Conklin (1927)


Statistical — Population (1920), 1,362.  Registered voters (1924), 727.  Valuation of property (1925), $3,124,546.
First mention in the records of the State, September 23, 1729 (Old Style).
Parts of Billerica and Concord. February 26, 1767, part of Billerica annexed. June 9, 1768, part of Lexington annexed.
Bedford is in Congressional District 5; Councillor District VI; Senatorial District 7th Middlesex; Representative District 11th Middlesex. [*1]

General — Centrally located in the county, Bedford is about fourteen

[ p 551 ]

miles northwest from Boston and twelve miles south from Lowell, with which cities it has direct rail and highway connections. Billerica bounds it on the north and east; Burlington and Lexington also being on the east; Lexington, Lincoln and Concord form the south line; and on the west are Concord and Carlisle, from which it is separated by the Concord River. The terrain of the town is fairly well elevated, the village being located on the water-shed, not only giving it a healthful situation, but a picturesqueness that is very attractive. [^1] The streams in the town are small, the Shawshine being the only one crossing the whole district; the Concord, larger, forms the westerly boundary. Although an agricultural town from its beginning, these streams seem to have had little to do with the early development of the area, and are practically unused in these modern times. Many little waterways flow into these two streams. The damming of the Concord at its confluence with the Merrimac, while valuable to other towns, did only damage to the lower lands of Bedford. Of ponds there are but a few, and they are very small except where enlarged by old dams. Bedford Springs is the most interesting natural feature, the name being given to three flowing streams impregnated with minerals. First known in 1644 for the use made of their medicinal properties by the Indians, they were soon valued by the pioneers, and in later years gave the start to the pleasant health resort which grew up around them. A company was formed to utilize the bubbling waters and create a health center, but little came of it until a railroad was pushed through the region. The lands, about 175 acres, were purchased in 1856 by Doctor William R. Hayden to whom much of the present development is due. The New York Pharmaceutical Company, with Dr. Hayden as president, was formed, and a long list of preparations made here. “The soil of Bedford,” according to Alfred C. Lane, “may be divided into three kinds — the dark peat of the swamps and meadows, the boulder clay, and the high level sand beds.” [*2] The peat is along the water-ways and was once used for fuel. [^2] It is now sometimes used to enrich the sand lands. The boulder clay is the result of glacier deposits, and while varied in character and hard to cultivate, makes fair farm area. The sand section carries a natural growth of pines, is easily tilled and warm, and produces, when fertilized, heavy and early crops.

Bedford has always been known as a farming town, although more recent years have seen the establishment of many estates used for residential purposes. Changes have taken place in the agriculture. The old grain farms have been replaced in part by small fruit and vegetable gardens. [^3] The glass house for forcing crops is common. Nursery stock was, in this century, an important crop. [^4] The meadows and much of the highlands are used, as formerly, for grazing, but the milk

[ p 552 ]

produced, and the hay cut, have a value that would open the eyes of former farmers in Bedford. [^5]

Of the manufacturing industries, other than the home and traveling hand-workers and their shops, the first was started in 1805 by Jonathan Bacon and John Hosmer, who began the making of children’s shoes for the Boston market. [^6] Practically every department of their industry was supplied with tools of the owners’ making. The concern increased in the value of its products until its annual sales were about $90,000 annually. When modern machinery was invented and introduced into various communities, the business slackened and eventually ceased. Band-boxes were another of the productions of the town in the first half-century of 1800. [^7] In 1812, the locality began to mine and prepare “Bedford Yellow” paint — yellow ochre. In the southern part of the town the clay was used for brick-making. Tanning and currying had its day. In 1840 a paper mill was established and flourished for a time. But the mill burned, and the industries of Bedford became, aside from farming, non-existent. [*3] The opening of the Middlesex Central Railroad, in 1873, had much to do with development of the new Bedford. It gave quick and easy transportation to Boston, fourteen miles away. The locality was beautiful, healthy, with many valuable home-sites to be had, and there has been, since then, a steady influx of Bostonians and other who have made their homes here. Bedford seems due to become an important residential center, a suburb of Boston. [*4]


  • Edwin P. Conklin’s “Bedford” (1927) [excerpt]
    in his Middlesex County and its people: Vol II (pp 550-554)


  1. water-shed, ∨ water shed,
  2. water-ways ∨ water ways
  3. fruit ∨ fruits
  4. stock was, in this century,
    ∨ stock, was, in this century
  5. used, as formerly,
    ∨ used as formerly
  6. Hosmer, ∨ Hosmer
  7. half-century ∨ half century



  1. Bedford now falls within the State’s 6th Congressional district and 3rd Councillor district, the State Senate’s 3rd Middlesex district, and the State House of Representatives’ 21st Middlesex district, respectively.
  2. cf. Brown’s History of the town of Bedford (1891) p 45
  3. “a paper mill”: John Wilson’s mill (BHB) p 40
  4. This entry continues for two more pages, but only to provide a fragmentary synopsis of the first ten chapters of Brown’s History.
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