Sketch (1879) [2/4]


Between the sunrise guns and the evening fire-works — A holiday for the people — Relics of the fathers — Bedford in civil, ecclesiastical, and local history — what the Governor said — Middlesex County, Bedford, and Concord, and their illustrious citizens.

Bedford had been decorated before the important day had actually dawned, so when the sun looked over the hills, and had recovered from his surprise at the salute of thirteen guns that greeted his every-day morning performance, he saw the village lying beneath him in unwonted beauty, with her red, white, and blue decorations strongly set off by the heavy green of the trees and pure white of the houses. [*1] Many houses were adorned, and places of historic interest were especially designated. Mention may be made of the houses of Josiah A. Stearns, the Rev. George E. Lovejoy, Merton Symonds, Mrs. George Button, the First Church, Isaac P. Bacon, Miss Caroline M. Fitch, A. E. Brown, Frederick Cutter, Mr. Charles Lunt, and others. Miss Fitch’s house bears the following inscription: [*2] “The oldest house in this village. Older than the town. Opened as a tavern by Jeremiah Fitch, Jr., in 1773, and occupied as such until 1808. Capt. Jonathan Willson, who was killed in the Concord fight, [^1] drew up his company of minute-men before this house, on the morning of April 19, 1775, and said to them, ‘We give you a cold breakfast, boys, but we will give the British a hot supper.’ Here, also, the Reading and Billerica militia rested, and left their horses before going in pursuit of the enemy.” Near by, in an old orchard, is the following record: “In this orchard, one Blood, a notorious thief, was publicly and legally whipped, about the beginning of this century.” The old Stearns mansion, which was built by the Rev. Joseph Penniman, who was minister of the town from 1771 to 1793, [*3] bears upon its front the following, on the right of its main entrance: “Built by Rev. Joseph Penniman, 1790.” On the left, “Stearns Mansion. Rev. Samuel Stearns, 1796-1834. Owned by his son, 1879.” The site of the first store, that of the old First Church, those of several residences that have

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long since disappeared, were also marked. Mr. Fred Cutler and his father, Amos B. Cutler, Esq., presented to the town a liberty-pole, which was planted in the old square. In front of the village cemetery was a flag inscribed “Revolutionary Heroes,” [*4] while on the other side appears “Capt. Jonathan Willson, killed at Concord fight, April 19, 1775.” [^1] In the cemetery, six graves were decorated with flags, being those of Capt. John Moore, leader of the Bedford militia at the Concord fight, Lieutenant Edward Stearns, Deacon Moses Fitch, who was wounded at the battle of White Plains, Timothy Page, who was killed in the same encounter, and Job Lane, who was wounded at Lexington, April 19, 1775. In front of the Page homestead was displayed the banner which was carried by Nathaniel Page, with the Bedford minute-men company in the Concord fight. [*5] Mrs. Kenrick’s house is supposed to be the Shawshine House that records speak of in 1642. [*6] Hiram Dutton’s house was an old garrison, [*7] and there Mary Lane wrested the gun from the sentinel, whom she could not convince that an Indian was lurking about the place, and fired at what he called a stump, but what her shot made a dead redskin. Historic sites generally were marked, among them being the grist-mill built before King Philip’s war, by Michael Bacon; [*8] the hostelry where the Bedford, Billerica, and Reading farmers gathered to hasten to Concord and Lexington to repel British invasion; [*9] the site of the first belfry used in the town; [*10] the First Church, which for years was the only one of the town; [*11] the first store; [^2][*12] and the house of Mrs. Stiles, erected by Rev. Nicholas Bowes, Bedford’s first minister, in 1729. [*13]

In the Town Hall was a collection of venerable relics illustrating the industry, art, customs, comforts, and discomforts of old times. [*14] Among them may be named various portraits of Bedford worthies of pre-Revolutionary days; [^3] old books, deeds, and pamphlets, one being credited by the legend with being a copy of a letter of Jesus Christ, which would save the one in whose home it was from being hanged or drowned; [*15] another being the record of a conference held at St. George’s, in the county of York, Sept. 20, 1753, [^4] between commissioners appointed by Gov. William Shirley to treat with the Eastern and Penobscot Indians. [*16] There were also a mirror in possession of the Stearns family, which is some three hundred years old; top of the pine-table from which Hancock and Adams took their meals at “Parson” Clark’s house in Lexington, in 1775; chairs some two centuries old; the fiddle first used in the old church by “Jim Wright,” leader of the choir for fifty years; a

