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History of Bedford
by Mrs. W. F. Figg
Among the first white settlers who found their way into what is now
Livingston County, it was the general belief that Grand River was destined to
become a great highway to the markets of the world. At this time there were no
railroads in this area. There were no roads -- only a few Indian trails existed.
The only access to this region was for these early settlers to follow the
streams with their small boats or canoes. A few of then traveled on foot or
followed their pack animals along the Indian trails.
Most of the early settlers of this region came from Boone, Howard and Cooper
counties A few came directly from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia where most
of the settlers from the above counties had originally resided. They had slowly
worked their way up the streams, finally reaching what is now Grand River
Township in Livingston County.
Thomas Stanley was one of the early settlers who entered the land where
Bedford now stands, It is said that he lived for a time in a hollow sycamore
tree, and read Shakespeare by the light of a sycamore ball floating in a saucer
of coon grease.
The original site of the town of Bedford was first laid out and platted in
1837. The name given to this town was Leborn. In 1839 a town was platted and
recorded on the same site, including the same number of streets and blocks, It
was given the name of Bedford. Bedford was located a few rods below a series of
shoals in Grand River.
It has been quite commonly accepted that Bedford derived its name from the name of a
steamboat wrecked on the shoal of Grand River on this site. History does not
bear this out. The steamboat Bedford did not ascend the Grand River until 1840,
and the town of Bedford was platted and recorded in 1839. There is some reason
to believe that the town was surveyed in 1838.
Through further research it was found that General Nathaniel Greene, the
Revolutionary leader, was born in Bedford, Virginia on February 7, 1817. He came
to Missouri, where he became one of the founders of the town of Bedford, named
by him for his Virginia birthplace. Following his arrival in Missouri he was
admitted to the bar, but practiced little because of the pressure of other
interests. He became a large tobacco grower, owned a tobacco factory, had a
number of saw mills, and was outstanding for his engineering ability of
knowledge of lands, being considered the best civil engineer in the state. He
was also active in public life and served a term in the Senate, His death on May
23, 1881 was considered a loss to the State and the funeral service was preached
by Governor Dockery.
At this thriving point was another tobacco factory operated by Jim Baugh, these early settlers were farmers and tobacco was their chief crop, consequently the growing of tobacco became a natural crop for them on their newly established farms. Most of the settlers coming to this region were slave owners and brought their slaves with them. The census of 1860 shows that there were 605 slaves owned in Livingston County. Most of these slaves were found to be employed in tobacco fields in this area. The Jim Baugh factory was opened in 1868. In 1885 there were 25 employed in this factory. Tobacco from this factory shipped to Liverpool in huge hogsheads (barrels). There was a small man by the name of Elliott Boggs, who for many years was a skilled workman in the making of hogsheads. He was so small that he could work inside the hogshead without difficulty. Many colored people worked at this plant. The Negro women handled the Burley tobacco, a white man was boss over the colored people. They were not allowed to talk while they
were working, but they were permitted to sing and often they could be heard singing the spirituals they loved so well. Mr. Baugh rode horseback over the country buying tobacco from the farmers. Some he brought from back with him, some he sent for by the slaves. Mr. Baugh seldom bought tobacco that he didn't see with his own eyes, when Grand River was on a rampage, flat boats were used by Mr. Baugh to hurry his tobacco that was ready for market, down to Fountain Grove, because the Bedford station would be cut off from the town of Bedford. In "Bedford Drops," a weekly report in an old newspaper, the Avalon Aurora, was found this comment:
"J. H. Baugh's factory has been crowded all day March 23, 1885.
We love to see the farmers getting their tobacco off, for it is time
to begin sowing seed for another crop."
There were also cigar factories owned by P. J. Turner, H. Brafford and Joe
From the Jim Baugh factory came a pleasant aroma. The gangway made of earth,
packed down by the tramped tramp of many feet, and the odor of tobacco had
penetrated this earth until there arose from it an indescribable fragrance.
Besides the tobacco and cigar factories, there were saw mills, several
stores, a chaw factory, and at a later date there was a bank. At the time the
bank opened there were 300 persons in the population of Bedford.
The first ferry at this point was run by John Custer. This was the only mode
of crossing the river at this point until 1866 when the first bridge was
About 1870 what is now known as the Wabash Railroad was constructed through
this part of the country. The railroad followed the north ride of Grand River
and established the Bedford station about two miles from the town. In 1877 a
horse railway connecting the town and the railroad station was constructed by
Ed. Austin and R. F. Davis. The Atlas of Livingston County, Missouri, 1878,
shows this railway on one of its plats. It was operated only a short time and
was discontinued in 1882. Austin and Davis sold this railway to James G. Houx,
who operated it for a time. This road was nicknamed the African Central R. R.
