HUZZAH: There’s a New Book in Town! ‘Bedford History for Kids’ by Town Historian Sharon Lawrence McDonald

With a publication date scheduled to coincide with this weekend’s sadly-canceled Pole Capping ceremony, Town Historian Sharon Lawrence McDonald’s new book for elementary and middle school readers, Bedford History for Kids, arrived from the printer on Monday.

It contains fun facts and historic tales—from stone tools to an alleged witch, from trains and trolleys to a new airport. McDonald believes the time is right for younger readers to be able to enjoy learning more about the town where they live. The book is appealingly filled with photos of artifacts, postcards, hand-drawn maps—and pictures of local children.

Selectmen Ease into The New Year with Light Meeting

At their January 6 meeting, the Selectmen reviewed updates on the business plan of the long-discussed History Museum and heard progress on the Police Station’s Net Zero progress.

Bedford Historical Society October Program

The Historical Society will be hosting a showing of “Bedford Windshield: A Quick and Easy guide to Architecture in a New England Village”, a 1993 documentary produced by the Bedford Historical Society. The program discusses historical homes throughout Bedford, the architecture and structural reasoning behind the properties, history of the owners, and the various styles that make New England Homes iconic. The documentary features Mary Hafer, Previous Curator of the Bedford Historical Society and Historical Architect, Max Ferro. Ms. Hafer has graciously agreed to speak at the meeting about her participation in the video and other key facts about historic homes throughout Bedford. It is a program not to be missed!

Historical Society Meeting:  History Day Projects and a Revolutionary-Era Bedford Home on September 25

The first meeting of the Bedford Historical Society’s 2019-2020 Program Series will begin at 7:15 for a half-hour refreshment/social period before the guest speakers begin on Wednesday, September 25, 2019, at the Congregational Church, 25 The Great Road. The evening will highlight Bedford High School students who competed in National History Day will describe their projects and will also be presented with awards. The historic Col. Timothy Jones House will be the subject of the second part of the program. Bedford’s National History Day Students

Bedford students who qualified for the National History Day competition were:

Jacqueline Altman won 1st place at State competition for her Senior Individual Performance, “From the Warsaw Ghetto to Jewish Homes: Irene Sendler Helps Children Find Triumph in the Midst of Tragedy.”

Olivia Lee and Rahel Burchardt won 2nd place at State competition for their Senior Group Documentary, “Three Mile Island: The Tragic Negligence of Private Companies and Their Supervising Bodies Prompts a Triumph for Improved Public Safety and the Power of Public Opinion.”


Lecture: “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride: The Myth and the Man”

How did Boston silversmith Paul Revere end up riding to alert the countryside that “the British are coming” in April 1775? How many know that Paul Revere was an express rider for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the MA Committee of Safety in 1774 and 1775, to carry news, messages, and copies of important documents from Boston as far away as New York and Philadelphia? These facts and others will be offered when retired John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Curator Frank Rigg talks about the impact and legacy of Paul Revere’s historic ride. – Click this link to learn more! Join us in the Upper Fellowship Hall of the First Church of Christ, Congregational at 7:30 pm for the annual meeting of the Bedford Historical Society and at 7:45 for our guest speaker.

Lecture: “Irish Need Not Apply: The History of the Irish in Boston”

The Bedford Historical Society welcomes back history teacher, author and lecturer Chris Daley with his latest presentation, Irish Need Not Apply: The History of the Irish in Boston.  The 90-minute slide lecture examines many facets of the early Irish experience in Boston. These will include a look at the scant evidence about Irish brought over unwillingly as indentured servants in the late 17th Century; the arrival of the Scotch-Irish or “Ulster Irish” in the first real migration of Irish in 1718; the increase in anti-Irish/Catholic sentiment in Boston – starting with the notorious Pope’s Day celebrations; and a discussion of the burning of Charlestown’s Ursuline Convent in 1834 and the Broad Street Riot of 1837. Join us in the Great Room of the Old Town Hall at 2:00 pm for refreshments and at 2:30 pm for announcements our guest speaker. Free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by the Bedford Historical Society.

