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

The Historical Society Salutes Bedford High School’s History Day Winners


At our first meeting of our program year, the Bedford Historical Society recognized the outstanding students from Bedford High School who won honors at the State History Day competition, and went on to compete at the national event.

Students Maya Bostwick, Emily Weigert and Ava Altman won 1st place at the Massachusetts State History Day competition for their Senior Group Documentary, “Rachel Carson: Exploring Pesticides and Encountering the Power of the Chemical Industries.” The film is available for viewing on YouTube via the highlighted link.

In addition, students Michelle Gong and Stella Miller won 2nd place at the state level for their Senior Group Website, “Re-inventing Our Understanding of Humanity: Jane Goodall’s Exploration of Chimpanzees and Encounters with the Scientific World,” which can be viewed by clicking on the highlighted link.

Congratulations to all of the winners!


The Richard Wheeler House at 445 Concord Road

September 2016 Update! The demolition request for the Richard Wheeler House has been withdrawn!


The Richard Wheeler house is one of only 2 remaining in Bedford built in the 1600s and one of only 6 in Bedford that are over 300 years old.  Those buildings are:

  • Michael Bacon House                                     229 Old Billerica Road                      ca.1671
  • Richard Wheeler House                                 445 Concord Road                             ca.1695
  • Farley-Hutchinson-Kimball House              461A North Road                               ca.1700
  • Nathaniel Page House                                     89 Page Road                                      ca.1702
  • Eleazer Davis House                                         255 Davis Road                                  ca.1705
  • Job Lane House                                                295 North Road                                  ca.1713

A permanent deed restriction was placed on the Farley-Hutchinson-Kimball House by the Bedford Historical Society, and the Job Lane House is a town-owned farm museum.  None of the other buildings have any legal deed restrictions protecting them.

There are only 7 other buildings remaining from around the time (1725-1735) of Bedford’s incorporation in 1729.


The Richard Wheeler House, 445 North Road

The precise construction date for the Wheeler house during the last quarter of the 1600s is not certain.  The house was inspected by Orville Carroll, former preservation architect for the Minuteman National Historic Park.  He determined that the front 2 rooms up and down along with the chimney base were constructed in the 1600s.

One scenario dates the house to Richard’s parents’ marriage.  George1 Wheeler was an early settler in Concord, having arrived in 1639 with his young family including a son William2 (ca.1630-1683) born in England.  William married Hannah Buss in 1659, and they had 8 children including their youngest son George3 (ca.1674-1737) born in Concord.  George married Abigail Hosmer in 1695, and the assumed house construction date of 1695 coincides with their marriage.  Their oldest son Richard4 (born ca.1696) inherited the house that now bears his name.  He married Jemmima French in 1720. Continue reading “The Richard Wheeler House at 445 Concord Road”