Sketch (1879) [1/4]



On the 30th of September, 1878, the citizens of Bedford, in town meeting legally assembled, voted to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth year of their incorporation; and chose a committee of five “to carry the action of the town into effect.”

This committee organized by the choice of Mr. Josiah A. Stearns as chairman, and the Rev. George E. Lovejoy as secretary. [*1] Several meetings were held. The 27th of August, being the anniversary of the assembling of the General Court that granted the charter, was fixed upon for the celebration.

A few preliminary arrangements were made, and the subject was reported to the town, with a request to enlarge the committee, and also to appropriate a moderate sum for the defrayment of necessary expense.

It was discovered that such an appropriation could not legally be made, and that matter was dropped.

The town, however, enlarged the committee, gave them full power to fill vacancies and appoint all needed subcommittees; and then selected the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D., of Newark, N.J., one of Bedford’s native sons, to deliver an historical address. [*2]

The committee now began to work in earnest. Meetings were held nearly every week; but as the business pressed and anxieties increased, it was but natural that some should become discouraged and withdraw. The places of such, however, were soon filled, and those who now constituted the committee determined to persevere. They selected Mr. O. J. Lane for treasurer, and then sent forth, to all friends of Bedford, a circular, inviting contributions in sums of five dollars, more or less, to forward the cause.

This met a very general and gratifying response. To inspire further enthusiasm, a grand rallying meeting was held, at which the Woburn Band was employed, and speeches were made by the Rev. Messrs. Reynolds, Patrick, and Batt, the Hon. Jonathan A. Lane, and the president and secretary of the committee. A general interest was aroused, and everybody was willing to aid by funds or by work.

[ p 62 ]

Mrs. M. R. Fletcher gave the use of her beautiful fields near the Common for an assembling ground and a place to spread the mammoth tent. One set of individuals contributed money for putting things in order about the ancient meeting-house, and repairing and painting the Common fence; another, at the other end of the street, headed by Mr. Frederick B. Cutter and his father, presented and erected an elegant liberty-pole, while still another collected a liberal sum for fire-works in the evening. Materials were freely loaned for tables and seats in the tent, and for arranging the antiquarian-room. Intelligent, gratuitous labor was also lavishly given. Even the selected orator, though offered pay, declined to receive any pecuniary compensation. The town became everywhere alive with preparation. The committee’s plans rapidly matured. The governor and other distinguished gentlemen invited, sent in letters of acceptance or of cordial encouragement.

The streets were adorned, and private residences were profusely decorated. The morning of the 27th of August saw everything in readiness for the following programme.

1729. 1879.


Wednesday, August 27th, 1879.



1. Salute at Sunrise by Battery.
2. Procession at 9 o’clock a.m.

Exercises in the Tent at 11:30 o’clock a.m.

1. Music by the Band.
2. Prayer by the Chaplain, Rev. Grindall Reynolds.
3. Introductory Remarks by the president of the day, Josiah A. Steams, Ph.D.
4. Original Ode by the president of the day.

(Tune, Scots wha hae.) [^1] Sung by the audience.

Let us, o’er the lengthened way
Turn a backward thought to-day.
And the fathers’ worth display.
Bless the noble men!
How with saintly step they trod,
Bowed the heart to worship God,
Scattered light and truth abroad,
Taught them to their sons!

[ p 63 ]

Oh, when wild the savage strode,
Filled with terror each abode.
How their breasts with courage glowed,
Trusting still in God!
Manly lessons thus they learned,
Every tyrant spirit spurned,
And with noble ardor burned,
Ever to be free.

Backward still exulting look,
See the stand the fathers took,
When the nation’s pillars shook —
Britain burst in twain! [^2]
All the world sent forth a shout,
Passed the joyous word about, —
“Tyrants everywhere in rout,
Let us all be men!”

Grateful children as we stand,
Loving sons of noble band,
Grasping each a brother’s hand.
Like them, let us be!
Fan the patriot flame yet higher,
All to noble deeds aspire,
Make the gazing world admire
Worth and liberty!