Lecture: “Survival: Boston 1630”

In the summer of 1630, a thousand people with dwindling supplies of food and medicine stepped off their boats into the wilderness.  They lived in caves or wigwams or tents; food began to run out.  In winter, Boston Harbor froze solid for two months. John Morrison, Trustee of the Partnership of Historic Bostons (PHB), will present an illustrated talk about the first dangerous years when nearly one-half of the original Puritans died or fled back to England.  How did they survive in the place that became the City of Boston? Join in the Upper Fellowship Hall of the First Church of Christ, Congregational at 2:00 pm for refreshments and at 2:30 pm for announcements our guest speaker. Free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by the Bedford Historical Society.

History Day and What’s in Bedford’s Attic

Join us at 7:15 for refreshments; at 7:45 the Bedford High School History Day competitors will describe their projects and be honored by the Bedford Historical Society. Don Corey, Society President, will present a show and tell on “What’s in Bedford’s Attic.” Free and open to the public.

If These Walls Could Talk: More Historic Homes of Bedford

If These Walls Could Talk ~ A Bedford Historical Society Lecture on April 25

Join the Historical Society to hear stories from two more of Bedford’s historic homes; the Farley-Hutchinson-Kimball house on North Road, and the David Fitch house, now part of Carleton-Willard Village on Old Billerica Road. Current owners will discuss their homes’ histories and notable former occupants, along with rehabilitation and preservation efforts.

The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannons Ignited the Revolutionary War

Author J.L. Bell will offer an unique view of  the American War for Independence as he tells the little-known story about the Massachusetts Patriots’ efforts, from September 1774 on, to build an artillery force, and General Thomas Gage’s attempts to thwart that insurgency. Mr. Bell is fascinated with the story of the American Revolution in New England. Along with his book, The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannons Ignited the Revolutionary War, he has published several scholarly papers and served as a consultant for an episode of History Detectives. 

Autographed copies of Mr. Bell’s book will be available for sale.

A Visit with Abraham Lincoln

Join us for A Visit with Abraham Lincoln, as presented by historical storyteller, Steve Wood.  Mr. Wood has been researching and presenting Living History Programs since 1995 and he portrayed Lincoln as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, ” American Originals.” His presentation will include stories of Lincoln’s early life, campaign debates with Stephen Douglas and the Civil War. He will conclude with a reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Revolution! And the Birth of a Hopeful Nation

Join us for  our final meeting of the program year: an evening with the popular group,  Musical PASTimes, as they use music and song to explore the way 18th century colonists rebelled against the British Crown. Musical PASTimes is a collaboration between Susanne Powers and Larry Young, and grew out of their desire to bring history closer through the use of music and interactive storytelling.

Paul Revere’s Gossipy Mother-in-law will Speak at the Historical Society’s Annual Meeting

Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society


Paul Revere’s mother-in-law, innkeeper Rachel Walker — as interpreted by actress Kate Carney, will take us back to Boston in 1789 and describe the chaos of pre- and post-Revolutionary War Boston as the entertainment for the Bedford Historical Society’s Annual Meeting and Potluck Dinner, to be held Tuesday, May 24 in Upper Fellowship Hall of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, Bedford. The evening will begin at 6 pm with appetizers and punch.  A buffet potluck supper, provided by the Society members, will start around 6:45 pm.  This meeting is open to the public.  Anyone wishing to attend the dinner should bring a salad, main dish or dessert to feed approximately eight people.  Appetizers, coffee, tea and soft drinks will be provided by the Historical Society. Following dinner, the Society’s Annual Meeting will be held at 7:30 pm to elect Officers and members of the Board of Directors, and to hear a report on the year’s activities from President Don Corey.  Kate Carney’s living history performance will begin around 7:45 pm. Interacting with the audience as if they are guests at her North Star Tavern in Boston in 1789, Kate Carney as innkeeper Rachel Walker will present eye-witness accounts of the Boston Tea Party, her son-in-law Paul Revere’s famous ride to warn that the British were coming, and a ladies’ riot over high food prices (Boston Coffee Party).  Carney, in full costume, will describe how Massachusetts convinced the other colonies to enter the War for Independence and tell other rousing adventure tales of everyday colonialists in the turmoil of Revolutionary War Boston.  Her program makes the audience feel that they, too, are living in the midst of the War for Independence.