This name was given because so many Negroes who worked in Jim Baugh's tobacco
factory located in Bedford rode on it, they lived in Chillicothe and would take
the early morning train on the Wabash and transfer to this line.
The rails were of wood with an iron strip on the top for the wheels of the
car to follow. The motive power was supplied by a mule. It was down a slight
grade from the town to the station. Then the trip from the town to the station
was undertaken, the mule was trained to stand on the rear platform of the car
and ride as far as the car would coast, and then it was taken off the car the
remainder of the way to the station and then back to town.
Mr. George Munro, one of the first pioneers, settled on a tract of land about two and a half miles west of Bedford. His large white house had an area of timber land between it and Grand River as a background, in his front yard he planted two rows of
cedar trees which became as stately and majestic as the famed "Cedars of
Lebanon." This site could be seen from great distances from the south which
was prairie country. The white residence framed in green by the trees, was
familiarly known as the "Munro Place." Shortly after settling this
tract of land, George Munro set apart an area of two acres for a cemetery.
On visiting this cemetery, one finds the names of many of the early
inhabitants of the community on the monuments. In the northeast part of the
cemetery one will see two monuments still standing erect although they have been
there for many years. They mark the graves of Mr. and Mrs. George Munro.
In 1837, Spencer A. Alexander came overland with an ox team from Tennessee.
On a forest-covered hill he erected a log cabin and began preparing a tract of
land for farming, where he lived until his death in l899. According to records,
the first farm developed by Alexander was deeded to Alexander Davis and wife,
Priscilla McKay Davis, in l856. They lived on this farm until their deaths; hers
in 1889, and his in 1895. Descendants of this pioneer Davis couple have been
benefactors to Livingston County.
There have been many changes in that part of Livingston County since Munro,
Alexander, and Davis settled an those tracts of land. Bedford soon became the
market for farm products and livestock. Monday morning was like a wagon train.
Men with high wheeled wagons loaded with hogs and perhaps driving cattle to be
loaded on the train for the St. Louis market. During harvest season was the same
sight, hauling the golden grain and loading in cars at Bedford Station.
The religious, educational and social life of Bedford was not neglected. The
Methodist Church South was organized in 1852. Dr. Wolfskill and wife, S. A.
Alexander and wife, Cyrus Ballew and wife, John and Mary Bailey, Harriett
Hoffman, Judah Ballew, Mrs. Laura Saunders, and Mr. and Mrs, George Munro, met
in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander to organize. These 13 people were the
History indicated that John Silvey and John Ballew were early settlers in
Grand River Township.
John Ballew did the preaching as a Methodist. It is presumed it was the
Bedford Church where he did some of his preaching. The pastors of years long ago
were Reverends: Devlin, Bell, Carter Kesan, Pyle Leeper, Rose Austin. Carlyle,
Dockery and many others whose names have become unfamiliar through the passing
years. The first church building was constructed at a cost of $2500. The cyclone
of 1880 was very destructive to property in Bedford. It destroyed and badly
damaged about fifteen buildings, among them the Methodist Church, on the site
where it now stands. The first couple to be married in this church was John P.
Alexander and Miss Jennie Mitchell. They were always faithful members and lofty
pillars of the church until their passing.
A women's missionary society was organized in Bedford at the church, December
9, 1888, with a membership of six. The president was Mrs. H. S. Hall. This
society was organized ten years after the women's missionary society in the
Missouri conference in 1878, thus it was one of the first organized.
On January 8, 1928, the Bedford Church was again destroyed; this time by fire which was discovered shortly after services were dismissed that day. Through subscriptions and donations
from the members and non-members of the church, the present building was
erected. Most of the work was donated by the people of the community who labored
long hours so that they would again have a house of worship. After the
completion of the church, a Homecoming and dedicatory service was held which was
attended by many, some who had come great distances to help the good people of
Bedford rejoice and give thanks for their blessings.
On February 2, 1950, 23 members answered the roll call of the newly organized
Bedford's Women's Society of Christian Service. Mrs. Otis Dye was the first
president. The third Thursday of each month was the time set for business
meetings an lessons. But during all these years, the women's society met each
and did hand quilting to make funds for the Lord's work. With the passing of
time and members, in recent years, this group has become inactive.
The Church observed its 100th anniversary on September 7, 1952. Two members
were recognized for fifty years membership. They were Mrs. John Akerson and Mr.
