Bedford Historical Society Talk: the 200-Year-Old Meeting House on Bedford Common, and National History Day Students

Chaperone and BHS history teacher James Sunderland with the Bucs’ 2017 National History Day team (l-r) Cordelia Houck, Georgia Michelman, Natalie Knight, and Lexi Ciccone at the National Museum of the American Indian – Courtesy image (c) 2017 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society

Two fascinating topics will be featured at the first program of the Bedford Historical Society’s 2017-2018 Speakers Series.  Bedford High School students who placed third at the National History Day competition will present their documentary, and Bedford Town Historian Sharon McDonald will speak about the 200th anniversary of the Town’s second Meeting House.

These programs will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 27th in the Common Room of the First Parish Church on the Common, 75 The Great Rd.  A refreshment period from 7:15 – 7:45 pm will kick off the event, to be followed by the BHS students and then Mrs. McDonald.

This two-part program is free and open to the public.

Part 1 – BHS History Day Winners

Bedford High School seniors who won Third Place for their Senior Group Documentary at the National History Day competition – Lexia Cicone, Cordelia Houck, Natalie Knight and Georgia Michelman – worked throughout their junior year to hone their documentary, “Zora Neale Hurston: Taking a Stand for a Holistic Portrayal of Black Women and Black Culture in Literature.”  After winning regional and state History Day competitions, they went to Maryland in June for the national competition.

Not only did the students take home bronze metals from National History Day, their documentary also was selected for a special viewing at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003 in Washington, DC.

Part 2: The Meeting House on Bedford Common

Historian Sharon Lawrence McDonald, photographed in the sanctuary of Bedford’s historic meeting house – Imaage (c) Nancy Daugherty, 2017 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

Town Historian and Society member Sharon McDonald speaking about the iconic building on the Common

The first Meeting House was built in 1729 on the northwest corner of Bedford’s “common lands” – where Elm Street and The Great Road intersect today – and served the Town well for 85 years as the location for Town meetings and church services.

By 1814, the Meeting House was in need of extensive repairs.  A horrific storm in 1815, which felled several large trees on the common lands, hastened the decision to build a new structure, and the second Meeting House was constructed in 1816-17 from lumber milled from the fallen trees and wood salvaged from the first Meeting House.

There is much to tell about the second Meeting House, and Bedford Town Historian Sharon McDonald, who is completing work on a history of the First Parish Church, will weave the story of this building and its use, so important to the Town’s early history.

Mrs. McDonald serves on the Bedford Historical Society’s Board of Directors, is a member of the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission, Curator of the Job Lane Farm Museum and President of the Friends of the Job Lane House.

She is best known for her 40 years employed as Children’s Librarian at the Bedford Free Public Library.  During her association with the library, which houses the historic Bedford Flag, she was inspired to research and write her first book, “The Bedford Flag Unfurled,” published in 2000.  Her second book, a history of the First Parish in Bedford, is expected to be published by the end of 2017.


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