Today in Bedford’s History: June 19, 1956

Chicken vs. Jets

“Auntie Blinn and her white Wyandotts.” From the archives of the Bedford Historical Society

From the Lowell Sun, June 19, 1956:

“Which comes first, the chicken or the jet? News out of Bedford indicates that the Air Force is becoming disturbed over the high mortality among chickens which drop dead from fright when jets take off from Hanscom airfield.”

Chicken farming has a long history in Bedford. In addition to chicken farmers selling chicks and eggs, many residents kept chickens in Bedford backyards. There are many photos of chickens in the Bedford Society archives, including the one you see above from the Blinn family. Although we don’t have much evidence in our archives to prove that chickens were dying of fright, the Hanscom Air Force base website does state that “the airfield’s runways were reconfigured and expanded in 1953.” Perhaps this new configuration resulted in increased noise that affected nearby farms, leading to this 1956 Lowell Sun editorial article.

If you have any memories of area farms and how they were affected by Hanscom, please share them with us at or with the community on our Facebook page.

Kathleen Fahey, Executive Director

Thank you to volunteer Brian Oulighan for locating this entertaining article. To read the full text of the article, continue reading below:

Full Article from the Lowell Sun, June 19, 1956, page 6.
New Problem. Which comes chicken or the jet? News out of Bedford indicates that the Air Force is becoming disturbed over the high mortality among chickens which drop dead from fright when jets take off from Hanscom air field. No one would suggest that the Air Force transfer its operations elsewhere, but by the same token chicken farming in the Bedford area would appear to be a highly unprofitable venture. And what’s the answer for the poor chicken farmer who was operating in the area long before the jets arrived, back in the days when Hanscom was a dream in the heart of draftsmen? Does he crate up his chickens and move out or does he shift the base of his operations to something less chicken-hearted. Something like cows, say. The Air Force brass is attempting to offset its chicken scourge by sending teams of pilots around to soft talk chicken farmers and unhappy householders, but it would appear that there is little common ground for talk between the groups. The Air Force itself admits there is no solution to the problem in sight, so what will the pilots have to offer by way of peace token. If anything, the noise will increase as new jets come into the field, and the carnage in the barnyard will get worse. The situation appears to be impossible of a workable solution. The Air Force can’t reduce the noise; the farmers can’t revive their chickens. It would seem to be, in a manner of speaking, a dead end. In Bedford, at least, the chicken is by way of becoming as extinct as a fellow fowl, the dodo bird. The whole thing points up once again the manner in which the way of the world is changing in the jet age. Almost nothing is as terrifying to hear as the burst of a jet taking off; and almost nothing is more seemingly peaceful and calm than chicken farming. But this is the age of breaking the sound barrier, and rockets to the moon. And the civilization we knew as recently as 1940 has advanced to the point habits of that time have changed drastically. The world is continually evolving and, it appears, into an age of greater speed, greater motion, greater activity. The basic values, the ethics and morals are unchangeable, but the civilization in which they operate has been altered. One could get quite philosophic over the ramifications the Bedford chicken situation under- scores, because it is only one of hundreds of similar problems, minor and major, which the air age has speeded. We heartily sympathize with the problem the Air Force faces in its public relations with the town of Bedford; and we are deeply sympathetic to the plight of the chicken farmer. But it appears to be one of those things that will have to adjust itself, given a lift by time. And for the chickens, let us hope they will one day roost in peace.

Today in Bedford’s History: April 26, 1919

Lost Swans!

From the Boston Daily Globe, April 26, 1919

“LOST. One pair of swans, stolen from Bedford Springs. Mass.; reward offered for information that will lead to discovery.”

The Hayden family were the proprietors of the Bedford Springs resort area, including the Sweetwater Hotel and the New York Pharmaceutical Company, located near Fawn Lake. Above you can see the Hayden family home, “Lakeside,” with 2 white swans (circled in red) swimming near the shore of Fawn Lake. Perhaps these are the missing swans or their relatives! The ad may have been submitted by Mrs. William R. Hayden, who also printed an ad in the same newspaper for a lost diamond and sapphire pin in 1918. This undated photograph is from Leona Proctor Cail’s scrapbook at the Bedford Historical Society.

Kathleen Fahey, Executive Director

Thanks to member Brian Oulighan for locating this newspaper article. Brian grew up in Bedford and now lives in Hudson, NH. Brian combs through old newspapers online for items related to Bedford history and sends them along to the Bedford Historical Society for our archives.

Uhlan: Bedford’s Famous Trotter

During the 19th century, horse races that featured trotters in harness became increasingly popular in the United States. Unlike thoroughbred racing, known as “The Sport of Kings,” harness racing was a sport for the middle classes and gave rise to  a new breed of horse, the Standardbred. These animals were bred to work in harness, like the carriage horse so many owned. Standardbreds were considered sturdier than thoroughbreds and generally less high-strung. Everyone followed the races and the horses became celebrities. One of these early superstars was a horse named Uhlan. He was one of the first trotters to break the 2:00 minute mile and, most remarkable, this amazing horse began his life here in Bedford.

Standardbred Trotter Uhlan

The story of Uhlan’s career is recounted in a 1914 publication, recently purchased by the Society, called The Driving Clubs of Greater Boston (edited and compiled by John H. Linnehan and Edward E. Cogswell). At the turn of the twentieth century, wealthy Bedford industrialist Arthur H. Parker established stables on Old Billerica Road, calling them the Shawsheen River Stock Farm. In the fall of 1900, Parker purchased a mare named Blonde from a Dr. Alderman of Lexington, MA, paying less than $300 for her. The following year, Parker added a stallion named Bingen to his stables, purchasing him from J. Malcolm Forbes for a price of $32,000. Bingen was a well-known stallion and is now considered one of the most important sires of the Standardbred line.  Parker bred his new acquisitions and in 1904, the foal Uhlan was born. Early on, Parker recognized Uhlan’s potential, and ordered his trainer, Ed McGrath to begin developing the colt. Uhlan proved so promising that Parker was soon racing him at Readville and Charles River Speedway. In 1907, Parker offered his three-year old to Charles Sanders of Salem, Mass for $2,500 and Sanders purchased him immediately. Sanders enlisted Robert Proctor of the Readville Track to train his new horse, and Uhlan’s career as a champion began in earnest.
Continue reading “Uhlan: Bedford’s Famous Trotter”