A philandering preacher. A sniveling malcontent. Vigilante justice.
Bedford County has it all. Or at least it did, back in the day. All of that history and more is available for free to anyone who shows up to the Bedford County Visitor’s Bureau, 131 South Juliana St., at 3:30 pm Friday afternoons.
The historic walking tours run May through October, rain or shine.
“Staycation is the word people are using, and we are seeing a lot of locals bringing their families to this,” said Adam Osman, who leads the tours. “I have given this tour to one person in the rain.”
The hour and a half tour doesn’t cover much ground, but it does cover a lot of history. Bedford’s roots were firmly planted decades before America’s war for independence, when the British established Fort Bedford as a stopping point en route from Philadelphia to Fort Duquesne, where the French were located.
“The fort brought soldiers and security,” Osman said, “so now it was safe to live here.”
When Osman said “safe,” he was generally referring to the threat of Native Americans.
Stories of Bedford’s original residents are woven into the tour, including tales of James Smith, a local boy who was taken by the Native Americans and later returned to the village. Smith’s journal is now available for purchase in the Fort Bedford Museum gift shop.
Bedford’s origin stories are full of lies and intrigue, and Osman sets the record straight on what we were taught in school, and what we were wrongly taught. He set the record straight about William Penn, how he ended up in Pennsylvania, and whose children the street names in town actually honor.
Osman directs the tour through Veteran’s Grove, in the quarter of the town square directly across from the courthouse. He discusses each monument, its importance, and its relativity to the other monuments nearby. It is from this vantage point that he discusses the courthouse, as well as interesting information about the architecture.
The budget for the courthouse, Osman said, was $3,000.
“Like all government projects, they quickly went over budget and couldn’t do everything they promised,” he explained.
One thing the local government was able to do, in 1890, was create the oldest veteran’s memorial in the square — the large obelisk dedicated to those who served in the Civil War. Originally placed in the center of the town square, the monument was eventually moved to the corner of the block. The tale of one man’s attempt to stop the monument’s placement and his subsequent slandering in the Bedford Gazette are also part of the tour. JJ Barclay was called a sniveling, mean, tiny man, and the newspaper spoke of his “angry one-man parade” against the location of the memorial.
“It turns out putting a giant man in the middle of the intersection impedes traffic,” Osman said, although Barclay had passed away long before he could say “I told you so.”
Osman retells many of the town’s origin stories, and this article will avoid too many spoilers. The stories are family-friendly and appropriate for children.
Osman said the tours are his favorite part of the job at the Visitor’s Bureau. He said the groups are usually four to 10 people, although he has hosted groups as large as 30. No preregistration is necessary, those interested need only arrive at the Visitor’s Bureau a few minutes prior to 3:30 to join in.