with 20 or more businesses, including a state bank, doctor, and a post office.