BEDFORD COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
PART OF THE PAGENWEB
COUNTY BUILDINGS -- TOWNSHIPS & BOROUGHS
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THE act of 1771, providing for the erection of
Bedford county, also contained the clause: "That it shall and may be
lawful to and for Arthur St. Clair, Barnard Dougherty, esquires; Thomas Coulter,
William Proctor and George Woods, gentlemen; or any of them, to purchase and
take assurance to them and their heirs of a piece of land, situate in some
convenient place in said town (Bedford), in trust and for the use of the
inhabitants of the said county, and thereon to erect and build a court-house and
prison, sufficient to accommodate the public service of said county, and for the
use and conveniency of the inhabitants."
On November 13, 1771, in accordance with the provisions of
the act quoted above, "Arthur St. Clair, Barnard Dougherty, George Woods
and William Proctor, esquires, and Thomas Coulter, gentleman, trustees appointed
by the general assembly of the said province to erect a gaol and court-house in
the county of Bedford aforesaid," purchased of James McCashlin, of the town
and county of Bedford, "all that messuage and tenement and lot or piece of
ground, situate on the main cross street in the town of Bedford aforesaid, known
by (No.6) in the general plan of the said town. Bounded on the west by the
said street, on the south partly by the public square and partly by lot No. 7,
on the east by a twenty-foot alley, and on the north by lot No. 5.
Containing in breadth on the said street sixty feet, and in depth two hundred
and forty feet."
For the land, "tenement," etc., McCashlin was paid
100 (pounds). But why the public buildings were not erected on lot No. 6,
and were built on the northwest corner of Juliana and Penn streets, it is now
impossible to determine. Early residents have stated, however, that the
first court-house--- a rude log structure-- was erected on the corner of lot No.
6, and near by it a low, one-story log jail, and that these primitive buildings
served as the public edifices of the county while the stone court-house and
jail-building, combined, was undergoing the slow process of construction.
It appears that the old provincial court-house and prison,
which for so many years occupied the corner north and directly opposite the
present court-house, was chiefly built during the years 1774-5. As proof
of this assertion we find that at a meeting of the board of county commissioners
held May 31, 1783:
George Woods, Esquire, drew an order for the sum of 48:10:0,
it being for 116 days of service attending at the Building of the Court House
& prison at 7 shillings 6 pence per Day as Trustee in the years 1774 &
It is not shown how much the building referred to cost, but
it was an extensive and substantial building for that period; it walls being
constructed of massive blocks of blue limestone obtained in the vicinity.
John Mower, Esq., the oldest living member of the Bedford county bar, has drawn,
from memory, a pencil sketch of this historic structure, which is pronounced, by
those who saw the building years before its demolition, as perfect. The
jail with its dark dungeon for convicts, its cell for ordinary criminals, and
its debtors' prison with the grated window, occupied the lower story to the left
of the center door. The balance of the first floor, on the right, was the
jailer's residence, in the wings of which, in early days, the election were
held. The courtroom comprised the entire second story and was entered by
the staircase from without. In one corner of the courtroom a flight of
steps led to the third story, or attic, under the high roof, in which were the
grand jury and other jury rooms. We will add that within the jail yard,
which was enclosed by a high wall, also constructed of limestone, stood the
dreaded whipping-post and pillory alluded to in other pages of this work.
Meanwhile, and until about the year 1795, the offices of the
county officials were located in various places about the town. Thus,
Capt. (afterward Maj.-Gen) Arthur St. Clair, the first prothonotary, register,
recorder, etc., of the county, occupied, during the years 1771 and 1772, the
basement of the rear building known as the "Espy house," a building
which still survives the ravages of time, and around which additional interest
clusters by reason of the fact that within its walls in October, 1794, President
George Washington sought rest and retirement for two or three days at the time
of his visit to Bedford during the whisky insurrection; where Gen. St.
Clair's immediate successors in office, namely, Col. Thomas Smith,
Col. Robert Balbraith and Col. David Espy, held forth officially.
As for the county commissioners their business meetings were
held in rooms provided by the enterprising innkeepers of that day, notably
Frederick Nawgel, George Funk, Henry Wertz and Anthony Nawgel. About 1795,
however, a building which is mentioned in the records as the "Public
Building" was erected for the purpose of supplying the county officers with
permanent official quarters. It was constructed of brick and fronting on
Penn street, stood between the old provincial court-house and the site of the
present Lutheran church.
Although the structures heretofore described were neither
convenient nor commodious, and notwithstanding the fact that grand juries had
frequently declared the jail "insufficient for the confinement of
criminals," they sufficed until the expiration of the first quarter of the
present century. It was then considered that for public purposes they had
outlived their usefulness, and during the year 1826 county commissioners Richard
Silver, Abraham Folck and John Bowser contracted with Solomon Filler for the
erection of a new (the present) court-house. Filler agreed to complete the
building for seven thousand five hundred dollars and his sureties for double
that amount were J. S. Morrison and John Keeffe. The structure was
finished and occupied in 1829. In August, 1832, commissioners John
Bennett, William Clark, Jr., and George Fore ordered that the court-house
"shall not be used in any way but for the purpose of the business of the
courts, the public offices of the sheriff, prothonotary and commissioners, the
remainder only to be used for business relating to courts and county purposes,
and for the meeting of the council of the borough of Bedford, and holding the
several elections for the borough and county."
