Bedford Resident Presents Book to Bedford Library and Bedford Historical Society

On January 16, 2018 Jan van Steenwijk presented his first copy of “Ordinary People – Extraordinary Stories,” a catalog of portraits and hand-written life stories of Bedford residents, to Richard Callaghan, Director, Bedford Free Public Library and Don Corey, President, Bedford Historical Society.

Van Steenwijk has lived in Bedford for 30 years where he observed and learned that much of what makes a small town like Bedford thrive are its ordinary citizens. An endless number of people continually volunteer their time and energy to keep aspects of the community vibrant.

At one-point, van Steenwijk recognized that these individuals rarely received credit for all the hours they dedicated to keep projects and organizations functioning smoothly. Wanting to spotlight these everyday heroes, he decided to photograph some of them and asked them to write a little bit about themselves. Realizing that writing, especially about one’s self, is difficult, he asked everyone to hand-write whatever they would like others to know about them on one sheet of paper.

To support their narratives, van Steenwijk chose to photograph each person in the environment that helped describe their voluntary work. The final result was a series of environmental portraits, accompanied by intimate, hand-written texts that together presented a glimpse into the life of a few Bedfordians. “This was my way of giving them the medals they deserved,” van Steenwijk said. Continue reading “Bedford Resident Presents Book to Bedford Library and Bedford Historical Society”

The Society Honors Bedford High School National History Day Winners

As part of our continuing mission to promote the study of history, again this year we have opened our Historical Society’s program year by honoring  Bedford High School’s National History Day prize winners. This year’s winning group produced a documentary, Zora Neale Hurston: Taking a Stand for a Holistic Portrayal of Black Women & Black Culture in Literature, and earned a third-place medal in the national competition, whose theme this year was Taking a Stand in History.

This past year’s team of Lexia Ciccone, Cordelia Houck, Natalie Knight, and Georgia Michelman, shown here along with their advisors, history teachers James Sunderland and Christine Butler and Society President Don Corey, attended the competition at the University of Maryland, and competed against an international field.

Please follow the link here to view these students’ amazing work:


Celebrating the 1916 National Election in Bedford

[In indexing the Charles Jenks Scrapbooks for the Society, Sharon McDonald found a delightful set of newspaper articles from the November, 1916 Bedford Enterprise. She summarizes them for us here:]

It was election time in 1916, and the presidential race between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans HughesWoodrow Wilson Campaign Button was too close to foretell. Bedford resident Fred F. Cook, however, was sure that his candidate, Hughes, would win. He and his friend Randall A. Whittier argued about it as they rode the Boston commuter train. Randall was just as sure that Wilson would be reelected.  Rashly, Cook made a bet: if Hughes didn’t win the election, he, Cook, would harness himself up to his one horse shay and pull Whittier around the streets of Bedford. If Hughes did win, it would be Whittier who would play horse.

The presidential campaign had been intense. The Great War had begun in Europe, and Woodrow Wilson was promising to keep America out of the war. Hughes, on the other hand, wanted to prepare the United States to join the war.

Ticket to Town Hall Election Returns 1916

For the first time, Bedford was going to receive the results of the election as quickly as they were announced. The Bedford Civic Club (Randall Whittier, president) was renting a newswire, and for the price of 25 cents, you could join the crowd upstairs in the Town Hall on election night and listen as the votes were counted across the nation. The evening would be festive as well as patriotic, for the Civic Club would be serving oyster stew.

Even with the oyster stew, it was a long night, but at the end of it, Woodrow Wilson had won again. Fred Cook had to make good on his bet.

Cook, a man of about fifty, worked as a salesman of paper boxes. He was also the captain of the Fred Cook in his Lexington Minuteman UniformLexington/Bedford Minutemen, and a fireman. Whittier was a bit younger, about thirty years old, and worked as a bank teller. The whole town turned out to see the forfeit, and it was an unforgettable occasion. Cook took up the traces of his shay with Whittier aboard, and a parade worthy of the Fourth of July stepped off.  The Lexington Drum Corps set the pace, and two triumphant Democratic donkeys tramped along behind. Then fell in practically the entire town, carrying torches and signs reading “Wilson Whittier Winner.” From his seat in the carriage, the local winner himself bowed grandly to his audience.

After proceeding up and down all of the main streets of Bedford, the parade broke up in front of the Town Hall, and all went inside. There they were treated to a program of wit and farce, with local politicians the butt of the jokes. (Woodrow Wilson himself was invited, but alas could not attend.) Then, to the accompaniment of music from a twenty piece band, all enjoyed a collation of coffee and beans.

Cook’s pronouncement on the bet?

“To be a horse is no pink tea,

And this was caused by the G.O.P.”

Sharon McDonald