The Bristol Press – PRIME TIME: ‘Dolph’ was one of many ‘Builders of Bristol’


Eleanor Wilson of the Bristol Historical Society presents this week’s entry, a Builders of Bristol biography about Adolphus ‘Dolph’ Bradley (1825-1898).

At the time of his death, “Dolph” had watched Bristol grow for 70 years. He was one of the oldest, best known and most respected citizens of Bristol.

Adolphus was born in Bristol on September 10, 1825, to Harvey and Betsey (Steele) Bradley, who lived in a house on Goose Corner (the intersection of West and South Streets). When he was 16 years old, he started working for Levi Smith, making wooden watches. After a year he worked for Boardman and Wells. From there, his watch experience spanned 12 years with Mr. Manross of Forestville, 9 years with Pomeroy and Perkins, 16 years with Atkins Clock Co., and 12 years with E. Ingraham Co. It would be interesting to know the number of Bristol clocks he helped make them, which can be found in homes across the country.

On March 24, 1847, he married Sarah M. Smith of Mt. Washington, Berkshire, Massachusetts. They had six children, three of whom died in infancy. Mr. and Mrs. Bradley were lucky enough to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on March 24, 1897.

Mr. Bradley went west twice and was employed by Hartford and Massachusetts for a while, but he never lived outside of Bristol much longer.

His recollection of dates and events in Bristol was remarkable, and he was often sought after by historians and others. He saw every church built in Bristol from 1897 and remembered when there was only one house on Main Street and one in Forestville. “Dolph” was always accurate and correct. One of his main qualities was to admit the truth when he was convinced he was wrong. He has been a Republican since the party was organized.

A favorite hobby for him was collecting old coins. He often showed friends a piece from the depths of his wallet. His collection, which was among the best in town and among the best in the state, was sold to CV Mason.

Mr. Bradley suffered from grip (a respiratory disease) almost every winter for five years, and his most recent attack was particularly severe. Pneumonia developed and he died in his home on Riverside Avenue, built by Truman Root, where he had lived for 49 years. He was neither a member of a lodge nor did he hold any public office, but his good qualities were evident in his home and in everyday life.

When he died on Tuesday, April 19, 1898, he left behind his wife and two daughters Louise Bradley and Mrs. Edith Beaumont and his grandson Howard Beaumont. His other daughter, Mary Bradley, died at the age of 33. His funeral took place at his home under the direction of Rev. TM Miles.

Contact Bob Montgomery at or by phone at 860-583-5132.

Published in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, June 6, 2021 8:37 PM. Updated: Sunday, June 6, 2021 8:40 p.m.