Historical Sketch of Bedford, MA
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BEDFORD originally belonged in part to the town of Concord. It was incorporated as a town in 1729. It is not very well situated for an agricultural town. About half of it is meadow land, unimproved, and partly incapable of improvement. It contains, however, several good farms, and nearly all the varieties of soil. The Shawshiiie is the only considerable stream of water. On this stream is a mill which was built before Philip’s war, in 1676, and was then owned by Michael Bacon, who was allowed to have two garrison soldiers stationed there for his safety. Agriculture is the employment of a large portion of the people. The manufacture of shoes for the Boston market was begun here in 1805, by John Hosmer and Jonathan Bacon. in this business about 60 men and 80 women are employed. About 90,000 pairs of shoes, estimated to be worth $50,000, are made annually. There are 2 churches, 1 Orthodox and 1 Unitarian, and about 30 dwelling houses, in the central part of the town. This place is 5 miles north east of Concord, and 15 north west of Boston, and contains 858 inhabitants.

The first meeting house was completed in 1730. Committees were chosen the next and many subsequent “to seat the meetinghouse,” and “have respect to them that are 50 years old and upwards;" those under this age “to he seated according to their pay.” A new meeting house was erected in 1817. The first minister, Rev. Nicholas Bowes, was ordained July 15, 1730. He was dismissed in 1734, and in 1735 went as chaplain in the northern army at Fort Edward. In 1756, Rev. Nathaniel Sherman was the next ordained here. Being opposed to the “half-way covenant,” he was dismissed. in 1766. The Rev. Joseph Penniman was the next regular minister, and was ordained in 1771, and continued here about twenty years. Though possessed of respectable talents, he was very eccentric in his manners and public performances. Soon after the 19th of April, 1775, he is said to have used the following expression in his prayer :— We pray thee to send the British soldiers where they will do some good; for thou knowest, 0 Lord! that we have no use for them about here.” The next minister was the Rev. Samuel Stearns, who was ordained in April, 1796.

Among the peculiar customs which prevailed in the church from its first formation to the ordination of Mr. Stearns, was that of making public confession of particular offences committed by the members. These were drawn up in writing, and read by the minister before the congregation. Frequent notices are specified in the church records, such as “the confession of ____ for the sin of intemperance,” “for the breach of the seventh commandment,” or other sins, as the case might be, "was read before the congregation." This custom was not peculiar to the church in Bedford; it prevailed to some extent in many other churches.

Historical Collections Relating to the
History and Antiquities of
Every town in Massachusetts with
Geographical Descriptions.
By John Warner Barber.
Published by Warren Lazell.


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