Nestled between the mountains on South Central Pennsylvania is the town of Bedford. Bedford was originally settled in the Pennsylvania colony in 1732, but little is known about the original settlers. In 1751, Robert Ray built several buildings at the site including a trading post for trading with local trappers. hunters and the native population.
In preparing to take the Forks of the Ohio (Fort Duquesne) from the French, General John Forbes decided that a fort would be built at Raystown to serve as a post for the British army and a supply depot for his campaign. The fort was initially named Fort Raystown but the name would be changed by General Stanwix, to Fort Bedford to honor the Duke of Bedford.
As with many of the forts built in the French and Indian War, a town emerged in the area of the fort, settlers seeking new land had an option for safety should they come under stack by French forces or Native American warriors who were protecting land that they had used for hundreds of years.
The fort would eventually be dismantled and used for building houses in the area. The town, now called Bedford would emerge and thrive into the 21st century. The people of the Bedford area still thrive on remembering their past. Bedford has developed two places that reclaim the past in order to understand how the town developed and what daily life was like in the past. Old Bedford Village and the Fort Bedford Museum have preserved pieces of Bedford’s past so that current and future generations can experience the past.
Old Bedford Village is beautifully organized town from the mid 1800’s. The buildings within this historic village were sourced from the Bedford County PA area with the exception of the visitor’s center. Each building has a separate purpose to give the visitor a better understanding of life and work in the time period.
The staff and volunteers are incredibly welcoming and knowledgeable of the era and the artisan role they portray. Old Bedford Village has specialized weekend events to see many of the things that happened in the past, from Military re-enactors to musicians playing the music of the period to hands on art projects for children and adults. Old Bedford Village is a great destination for all ages to explore and learn.
Just across town, sitting on the Raystown branch of the Juniata River is the Fort Bedford Museum. The museum opened in 1958 on the 200th anniversary of the building of Fort Bedford. My visit took place on the day the museum celebrated their 60th anniversary. The museum sits not far from the original spot of the fort and preserves many of the artifacts that existed at the fort including the original Commander’s Ensign which the museum educator was very happy to point out as the oldest of its kind in the area.
The museum has artifacts from the era of Fort Bedford, as well as the growth of Bedford and its surrounding area. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and constantly looking for new information and working with other facilities to get that information. A few years, an archeological dig near the museum for the base of the original gallery and some of the original walls of the fort. Upon its discovery a reconstruction of the gallery and entrance of the fort was built close to the site to give visitors an idea what the fort entrance looked like.
If you are traveling through Pennsylvania, I suggest you take the time to visit these two historic gems that help preserve part of the history of the United States. It is a great day trip to visit these sites and the many local restaurants in the area. I was very happy with my visit and plan to return again in the near future.