Like many other pioneers of the great state of Texas, David W. Wristen started out in business life at the bottom of the ladder. His first savings were from scanty wages earned in the routine work of range and trail. It is a rule of universal application that the most prosperous men are those who in their several lines of labor have worked their way upward by the sheer force of industry and will, utilizing the opportunities which all might employ. The life of Mr. Wristen may be accepted as a fair example of this class and it contains many elements worthy of emulation.
He is a native of Hopkins county, Kentucky, his birth having occurred about four miles south of Madisonville, October 21, 1839. His parents were also natives of that state. His father, Elijah Wristen, was born near Hopkinsville, in Christian county, and his mother, whose maiden name was Leona Sisk, was a native of Hopkins county, where she made her home up to the time of her death. Mr. Wristen, however, left Kentucky and founded a temporary home in Missouri, purchasing land near the lower line of New Madrid county. After living there for nearly two years among the swamps and lowlands of that district, he sold his possessions there and continued his journey to the southwest, settling in Parker county, Texas, in 1852. The county had just been surveyed and soon after their arrival the county seat was established at Weatherford. The whole country was comparatively open, with only a few settlements added here and there. The Indians were still very numerous and many times were so troublesome as to cause the settlers great concern as to the safety of their families. A more extended account of the Indians and the many atrocious crimes and depredations they committed will be found in another part of this work. In 1863, during the Civil war, the Wristen family, with the exception of Daniel and his brother Frank, had to seek refuge and safety in Arkansas, where they remained until peace had been established.
Daniel W. Wristen was thirteen years of age when his father removed to the Lone Star state. Later, when settlers were more numerous, a little school was organized for the benefit of the children in that locality, but many times it was broken up the Indians, who appeared at unexpected moments and spread terror among the pupils. The most successful work which Mr. Wristen ever did in the schoolroom was during one winter spent at Weatherford. After he was eighteen years of age he was on the frontier, were excitement ran high, but he gained thereby an experience obtained only by those who braved the dangers, trials and depredations incident to the life in the early days of the pioneer district. The most lucrative occupation perhaps in which he engaged was that of freighting. Fitting up proper conveyances he hauled freight from Houston to Dallas and other points along the frontier, engaging in that business for about nine years.
In the meantime, in 1862, Mr. Wristen was married, the lady of his choice being Miss Mary J. Moore, of Parker county. He had also established a farm there, where on his family resided, but on many occasions, because of business interests he was obliged to be away from home. Cattle raising was a large industry in this country then, as it is now, and many time has he taken herds of cattle across the plains into Kansas. On some of these occasions Indians would be encountered and whenever they desired meat they would ride up to the men and say “beef,” with the result that one was taken from the herd and given them. Not long after the Civil war was inaugurated Mr. Wristen offered his services in Company K, Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers, first commanded by Colonel Tom Green. He continued in the service as a Confederate soldier until the close of the war and participated in all of the engagements of his regiment except for a short interval when he was home on detail service. In 1876 Mr. Wristen engaged in merchandising about ten miles south of Weatherford, near Horseshoe Bend on the Brazos river, and at the same time he ran a gin, and conducted a flouring mill. In 1879 he removed his stock of merchandise to Taylor county and opened a store at Buffalo Gap, which was then the county seat. When the Texas & Pacific Railroad was built, the county seat was changed to Abilene and the bulk of the business of the country became centered in the new town. There seeking a chance to better his condition and to keep in touch with the progress of the country Mr. Wristen again moved his stock of goods in 1882, becoming one of the early merchants of Abilene, where he continued successfully in business until 1900, when he disposed of his mercantile interests in the community. He is regarded as one of the representative business men, his enterprise and labor proving the foundation for his splendid success.
In 1900 Mr. Wristen was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who died on the 17th of June of that year. She was the mother of ten living children, six sons and four daughters. His present wife, to whom he was married in October, 1902, was formerly Miss Nettie Thornton, a native of Illinois. Mr. Wristen has been a Mason for more than eighteen years, having taken the various degrees to lodge, chapter and commandery, so that he is actively interested in public affairs, especially in the growth and development of Western Texas, and his efforts have been far-reaching and beneficial. He has served the city of Abilene as mayor for nine years, being the incumbent for five terms, the first of one year, while the others are of two years each. In the summary of his life work we can class him with the most successful business men of this section of the state. His is the character that creates, develops and utilizes. He is generous, enterprising and energetic, and with him accomplishment is paramount to acquisition and wholesome utilization the supreme creed of his nature.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 353-354.