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The Bedford Railroad
by W. N. Bate

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    In the earlier and obscure days of Livingston County interesting things were going on. That was the time of the general westward wave of migration, and people were coming in and settling. They were looking for land and homes. They found both and stayed. Most of the town sites in those days were located on the banks of streams, because streams were often the first transportation routes. The Bedford vicinity was one of the most enterprising and earlier settled communities in the county and had for supply routes the Grand River, the wagon roads, and in its earlier times the pack horse trails. This was a common condition along the frontier borders, and Bedford was as well situated as many other similar scattered vicinities. While the town was still in the growing state this transportation problem changed.

    Perhaps many of the present day citizens of the county do not realize that a little railway was once operated at the town of Bedford. and ran to the Bedford Station switch on the Wabash Railroad about two miles away.

    Mrs. Elliott of the Livingston County Memorial Library this authentic reference:

    The HISTORY OF LIVINGSTON COUNTY by Boehner, page 69, states, "The Wabash Railroad, built in 1871, gave Bedford another means of communication with places far and near. For a number of years a horse drawn street car drawn on wood tracks covered with strap iron, carried passengers the two miles from or to the station."

    Mr. George W. Somerville of Chillicothe states that the 1878 Atlas of Livingston County shows the Bedford Branch Street R. R., and that Mr. E. M. Austin and R. F. Davis built this little railroad in 1877, and operated it for a time, then sold it to Mr. James Houx. Its operation was discontinued in 1882, but for approximately five years Bedford was connected with the outside world by means of a railroad.

    The description Mr. W. B. (Boone) Saunders of Gillette, Wyoming, and formerly of Bedford, is most interesting and revealing on this subject. To quote Mr. Saunders:

    "My father-in-law, Mr. Robert H. Rickerson, was for a time employed to drive the team, or it might have been just a horse, that provided the power to pull the cars. As was told me, the equipment consisted of a passenger car which had all the appearance of a regular horsedrawn street car which was in use in a great many towns and cities at that time. Seats along each with regular car windows, and the wheels were steel with flanges for track use. The other car was similar as to the wheels, but was more like a railroad flatcar, and was used for hauling freight, etc. I do not recall that more than one was used. I think the same man that operated the passenger car also operated the freight car, and no doubt met passenger trains for passengers, mail and express, and then used the same horse or horses to met the local freights with the flat car for the freight that came in and out of that then very prosperous town. My father, with his family, moved from Virginia to Bedford in the autumn of 1882. I was then four years old. The line was not in operation then. When the Wabash Railroad was built through that country the station were located about three-quarters of a mile east of the present location of the sidetrack or station. This former location was the station to which the street railway ran from the end of the Grand River Bridge at Bedford. I, personally, remember seeing the two cars previously described sitting unused near the north end until they gradually were wasted away by time, the elements, and foragers. It was a great thrill for us small kids to slip away from home without permission and go down and cross the bridge and play 'train' in that old stationary streetcar. It sort of bridged over the long periods between actual train rides for most of us. The road bed for the line did not have much of a grade and extended across that extremely level expanse of a fraction over two miles without any sign of a hill. They used cross ties similar to what you might see in the coal mine operations. Not as large or as long as regular railroad ties, and might have been a little farther apart. The rails were 4 X 4 rough sawn oak, and probably were white oak which was plentiful right in that vicinity. I remember seeing parts of these things when I had grown old enough to take an old musket and go hunting over that way. Mrs. Saunders tells me that it was told to her that she was taken for a ride on that streetcar when she was one year old. It was her father that drove the car. In that day one of the very earliest pioneer merchants was "Uncle" Jake Houx. He had a number of sons. One, a very enterprising young man, became quite a booster and investor in projects at Bedford. He was a merchant. I don't know whether with his father, but I believe so. He was also engaged in the grain business with an elevator, not a regular elevator but rather a warehouse, for grain, built on the railroad. This was J. R. (Jim) Houx and he also acquired the street railway. As I recall in overhearing about things of the time, Houx had some opposition to his projects which finally culminated in his opponents persuading the R. R. company to have the depot moved east a few miles to a station known as Fountain Grove, and also to remove the side track, or switch for Bedford, three-quarters of a mile west, leaving the terminal for the street car line with nothing to connect to, and with nothing to do. It was one among several serious blows to the enterprising Mr, Houx. It was a great victory and satisfaction to those who engineered it, but it was also a very serious blow to the town of Bedford and if I analyze those far back things correctly, the town began to fall and continued to down until now it is nearly blotted out. To me it seems that it was too bad, for Bedford was well situated, and had everything in the way of natural recreational advantages. It was on the hillside of the river and never in any danger from floods which frequently happened along Grand River"

    It is known that at one time a man by the name of George Cornue was employed as operator of the line.

    Reports are to the effect that mules were sometimes used on the line and that other times horses were used.

    Mr. Houx apparently possessed a sense of humor, for while he was operating this little two-mile railway he issued passes, and on one occasion sent passes to the presidents of several railroads. The railroads in turn sent him passes over their lines. Some of these presidents learned later that they had been the victim of a hoax. There is no record as to whether any of them ever used their pass over the illustrious Bedford line.

    Mr. Bud Gray, of Chillicothe, was farming many years ago in an area north of the Bedford bridge and happened on to some timbers with his farming equipment. On inquiry he learned that the timbers were a part of the former Bedford railway line.

    Mrs. Bertha Sensenich, of Wheeling, remembered seeing the old street car of the Bedford railway and believed it was pulled by a mule.

    Mr. Ben Hoffman, of Miami, Florida, and formerly of Bedford, remembered that a street railway pulled by horses or mules was operated between Bedford and the Wabash R. R. while he was living there but recalled no further particulars.

    Mr. Walter Woodhead, of California, and formerly of Bedford, substantiates the statements set forth by Mr. Saunders. These two gentlemen were friends in those earlier days.

    Grateful thanks is extended to all those who contributed toward the completing of this article by W. N. Bate, formerly of Livingston County.

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