Pathway to Bedford

On April 8, 2015 · Comments Off on Pathway to Bedford

One of the more obscure examples provided in New Difference involved New Bedford Inlet in Antarctica. The chilly inlet derived its name from New Bedford in Massachusetts, which in turn had been named for Bedford, the County Town of Bedfordshire, England. I encountered several other places named Bedford or New Bedford as I examined that original curious occurrence. Sequential hops between three interrelated names seemed pretty good. However, I did discover a more impressive example that featured sequential hops between five names.

(1) New Bedford, Ohio

New Bedford, Ohio, USA

The sequence began with New Bedford, a small unincorporated community in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country. According to the History of Coshocton County, Ohio (1881)

New Bedford… was laid out in March, 1825, by John Gonser, while the country around it was scarcely all settled… Mr. Gonser was ably seconded by three sons Henry, David and Adam, each whom erected a house for himself in the town plat. The Gonsers were from Bedford county Pennsylvania hence the name of the village.

I followed the thread back to Pennsylvania.

(2) Bedford County, Pennsylvania

The Coffee Pot, Bedford, PA
The Coffee Pot, Bedford, PA by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

Bedford County had its local seat of government in the town of Bedford. It took an effort to avoid confusing those particular Bedfords with another town found elsewhere in Pennsylvania called New Bedford (and named for Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, an early landowner). Clearly Pennsylvania had an affinity for Bedford.

The correct Bedford, the original homestead of the Gonser family, dated to 1771. According to the county itself, it was carved from "parts of Cumberland County, and is named for the fort that tamed the area for settlers to follow."

The most interesting sight in Bedford had to be the Coffee Pot-Shaped Building. It was built along the old Lincoln Highway during the 1920’s to attract passing motorists. The building fell into disrepair until moved and restored by preservationists in 2003. (Street View). That had nothing to do with this story. I’m just a sucker for offbeat roadside attractions.

(3) Fort Bedford

Fort Bedford Museum by Darren and Brad, on Flickr (cc)

The so-called "fort that tamed the area" was Fort Bedford located in what later became the town of Bedford in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t difficult to find. The Fort Bedford Museum marked the proper spot (map).

Fort Bedford had its heyday during the French and Indian War, a part of the larger Seven Years’ War between Britain and France et. al. As described in Legends of America,

Completed in the summer of 1758, the fort featured five bastions with walls that enclosed an area of approximately 1.45 acres and was surrounded by the river and a dry moat that was nine foot deep, ten feet wide at the bottom and fifteen feet wide at the top. The main gate was located on the south side of the structure and was protected by an earthen rampart. The north side, which faced the river, featured the unique gallery to the riverbank. Described as the "Grand Central Station of the Forbes campaign", the fort became an important communications and supply link for Forbes’s army as it moved deeper into the wilderness.

An older source, the History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania (1884), revealed the source of the name.

It appears that when Forbes troops first occupied this point it was termed in letters and orders the "Camp at Raystown" or "Raystown Fort" but before the close of a twelve month it was called Fort Bedford in honor of "his Grace the Duke of Bedford" one of the "Lords Justices," also one of “his Majestie’s Principal Secretaries of State” during the reign of George II

The hunt was on for the namesake Duke.

(4) Duke of Bedford

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford by Thomas Gainsborough
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
via Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

The Duke of Bedford at the time of Fort Bedford’s establishment was John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford. He held a number of high positions in the British government and had various places named in his honor in North America. Fort Bedford was one example. Others included Bedford, New Hampshire and Bedford County, Virginia.

The Bedford peerage was named after Bedford, England.

(5) Bedford, Bedfordshire, England

Bedford Bridge On The River Great Ouse.
Bedford Bridge On The River Great Ouse. by Jim Linwood, on Flickr (cc)

Bedford (map) in Bedfordshire ultimately inspired the naming of tiny New Bedford, Ohio through that rather laborious, circuitous route outlined above.

The story should end there although I wondered if I could take it one step farther. Where did Bedford get its name? The Bedford Bureau Council’s Brief History of Bedford said, "Bedford probably takes its name from an otherwise unknown Saxon chief called Beda who settled with his followers where the River Great Ouse was fordable some thirteen centuries ago."


(5½ – Bonus!) The Bedford Name

I quickly checked the Bedford surname for additional clues. explained,

English: habitational name from the county seat of Bedfordshire, or a smaller place of the same name in Lancashire. Both are named with the Old English personal name Beda + Old English ford ‘ford’. The name is now very common in Yorkshire as well as Bedfordshire.

The Bedford Surname Origins Study offered additional hypotheses. The "ford" portion was obvious; a place where one could cross a river. "Bed" might have derived from the personal name Beda or from Anglo-Saxon terms for prayer or battle, or maybe even from other more obscure sources.

I arrived at the final stopping point: New Bedford, Ohio → Bedford County, Pennsylvania → Fort Bedford → Duke of Bedford → Bedford, England → possibly some dude named Beda who controlled a crossing point on the River Great Ouse.

On April 8, 2015 · Comments Off on Pathway to Bedford

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