Bedford Book (1887)


Compiled from Drake’s History of Middlesex County. [*1]

In 1633, the towns already settled by the Massachusetts Colony, were CHARLES TOWNE, NEWTOWN, WATERTOWNE, and MISTICKE.

Two years later about twelve families obtained court leave to organize a town where Concord now is. In 1637 a grant was made to Newton (Cambridge), of “all land upon Shawshin River,” but it was not until seven years later that any settlers appeared. The country thus granted was called Shawshin until 1654 when the name was changed to “Billericay.” [*2] The line between these towns ran a little south of the present Main Street, of Bedford Village. [*3]

In 1728 the people living in what is now Bedford, because of the distance from their several places of worship, asked to be incorporated into a separate township, which was granted willingly by Concord but with much reluctance by Billerica. From that date our history proper begins.

Up to about 1800 there was a goodly number of slaves in Bedford, as the town records show. In 1761 Col. John Lane appears to have given a bond to the town treasurer to indemnify the town “from any charge that may arise by reason of his negro man being set free”; and there is now in the possession of one of the citizens of Bedford the original of the following document:

“To Mr. Harrison gray treasurer for the province of the massachusetts bay sir be pleased to give mr. moses Abbott the bearer hereof all the wages that is due to me for my negro man torrey more being in the county service in the year 1757 under capte pearser till he goot to the cascel, [*4] and then went to crownpoint under capt elinglesh, [??] or give me an order to mr. moses abbott consteble of bedford and this receipt shall be your discharge and you will oblige your humble servant.

JOHN LANE.” [*5]

Boston Harbor Tea Party was attended by a Bedford man, Major Thompson Maxwell. Happening to be in Boston with his team he was requested by Mr. Hancock to be at Long Wharf at two P.M., and informed what was to be done. He says

“I went accordingly, joined the band under Captain Hewes. We mounted the ships, and made tea in a trice. This done, I took my team and went home as an honest man should.” [*6][*7]

In 1775 twenty-five minute men were paid for their services by the town, and in the fight on the 19th of April, Captain Willson with his company joined. [^1] The house at which he rallied his troops is still standing, now owned and occupied by Miss Caroline Fitch, grand-daughter of the owner at that time. [*8]

“One of our townsmen while driving his load of wood with oxen and horse, met the soldiers at Lexington on their way to Concord. Having

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quietly passed them, he deliberately unyoked his team as though he were a farmer in the neighborhood, mounted his horse, and slowly repassed the troops, till he was far enough to avoid suspicion, then struck into a run and was at Concord in season to give them a welcome.” [*9]

At that fight Captain Willson was killed and Job Lane wounded. [^1] Maxwell, already alluded to, after the Concord fight went to Cambridge, where the soldiers were encamped, and there stayed until after the battle of Bunker Hill, for which battle he and his brother drew the patriots’ intrenchment lines. Through all the troublous times that followed, Bedford was prompt with both money and soldiers; ever public spirited and ready to help.

After the war of 1812 a new meeting house was needed, and the building since twice partially remodeled, now occupied by the Unitarian Society, was erected. [*10]

Eighteen Hundred and Eighteen found Bedford in a very prosperous condition. A town library was in operation, the schools were divided into districts, new houses were being built and old ones renovated.

In 1823, by the completion of the Chelmsford road with the Carlisle road already in use, Bedford village became a constant thoroughfare. This prosperous condition of things continued until 1832, “when an event occurred which shook the social fabric of the town to its very foundations. • • • It was a rupture between the minister and a portion of his people.” [^2][*11] The result of which was the establishment of another society, now called the Orthodox Congregational church. [*12]

From then until now Bedford has steadily advanced in all good things. Possessing no manufactures she has yet held her 1000 inhabitants without loss for many years. The manufacture of shoes, an important feature in the town fifty years ago, ceased entirely with the invention of machinery.

Now we may point with pride to a town kept neatly and well; to rows of street lamps, to the extent in one direction only, of over a mile; to two recently remodeled and modernized churches; [*13] to a new railroad extending in three directions, the result of Bedford energy and perseverance with a most attractive and well kept station, and convenient trains; [*14] telephone communication with other towns; signs of care and thought exhibited in the neat park at the west end — Wilson park; mown street edges in summer, and asphalt side-walks, all largely due to our enterprising Village Improvement Society. Quite recently two new streets have been laid out, and numbers of new houses built. Our town library, though sadly in need of a building, is in a prosperous condition. [*15] The schools are now graded and mostly centralized, making it possible to procure better talent as teachers; a two years course of High School instruction has also been added. [*16] Both church societies are flourishing and strong. The erection of a Roman Catholic chapel on Main Street a few years ago makes it possible for the believers in that faith to attend church near their homes. [^3][*17] The roads in all directions have been improved, sometimes widened, and all kept in good condition.

The outlook is bright, and with Boston only forty minutes away, enterprise and energy at home, we may look to a golden future for our little town.



  1. Willson ∨ Wilson
  2. continued ∨ continned
  3. Street ∨ street



  1. cf. Samuel Drake’s History of Middlesex County: Vol I (1880)
    NB: This history’s final three paragraphs are not from Drake.
  2. cf. (w/in Drake) Frederick P. Hill’s “Billerica” (1880) p 254
  3. “the present Main Street”: now The Great Road
  4. “cascel”: [ seemingly ] castle
  5. cf. (w/in Drake) Josiah A. Stearns’ “Bedford” (1880) p 243
  6. “team”: team of horses
  7. cf. “The narrative of Major Thompson Maxwell” (1865)
    in Historical collections of the Essex Institute: Vol VII (pp 97-115)
  8. “the house”: (what was then) Fitch Tavern
    Now a private residence: 12 Great Road
  9. cf. (w/in Drake) Stearns’ “Bedford” (1880) p 245
  10. “the Unitarian Society”: now First Parish: 75 Great Road
  11. cf. (w/in Drake) Stearns’ “Bedford” (1880) p 249
  12. “another society”: now First Church of Christ: 25 Great Road
  13. The Trinitarian Congregational church was renovated in 1886. (BHB) p 56
    The First Parish meetinghouse was renovated soon after. (Story) unpaged
  14. “a well kept station”: the now-defunct passenger depot: 80 Loomis Street
    Originally stood “west of South Road and north of the railroad tracks”. (HPN) p 320
  15. “our town library”: in Aaron March’s store: beside 4 Great Road
    Moved. Now a private home: 22-24 Loomis Street. (HPN) p 76
  16. Bedford began offering a two-year high-school course in 1885.
    This offering became a three-year course in 1889. (BHB) p 20
  17. “a Roman Catholic chapel”: (what was then) Saint Michael’s Chapel
    Stood “east of Hillside Avenue and the narrow gauge right-of-way”. (HPN) p 16
    Demolished in 1961. (BS1) p 101
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