Saving the Giants of our Hardwood Forests – Historical Society Lecture on March 23

Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society

More than a century since the American chestnut tree – which comprised one-quarter of all American hardwood forests — deteriorated from a lethal fungus disease called chestnut blight, the trees are being restored through the efforts of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF). As guest speaker for the Bedford Historical Society’s March lecture series, wildlife biologist and ACF volunteer Curt Laffin will trace the history of this significant tree and the Foundation’s work to return it to our forests.  Laffin became intrigued by the loss of this beloved tree when, at the age of 5, his father showed him one of the last surviving American chestnut trees, in Harvard, MA. The event will begin at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, March 23rd in Upper Fellowship Hall of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, 25 The Great Rd., with refreshments and a social period.  After brief announcements around 7:45 pm, Laffin will begin his slide presentation and provide a cross-section of an American chestnut for the audience to view and touch. This program is free and open to the public. Laffin will describe how the blight, imported to the US on Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus whose spores are easily dispersed by air, raindrops or animals.  The fungus enters the chestnut tree via injuries in the tree’s bark and then spreads throughout the tree, killing wood and cambium tissues as it advances.  Because the cambium portion of the tree are cells responsible for secondary growth in stems and roots, the blight chokes off the flow of nutrients to the tree, leaving it as a sprouts on a short-lived tree stump.

Report of the School Committee of Bedford, Mass for the Year Ending April, 1847

Reprinted from The Preservationist, with the permission of the Bedford Historical Society

Mr. Moderator:

Unfortunately, for your Committee, it becomes our duty to invite the attention of the town to a dry, uninteresting and unimportant subject – the education of the youth of Bedford. Had we been appointed a Committee to prosecute every person who should take a load of gravel from the highway or make any encroachments thereon, our report would have been listened to with the deepest interest by every voter of the town. The reason is obvious – you value a load of gravel more than the education of your children – the improvement of the public roads more than the improvement of your public  schools. It is a matter of astonishment to your Committee, that you should so mistake your true interests. You forget that your sons are soon to take charge of this ballot-box, soon to occupy this desk and soon to manage the affairs of your town.

Mystery Solved: Home of William F. Gragg Family Located

By Carl Hanson

William Francis Gragg (1810-1864) was one of Bedford’s most remarkable Civil War veterans with a historic career in the U.S. Navy. The Gragg family consisted of William and his wife Maria, two sons, William Jr. and George, and two daughters, Mary and Maria.  They are listed in both the 1855 and 1860 Bedford census, but until now it remained a mystery where they lived. More on that later, but who was William F. Gragg? And why was he so remarkable? Gragg’s Navy Career

During the time the Gragg family lived in Bedford, William served two stints in the Navy.

Historical Society Hosts Old Burial Ground Talk & Tour: Sunday, April 26

Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society

Want to meet a “taphophile?”  Don’t know what that is?  The public is invited to meet one at the “show and tell” planned for the Bedford Historical Society’s April program. On Sunday, April 26th, Historical Society member and taphophile Lori Eggert will present “Stones and Stories: The Appeal of Old New England Burial Grounds.”  Following her presentation, to be held in the Great Room of Old Town Hall, and weather-permitting, Ms. Eggert will lead attendees approximately 100 yards up the street to Bedford’s Old Burial Ground.  There, as a taphophile – a person interested in cemeteries, funerals and gravestones — she will continue her stories of this fascinating place, which originally was a part of the Town Common. This event will begin at 2 pm with refreshments.  Ms. Eggert’s talk will start around 2:30.  The public is invited to both the “tell” and “show” portions of this program. According to Ms. Eggert, “Grave markers are a gateway into the history of our towns.  Besides listing names and dates of the departed, they also serve up period folk art and are voices from the past.

Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers – A Bedford Historical Society Lecture on March 25

Submitted by The Bedford Historical Society

The Bedford Historical Society’s March program will feature Lincoln historian, author and re-enactor Rick Wiggin, who will describe the myths and realities of Revolutionary War service from research conducted for his book, “Embattled Farmers: Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783.”

This program, which is open to the public, will be held on Wednesday evening, March 25 in Fellowship Hall of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, 25 The Great Rd.  After a refreshment period between 7:15 and 7:45 pm in which coffee, cocoa and baked goods will be served, Wiggin will talk about the Lincoln farmers with personal connections to Bedford, who fought in these battles.  He will tell unknown stories gleaned from his research and describe numerous aspects of the War for Independence that rarely appear in traditional histories, such as the service of under-age boys and slaves and the ravages of war: smallpox, economic ruin, desertion and capture. Following the battle of Concord on April 19th, 1775, British soldiers were returning to Boston when they were ambushed in Lincoln by some 1,200 Provincials from all the surrounding areas, including Bedford.  According to Wiggin:  “Here the fight began in earnest: more people were killed and wounded along this stretch of road in Lincoln than at the Lexington Green and Concord’s North Bridge combined.  It was here that the events of the day boiled over and passed the point of no return.”