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scarlet broadcloth cloak, lined with satin, which was a portion of the wedding trousseau of Madam Stearns, the wife of the minister of the town from 1796 to 1834; sword carried by Eleazer Davis in the war of 1776, also his commission as lieutenant; pulpit-window of the First Church in Bedford, built in 1727; flintlock musket carried in the Concord fight by Solomon Lane of Bedford; mirror owned by Major-Gen. Putnam; wedding hat worn by Madam Stearns in 1797; solid silver buckle given by a British drummer to Edward Flint of Bedford, on the day of the Concord fight, for his attention to the drummer, who was wounded; Stearns family record (that of ex-Gov. Onslow Stearns of New Hampshire), wrought in silk; desk and secretary formerly owned by Francis Rotch, owner of the ship ”Dartmouth,” from which the tea was thrown overboard in Boston Harbor, Dec. 16, 1773; four engraved glass tumblers, given Madam Stearns on her wedding-day by Bushrod and Augustine, grand-nephews of Gen. Washington; and a copy of the “Ulster Gazette,” giving a full account of the death and funeral of George Washington. [*17]


Gov. Talbot arrived at Bedford at nine o’clock, being driven in a barouche from his Billerica home, and accompanied by Col. Lincoln as aid. Upon his arrival, the Concord battery, which was stationed near the Middlesex Central depot, fired a salute of fourteen guns in his honor. Then Chief Marshal Calvin B. Rice and his aids, Charles Woods, Frederick Davis, and Joseph Goodwin, mounted, headed the procession, which was formed at nine o’clock, and after them the order was as follows: —

American Band of Boston, twenty-five pieces.
Concord Artillery, Capt. Benjamin.
Concord Battery, Capt. Dakin.
Six barouches containing invited guests.
Natick Brass Band, twenty-two pieces.
Shawsheen Engine Company of Bedford, forty men.
Wentworth Extinguisher Company of Lexington, sixteen men.
Barge, drawn by six gray horses, containing the girls of the Bedford public schools.
Barge, drawn by four horses, containing the boys of the schools.
Display of the trades of the town and citizens generally.

In the street parade appeared the old chaise which the Rev. Mr. Stearns, last minister of the whole town, used to ride in fifty years

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ago. Into it was harnessed an old, white, huckleberry-and-milk-colored horse, so exactly resembling the one that used to take the parson every Monday morning to visit the sick, who “had up notes” the day before, that the old people thought both horse and chaise had been resurrected for the occasion. The team was driven by the minister’s youngest grandson, Master Wilfred Dudley Stearns, of Nashville, Tenn.

The route of the procession was through South, Loomis, Lane, Spring, Main Streets to North Road to the North District School, [^5][*18][*19] countermarching to the tent on a lot opposite the Bedford Hotel, twenty-five rods from the road. [*20][*21]


It was half past twelve when the procession reached the tent. When all were gathered and the invited guests were on the platform, there were perhaps five hundred people beneath the canvas; and among those on the platform were Gov. Talbot, Ex-Gov. Rice, Ralph Waldo Emerson, A. Bronson Alcott, Judge E. R. Hoar, Congressman W. A. Russell, the Rev. Henry J. Patrick, Rev. Grindall Reynolds, Rev. Wm. J. Batt, Eben S. Stearns, D.D., Chancellor of the University of Nashville, Tenn., Rev. H. F. Jenks, Rev. John F. Gleason, Norfolk, Conn., Rev. J. F. Stearns, D.D., Hon. John S. Keyes, Frank B. Sanborn, Rev. Mr. Hussey of Billerica, Rev. H. A. Hazen, Rev. Dr. S. K. Lothrop, Rev. George E. Lovejoy, Rev. Dr. Grout, Samuel Hoar, Esq., Josiah A. Stearns, Ph.D., president of the day, and the selectmen and clergy of all the neighboring towns.

A medley of patriotic airs by the Natick Band opened the exercises; and prayer by the Rev. Grindall Reynolds followed.

Then the president of the day, Mr. Josiah A. Stearns, Ph. D., gave a brief address, reciting how the committees on the celebration had been appointed and how they had discharged their duties.


Friends, Sons and Daughters of Bedford, — I congratulate you on the auspices of this occasion. A few days ago the heavens scowled, the skies wept, and though there were occasional signs of brightness, all was dark and portentous. [*22] So has it been with our period of preparation. Our toils have been full of anxiety and despondency, but now, the skies smile, and if there still be some of nature’s

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clouds above us, they can only serve as a darkened glass to secure our eyes against the effulgent glory of a divinely descending benediction. [*23] At an autumn town-meeting, Sept. 30, 1878, it was voted that the town would celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth year of its existence.

A large and able committee was chosen to carry this vote into effect. They were endowed with full powers, and authorized to fill all vacancies and to appoint all needed subcommittees.

In town meeting assembled, an orator was chosen from among Bedford’s own sons, to prepare an historical address for the occasion.

The committee began their work. Various changes were necessarily made in their organization, till, at the present time, it consists of the following gentlemen: —

Josiah A. Stearns, Chairman. [^6]Cyrus Page.
Rev. Geo. E. Lovejoy, Secretary.Chas. A. Corey.
Oliver J. Lane, Treasurer.Calvin Rice.
Jerome A. Bacon.M. B. Webber.
A. P. Sampson.Amos B. Cutler.
Henry Wood.E. G. Loomis.
A. E. Brown.Chas. C. Clarke.
Samuel Huckins.