5. Historical Oration, by Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D., of Newark, N.J.
6. Psalm lxxviii. [*3]

(Tune, St. Martin’s.) Sung by the audience standing.

Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger years we saw,
And which our fathers told.

He bids us make his glories known.
His works of power and grace;
And we’ll convey his wonders down
Through ev’ry rising race.

Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.

Thus shall they learn, in God alone
Their hope securely stands;
That they may ne’er forget his works.
But practise his commands.

7. Benediction.

[ p 64 ]

At the close of these exercises, persons holding dinner-tickets will form two and two, and proceed to the tables.

Toasts, sentiments, and responsive speeches by the governor, distinguished guests, and citizens, will follow the dinner.

A salute will be fired at sunset and the bell will be rung.

There will be an antiquarian exhibition, free to all, open through the day at the Town Hall. [*4]

Conveyance may be had for a small price to the ”Two Brother Rocks,” visited and so named by Gov. John Winthrop and Gov. Thos. Dudley, 1638. [*5]

Evening. Open-air concert at 7:30 o’clock by the Natick Band, and display of fire-works.

Cars run as follows during the day: Leave Boston and Lowell Depot, Boston, at 7:10, 8:25, 9:40 (Special) a.m.; 12:20, 4:20, 5:25, 6:25, 11:10 p.m.

Leave Bedford at 5:55, 7:00, 7:50, 8:55 a.m.; 12:55, 3:30, 6:00, 7:40 (Special), 9:50 p.m.

Notices selected from the “Daily Advertiser” and other papers show how well the programme was executed.


Decorations of the town and the morning procession — An historical oration by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan F. Stearns — After-dinner speeches by Governor Talbot, Ex-Governor Rice, Congressman Russell, Judge Hoar, and others.

“It’s a great day for Bedford,” said a motherly old lady to her neighbor yesterday, in the large tent in which were held the exercises of the sesqui-centennial celebration of the town’s incorporation. Perhaps the strange and formidable name given to the celebration upon the circulars increased the impression of something vague and imposing, which one hundred and fifty years and a long list of distinguished guests had already made profound. Considering the size of the town and the length of the name given to the occasion, the people came up nobly to the requirements of the day. Even the procession, in length of route and time occupied, had a sesqui-centennialish character, and the celebration programme was not finished till well into the evening hours. At frequent intervals about the village were fresh-looking national flags, which certainly could not be charged with duty upon a like occasion before, and many private residences were brilliant with red, white, and blue. In the Town Hall were many historic articles, some of which wanted an older term than “sesqui” to express their antiquity, and the modern part of the demonstration was in the vehicles, costumes, and persons who made the audience, though the old gentleman

[ p 65 ]

who revived his brass buttons and continentals must be excepted. [*6] A sunrise salute, a long procession, an historical address, a dinner, after-dinner speeches by good speakers, an open-air concert in the evening, and a display of fire-works was the programme of the day, and it was thoroughly carried out.




  1. Scots wha hae.
    ∨ “Scots, wha ha’e.
  2. Britain ∨ Briton

Punctuation of times o’ clock silently standardized throughout.


  1. “Josiah A. Stearns”: the author of “Bedford” (1880)
    in Drake’s History of Middlesex: Vol I (pp 241-251)
  2. cf. Jonathan F. Stearns’ “Historical discourse” (1879)
    in Bedford sesqui-centennial celebration (pp 5-59)
  3. cf. KJV’s Psalm 78
  4. “the Town Hall”: now Old Town Hall: 16 South Road
  5. These boulders lie on the eastern bank of the Concord River, due west of Chestnut Lane, which stems from (the fittingly-named) Dudley Road.
  6. “continentals”: [ seemingly ] clothes worn while serving in the Continental Army
    Of course, no soldier who had himself served in the 1770s would have still been alive in the 1870s! Perhaps this “old gentleman” was the son of a Revolutionary War veteran?


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