W. F. Houx. Many is the word used for the hardships that encountered the
establishments of these early settlers. The terrors of the Civil War came to
Missouri. It was a border state, there were Bushwhackers, the Militia,
unfriendly neighbors, the threats, and the reprisals, all from both sides to
contend with. Many homes were broken from fathers going off to war and never
returning. There is an account of one wife. Her husband went south with the
Confederate Army and died the first year of the war. She was left with two small
children and a fourteen year old Negro boy, to till the farm. She would take her
children to the field and work all day, coming home to carry water from a
spring, one-half mile away and after the evening meal was prepared, the Union
soldiers would come and eat it up. But with the help of the Negro boy, they kept
up her farm and always was ready to help the less-fortunate.
Mr. and Mrs. George Munro had one daughter and this is the account of her
wedding. The wedding of David Allen Creason and Eliza Kingsbury Munro is
believed to have been the largest wedding in number of guests. Their wedding
took place May 25, 1854, at the Munro Homestead at Bedford. Every man, woman and
child in the county was invited to this wedding, which united two prominent
families of Grand River Township. The bride was the daughter of George Munro of
the early settlers of Grand River Township. George Munro served with distinction
in the Missouri Legislature, as did his son, William Munro ( who worked hard for
securing the location of the State Industrial Home for Girls in Chillicothe).
The brilliant affair took place on the ridge above beautiful old Grand River,
where the evergreens and elms spread their branches. Long tables were laden with
cakes, pies and other dainties for the six hundred guests who came from all over
the county. Some came on horseback, a few in buggies, some on foot, and a few
came from the far south by water to see the cattleman, known throughout
Missouri, in his broadcloth coat, a brocaded white vest and blue jean trousers,
take unto himself the beautiful daughter of George Munro, who at that time was
representative of Livingston County, and his wife.
The bridal party consisted of six bridesmaids and six groomsmen, who took
their departure the next day, all on horseback for the home of the groom's
father who lived sixty miles distant. The women wore sunbonnets and each one had
a carpetbag hung on her saddle containing wearing apparel.
Charles H. Mansur, Representative in Congress, of Chillicothe, was the best
man at the wedding.
The "infare" was held as soon as the wedding party arrived. This
custom still prevails in some parts of the county. This an all day entertainment
at the groom's house or is sometimes held at the home of the newly wedded
couple. this entertainment or festivity at the home of the young couple is
usually in the nature of a "Chivaree," a custom which has never been
abandoned in Livingston County.
Alexander Lodge A. F. and A. M. was chartered in Bedford on October 13, 1870. It was consolidated with the Hale Lodge in October 1887. Avalon Lode A. F. and A. M. was chartered in Bedford October 12, 1882. It continued until March 8, 1817, when it
consolidated with the Wheeling Lodge. Other active Lodges were Modern
Woodsmen, Royal Neighbors, Odd Fellows (Ioof) and Rebeccas. One of the big
social events of these lodges were occasional fish fries. The fish were taken
from Grand River and the nearby streams.
Hospitals were unheard of at this time and the doctoring was with home
remedies by women, who had special knacks for this. There were several, but one
we have an account of is Mrs. Allen Creason. She would keep a horse in readiness
at all times, so to go when called. She assisted at many child births. At her
home many mornings you could hear the father say, "Get up gals -- your Ma
One of the big social events around the 1890's was a Fair which was held
across Grand River a short distance from Bedford. One of the special features
was the famous Merry-Go-Around. It was made to go around by a heavy stick tied
to a mule walking around in circles. Several mules were used and changed off at
intervals. The music was furnished by Negroes with instruments. Plenty of
watermelon was on hand for the occasion.
Thomas Jones, father of Joe and Fred Jones, settled near Bedford at an early
day. It is related that Thomas Jones and Jollin Custer once had a terrific fight
to settle the question of which should ride and which should hang on to the
horses tail while swimming across Grand River. Custer came out second best and
had to take the tail hold.
Elisha Herriford while riding through the woods near the mouth of Medicine
Creek, which is a short distance up the river, encountered a panther, he coolly
dismounted the horse and not having another weapon he grabbed a heavy club, and
attacked the savage beast. After a fierce combat Mr. Hereford killed the panther
and throwing it across his horse, bore it home in triumph.
This is an account of Postmasters in Bedford
Established as Fairland on January 17, 1850
Name changed to Bedford on April 20, 1858
Discontinued on March 21, 1864
Re-established on June 2, 1865
Discontinued on January 1, 1931
Postmasters: Date of Appointment:
Roderick R. Mills January 17, 1850
Spencer A. Alexander June 9, 1854
John Y. Porter April 29, 1858
John Smith October 3, 1861
Willard Perry May 20, 1865
Isacc Harris June1, 1865
James G. Houx September 4, 1867
John W. Strubble April 20, 1869
Charles S. Husan June 18, 1869
A. A. Merrill February 18, 1874
James C. Frazier July, 26, 1880
James H. Staton November 15, 1882
Charley E. Kenyon August 12, 1885
Tyre M. Cawthorn August 20, 1888
Herman Held December 14, 1888
George W. Wolfskill, Jr. June 24, 1893
John Pearman August 9, 1897
Jefferson D. Ballew July 6, 1901
Bernice Alexander January 22, 1925
Neal Dye (acting) March 21, 1929
David Israel February 14, 1930
The earliest reference to a mail contract for service to this Post Office
that we have been able to locate is the Mail Route Contract No. 10494 from
Brunswick, via Little Compton, Bedford and Dido to Chillicothe, which was let to
Joseph Fowler of Chillicothe, Missouri for the period 1862-64.