Wiggin, a graduate of the Wharton School at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, works in the medical and life sciences arenas.  But his avocation has been historical research.  In addition to writing “Embattled Farmers,” he is researching a new book — a biography of Brigadier General Thomas Welsh, who served in the Mexican and Civil Wars.   He is a member of the Lincoln Minute Men, where he served as Captain, and a volunteer at Minute Man National Historical Park.  He also is a past Executive Director of the Bostonian Society, which maintains the Old State House — the state capital building of colonial Massachusetts. Copies of his award-winning book, “Embattled Farmers,” will be available for sale and the author’s signature after his presentation.

Abbott Reed Webber – A Bedford Paratrooper in France During WWII

Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society

Late last fall the Society received an email from Thierry Ferey in Normandy, France:

“I’m writing to you as I’m making some research about American paratroopers who were landed here on D Day, June 6, 1944.  I ‘googled’ about one of these Heroes named Abbott Reed Webber and I found your website.  I know, sadly, that Mr. Webber passed away several years ago but I try to be in touch with his family…

“By way of my research, I try to connect the families of these brave Heroes who gave so much to our people in 1944, their courageous feats aren’t forgotten, my country is Free since this time (1944) and I know that Freedom isn’t Free, many of Mr. Webber’s friends paid the high price by their own sacrifice …”

We immediately passed the message to Doris (Mickey) Webber, Reed’s widow, and googled Thierry Ferey-Normandy. 

We found that he is a dairy farmer in Normandy, France, and over the years has researched records to reach families of men who served in the 101st Airborne Division.  He has been able to bring closure to some families by answering some of their questions about the events on D Day.  After talking with Mickey, we responded to Mr. Ferey that she would be interested in any information that he might have. In his response (sent on Veterans Day 2014) Mr. Ferey wrote:

“Several years ago I received a letter from an American veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who was misdropped in the marshy land at St. Georges de Bohon where my family lived on D Day.  He was there, completely lost and far from his objective with two other American paratroopers.  One of these unfortunate men was Abbott R. Webber [who] was a medic, the other one was William Elliott …  Today, we are on a special day and we remember the Big Sacrifice that made all these so Extraordinary men on D Day …”

The plight of Sgt. Robert Reynolds, Cpl. Webber and Radioman Elliott is told in D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, a video recording available through the Bedford Library, featuring the accounts of many members of the 101st Airborne Division who landed in Normandy on D-Day.  The three men avoided detection by the Germans and, after crossing ditches, canals and rivers, they finally reached friendly lines at Carentan days later. From December 1944 through January 1945 Reed Webber’s unit was engaged at the Battle of the Bulge, where 600,000 American forces withstood a German counteroffensive, but with the loss of almost 81,000 casualties and over 10,000 dead.  Mr. Webber was shot in the neck and shoulder there.  He was hospitalized in England in a body cast for months and permanently lost sensation in his arm.  An AP article in the Boston Globe in December reported on observances that were held in the Ardennes region and in Bastogne, Belgium to mark the 70th anniversary of that battle.

Bedford in the 1910 Census: Population Jumps to 1,231 Residents


By Brian Oulighan
Reprinted from The Preservationist, the Bedford Historical Society’s newsletter

The population of Bedford had increased slightly from 1,208 in 1900 to 1,231 in 1910.  New occupations appeared that we had not seen before. There were now 2 telephone operators in town, Quincy Cole was a Plumber, and his son Lyman was an Electrician.  The Stove Dealers and Tin Plate workers of years before adapted with the current times. Edwin Rand was building Highview Camps off Davis Road and ran the Oakland Boat and Livery business for people who wanted to relax and spend time on the weekends near the beautiful Concord River.  Trolleys left Bedford Center and brought people to the Davis Road Camps and to Mr. Clark’s dance hall pavilion across the road. In 1970 Louise K. Brown wrote; “In the simple days of the early century, before the wide highways piped the young away from home, and before the million-dollar industries of radio and television diverted their natural tendencies, fun was found in places near our homes and in customs now long forgotten.”

Those were great years in Bedford, and relatively quiet times. Harriet and Estelle Turner were Singers for Private Parties, and George Hensley ran a Catering business.