Living History in Bedford, Pennsylvania

Bedford, a pocket of preserved past, offers the visitor a living history experience, gaming marketing enabling him to walk the paths his forefathers forged, inspect several important houses and forts, and even stay in the very resort which sparked its rise.

Covered with a quit of rolling hills, meadows, and forests, the former frontier called for a soul to exert its intrinsic properties of creation on it, as evidenced by the forts which had risen from Harris Ferry along the Susquehanna River in the east to Logstown on the Ohio River in the west during the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763. Marking the westward expansion of the British like a series of GPS waypoints, they carried names such as Lyttleton, Loudon, Frederick, Raystown/Bedford, Cumberland, Ligonier, Necessity, and Pitt/Duquesne. The two with the dual designations, however, were to be the most instrumental in the area’s development. gardenfrontier

Where transportation paths meet, settlements usually rise, as did the town of Bedford in the form of a fort erected by the British during its 1758 campaign against the French along Forbes Road, which had previously been a cohesive collection of Indian trails. They would later evolve into the first trans-Pennsylvania toll rode artery, facilitating horse and wagon transport. inrealtor

Constructed by Colonel Henry Boquet, General John Forbes’ deputy, the irregularly shaped fortification, covering 7,000 square yards, sported five bastions. A four- to five-foot deep by three-foot-wide, V-shaped ditch encircling its perimeter supported 18-foot-long, side-by-side laid logs, cut from the surrounding oak forests and hewn flat and snugly interlocked before being inserted, while a loopholed gallery extended from the central bastion on its north front down to the water’s edge. Swivel guns guarded its corners.
Entry was provided by three gates-a main one on its south side parallel to today’s Pitt Street; a second, smaller, west-facing one; and a northward-opening postern one. furzly

Perched on a bluff overlooking the river gap, the initially-designated Fort Raystown served as a staging post for 6,790 westward-advancing troops subjected to attacks during their crossing of the imposing Allegheny Mountains, but replenished with necessary supplies before they continued toward Fort Pitt/Duquesne, stronghold of the French.

The British strategy proved successful: their opponents were defeated, effectively removing the barrier to English-speaking control of the Ohio Valley and, ultimately, America.

Redesignated “Fort Bedford” at the end of 1758 after the Fourth Duke of Bedford, England, the bastion served the secondary purpose of providing a sense of safety against Indian attacks, its security fostering settlement of people in search of agricultural valleys and timber-abundant mountains. It thus provided the seed from which the namesaked village eventually grew, becoming the first county seat west of the Tuscarora Mountains and, for a time, all of Western Pennsylvania, strategically located on the intra-state roadway. bitpapa

Laid out in 1766, it was incorporated 29 years later, on March 13.

County development, paralleling that of the town, was spurred by the discovery of coal on Broad Top Mountain, giving rise to the rails needed to transport it to the area’s budding iron foundries and sparking a 100-percent population increase between 1870 and 1890 alone. Track networks, facilitating iron, timber, and passenger conveyance, were later supplemented, and finally succeeded by, the Lincoln Highway (Route 30), which connects Bedford with Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A short, in-town walking tour of Bedford itself enables the visitor to step back into its history in several important buildings.

The National Museum of the American Coverlet, for instance, is housed in the Common School, itself constructed in 1859 at a $7,000 cost and opened with an initial, 211-student enrollment the following year. Functioning as a school until it was sold to private interests in 1999, it incorporates a significant portion of its original structure, including its middle section, ventilation system, and surrounding iron fence.

The Bedford County Court House, built by Solomon Filler between 1828 and 1829 at a $7,500 cost, equally exudes originality, particularly in its tower-installed clock, which had to be hand-wound after a vigorous climb until it was electrified in 1975, and its two internal, self-supporting, circular staircases which lead to the second floor, portrait-lined courtroom. The pair of columns characterizing its fa├žade, later donated by Filler himself, represents God on the left and justice on the right.

The Man on the Monument, located at the intersection of Juliana and Penn streets, was erected in 1890 to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War, incorporating the more than 20,000 pennies school children had collected for it. It was moved to its present location in 1957.

Behind it is the site of the city’s first courthouse and jail, constructed of blue limestone between 1774 and 1775.

One of the most significant structures-so much so, in fact, that it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984-is the Espy House. Owned by Colonel and Mrs. David Espy, it served as George Washington’s headquarters during the 1794 Whisky Rebellion, in which Western Pennsylvania farmers protested the excise tax imposed on the alcohol by Secretary of Treasury Hamilton. Thwarted by Washington’s 13,000-strong Federal Army, which had claimed the surrounding expanses for its own overnight accommodation, it marked the first and only time that a US president had commanded an army in the field.

 

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