In this community was a Negro named Bud Cobb, who had been brought here as a
slave. He lived north of the River Bridge a short distance and raised tobacco.
He passed away in 1934 at an unknown age. Services were held at the Bedford
The Bedford Railroad Station when first erected was one-half mile down the
track from where the railroad crossing is now. In 1907, the building was taken
down in sections and placed where the crossing is now. the first depot agent was
Wolfskill. He held this position until his death in March, 1924. A constant
companion of Mr. Wolfskill all the time he was agent was a Bull Dog by the name
of Bob. he was always by his side and made the rips daily with him. No fear
could have possibly come to him. The dog died soon after Mr. Wolfskill's death
and is buried along the fence of the old Wolfskill place in Bedford. The
transportation for passengers catching the train or carrying the mail from the
depot to Bedford was by "hack", drawn by horses. Some cars were now
used in extremely dry weather. The next appointed agent was Mr. B. Pettigrew.
This position was held for several years. Then Mr. Silas Keeler held the
position for a short time and the agency was ended and later the building was
Just when the telephones were installed in Bedford we do not know. But around
1900 a switchboard was run by a Mr. and Mrs. Allen. It was then moved and run
from 1904 to 1921 by Mr. and Mrs. Wolfskill. Then at this time it was taken over
by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Norris and they ran it approximately 12 years. Then it was
moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith and with the help of Mr. and Mrs.
Floyd Smith, it ran for several years. The Mrs. Jack Lisenby had it for a few
years. Then the switchboard was moved to Avalon and service was through there
until 1964. Then it was purchased by the Wheeling Telephone Company.
Construction began for a dial system and on January 1, 1965, our telephones were
dial. This stopped all time line listening. This was really nice, and to be able
to talk to California and hear well. However, this did away with neighborhood
news and gossip. We didn't know when Bossie had twin calves, baby cut that first
tooth, or fire broke out.
The Grade School was erected on the block just north of where the School
building now stands. Once in the early days it had burned and was rebuilt. On
January 20, 1927, this building was again destroyed by fire. With helping hands
and determination it was rebuilt with part of the lumber saved from logs from
nearby timber. The first School in Livingston to consolidate was Bedford in
1914. It consolidated with Independence, located west of Bedford. It was the
building that now stands and was built by Mr. Doane and the land was bought from
the late Paul and Sarah Stephens. The basement was built in 1915 and the year
was very wet and the building was finished the next year. Some of those helping
were: Mr. Doane, his son Leslie, Harry and Dell Stephens, and Don Jagger. After
consolidation and before the High School building was constructed the 9th and
10th grade classes were held with the Grade School. So the first graduating
class from the 10th grade was in 1916; after the High School building was
completed, all four years of high school classes were held and the first
graduating class to complete the four years was in 1921. In 1942 the High School
was abolished. Then in 1948, they transferred Center, Independence and Fairland
into Bedford, thus all schools were placed in the High School building. The
Grade School was sold and torn down and later the ground was sold.
On July 27, 1958, on a Sunday morning with the river being two-thirds bank
full, a tree fell taking out the north span of the bridge. Later the other was
For several years Bedford had one store, a filling station, and a garage. The
garage closed around 1956, the store in December 1957, and all that stood was
the buildings. The building known as the Bank Building was made into a home. On
March 25, 1965, a grass fire was set and a high wind came up; thus destroying
all the former business buildings.
The dreams of pioneer settlers of Grand River Township for the development of a thriving business and manufacturing town of Bedford failed to materialize over the period of the last hundred years or more. Many changes have been witnessed in the economic life of the area. There have been many changes in the way of doing business. The building of highways have bypassed this community. Grand River is no longer an artery of commerce -- only a fishing place. Today Bedford has a few scattered homes, a few of them farmers, retired folks, and weekend fishermen. The Church still stands and the School is to be auctioned off soon. Today, one can drive down to what was once the main street of a thriving town and feel a great loneliness and sadness in recalling the many prosperous activities of this region, The membership in the Church is small, but people are carrying their "Banner Onward," hoping and praying that they will always be able to carry out the Lord's work in the best way.