Under this committee several subcommittees, both of gentlemen and ladies, were appointed, partly from the people at large for the performance of specific duties, and most efficiently have they wrought in their several spheres. [*24] Their names are registered, and will appear on the records of our celebration.

As the town could not raise money for the purpose without an especial enabling act, it was determined to appeal to the sons and daughters of Bedford for assistance. Only small sums were asked for, and they came in from all directions, not only from the children, but from their “uncles, aunts, and cousins,” till the general fund, aside from the sums contributed for special objects, amounts to more than $600. The various committees have toiled with unwearied faithfulness and through much anxiety; but to-day they come forth triumphantly and present you with their finished work.

I need not detail its particulars. You will find them sufficiently set forth upon the printed programme. And now, throwing off all care, we are ready to join you in the entertainments of the day. We do so with the full assurance that when we shall have listened to our town’s history, we shall have no occasion to hang our heads, but much reason to rejoice and to glorify our ancestry.

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An original ode of four stanzas was next sung to the tune ”Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,” [^7] a part of the audience singing for the occasion, and the other part so far behind that they might have intended their strains for the next sesqui-centennial.

Finally the singers came out together at the end, and then the president of the day introduced the orator, his brother, the Rev. Dr. Jonathan F. Stearns, of Newark, N.J. Dr. Stearns was closely listened to and frequently applauded, but as his discourse is here printed in full, any abstract of it would be out of place.

The Seventy-eighth Psalm, which had been printed to be sung by the audience, owing to the lateness of the hour was omitted. [*25] Benediction by the chaplain closed the exercises.



  1. Willson, ∨ Wilson,
  2. store; ∨ store,
  3. days; ∨ days,
  4. St. George’s, ∨ Saint Georges, [*26]
  5. and Main ∨ Main
  6. Stearns, ∨ Stearns
  7. ”Scots wha hae
    ∨ ”Scots, wha ha’e



  1. “unwonted”: rare
  2. “Miss Fitch’s house”: (the former) Fitch Tavern
    Now a private residence: 12 Great Road
  3. “the old Stearns mansion”: the Penniman-Stearns House: 26 Great Road
  4. “the village cemetery”: the Old Burying Ground: 7 Springs Road
  5. “the Page homestead”: the Nathaniel Page homestead
    Formerly stood at 85 Page Road. (BS1) p 14
    Moved. Now at 89 Page Road. (HPN) p 282
  6. “Mrs. Kenrick’s house”: the Shawsheen House–Danforth Inn: 137 Shawsheen Road
    NB: The location of the “Shawsheen House” trading post is disputed. (HPN) p 400
  7. “Hiram Dutton’s house”: the Job Lane House (now a museum): 295 North Road
  8. “the grist-mill”: the Bacon–Fitch–Clark mill
    Stood due east of (what is now) Carleton-Willard. (CAM) p 46
    Purchased and demolished by the Town in 1947. (HPN) p 288
  9. “the hostelry”: (what was) Fitch Tavern: 12 Great Road
  10. “the first belfry”: (what had been) the bell-house
    Stood near 12 Great Road. (BHB) p 53
    Evidently sold at auction. (BHB) p 14
  11. “the First Church”: now First Parish: 75 Great Road
  12. “the first store”: Henry Abbott’s store: beside 4 Great Road (HPN) p 76
    Moved. Now a private home: 22-24 Loomis Street (HPN) p 76
  13. “the house of Mrs. Stiles”: Domine Manse: 110 Great Road
  14. “the Town Hall”: now Old Town Hall: 16 South Road
  15. cf. “Copy of a letter said to have been written by . . . Jesus Christ” (1868) [ no scan ]
  16. cf. A journal of the proceedings at two conferences (1754)
  17. One wonders if this was a true copy or merely a reprint copy.
    cf. Vail’s The Ulster County Gazette and its illegitimate offspring (1930)
  18. “South, Loomis, Lane, Spring, and Main Streets”: now South Road, Loomis Street, [ conceivably ] Lane Avenue, [??] Springs Road, and The Great Road
  19. “the North District School”: the third North school
    Stood “across [the road] to the west and slightly north of [the Job Lane House]”, which still stands at 295 North Road. (HPN) p 259
  20. “the Bedford Hotel”: the Bedford House hotel
    Formerly Page Tavern, the Bedford House later became Grange Hall, which was purchased by the Town in 1941 and demolished soon thereafter. (HPN) p 249
    Stood on the site of the Fire Station: 55 Great Road (HPN) p 249
  21. “twenty-five rods”: about 125 meters
  22. “portentous”: ominous
  23. “effulgent”: radiant
  24. “wrought”: labored
  25. cf. KJV’s Psalm 78
  26. “St. George’s”: [ (evidently) an error for ] Falmouth

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