In August, 1833, the grand jury again condemned the old jail
and advised the erection of a new one. On the 8th of April, 1834, Henry
Leader agreed to deliver at the court-house two hundred thousand feet of lumber
at the rate of four dollars and twenty-five cents per thousand feet, "to be
used in the construction of a new jail." The commissioners were
authorized to build a new jail at the April sessions of the court of quarter
sessions in 1835, and on the 8th day of March, 1836, commissioners Gibson, Sipe
and James concluded a contract with Abraham Kerns, the latter agreeing to
construct a new jail for the sum of seven thousand nine hundred and forty
dollars. Mr. Kerns completed the work of construction promptly, and the
structure, although extensive repairs have since been made, is still used
as the county prison.
On April 21, 1842, the old provincial "court-house and
jail, standing on the center square of Bedford," also the "public
building" were sold by the county commissioners to Alexander Henry and
William Fletcher, for the sum of ninety-three dollars. The court-house and
jail building erected in 1774-5 was demolished in 1842, but the building which
had formerly been occupied by the county officers remained a few years longer
and ultimately afforded material for a warmly contested suit in the court of
The building was used for the occupancy of the various county
officers from the time of its erection until the year 1829, when a new building
was erected in which the respective public offices above mentioned have been
kept since that time. A part of the said building mentioned in the
indictment was used at the time of the suit as an office by one of the
defendants, who was the county treasurer, and the other part was occupied by the
other defendant as a printing-office, the commissioners having leased it to him,
receiving a certain yearly rent to be paid into the county treasury.
"The house is built on the great square of the town of
Bedford, as laid out on the plan remaining in the surveyor-general's office, pro
ut certified copy thereof. The town was laid out by the proprietary in
1766. The building aforesaid is built at the place on the Great Square
marked with red ink on the copy of the plain referred to. The square is
three hundred and twenty feet long by three hundred feet wide. The
court-house, with offices, etc., which is now used as such, is built on the same
great square at the place marked on the plan in dotted lines in red ink.
The building used by the county as court-house and jail previous to 1829 were
also built on the great square at the place marked on the plan in dotted lines
of black ink."
In March, 1857, the county commissioners appropriated two
hundred and fifty dollars for the town clock, which from the tower of the
edifice now marks the passing hours. On the 3d of March, 1876, the court
issued an order authorizing enlargement and repair of the court-house. The
contract to perform the work for the sum of twelve thousand dollars was let to
William L. Horn, April 5 of that year, and before the beginning of the following
October the work (besides various repairs to the jail building) was completed in
a very satisfactory manner. Although the exterior of the Bedford county
court-house of today does not present a very pleasing appearance, yet its
interior arrangements are ample and convenient. The courtroom and the
public offices are well lighted and ventilated. Spacious fireproof vaults
afford protection for records of great value, which have accumulated during a
period of more than one hundred and twelve years.
organization of Bedford county, by the passage of the act of March 9, 1871, the
following townships and boroughs have formed part of it:
Air township (now written Ayr) was created by the Cumberland
County court prior to 1761. At the October sessions, 1767, Dublin,
Colerain, Cumberland, Bedford and Barree townships were created-- Dublin
"bounded by Air and Fannet townships on the one side and Colraine and Barre
townships on the top of Sidling Hill on the other side." "Coleraine,
bounded by Dublin township as above, by the provincial line and top of Dunning's
mountain (so as to join Cumberland and Bedford townships) to the gap of
Morrison's cove; from thence to the mouth of Yellow Creek (joining Barre
township) to strike Sidling Hill."
BEDFORD, still forming part of Bedford county, was organized
as a township in Cumberland county. It is mentioned for the first time in
the records of that county, in 1769, but the court minutes fail to show any
proceedings giving metes and bounds.
CUMBERLAND (now termed Cumberland Valley) was formed as a
township in Cumberland county, at the same time, probably, as Bedford township.
BARREE, organized as township in Cumberland county prior to
1771, now forms parts of Huntingdon county.
DUBLIN, same as Barree.
COLERAIN (originally written Colerane) same as Bedford and
Cumberland Valley townships.
BROTHER'S VALLEY, which originally comprised all the
territory lying between the crest of the Allegheny mountain, the Youghiogheny
river and the western foot of Laurel Hill, and from the Maryland line northward
to the Conemaugh river, was formed as a township in Bedford county during the
first session of the Bedford county court, April 16, 1771. It was the
first township organized west of the Alleghenies in the province of
FAIRFIELD, organized during the April sessions in 1771, is
now within the limits of Westmoreland county.
MOUNT PLEASANT, same as Fairfield.
HEMPFIELD, same as Fairfield and Mount Pleasant.
PITT, which originally embraced the large portions of the
present counties of Allegheny, Beaver and Washington, was organized during April
sessions, 1771. The term has become obsolete in the counties mentioned.
TYRONE was formed at April sessions, 1771, and then included
portions of the present counties of Westmoreland and Fayette. The name is
still perpetuated in the latter county.
SPRING HILL was organized during April sessions, 1771.
Originally it included the whole of the present county of Greene, part of
Washington and nearly the whole of Fayette. The name still exists in
Greene and Fayette counties.
ROSS STRAYER, organized at April sessions, 1771, then
embraced parts of the present counties of Allegheny and Westmoreland. The
name is still maintained in the latter county, though now written Rostrauer.
ARMSTRONG was also organized at April sessions, 1771.
Within its original limits were embraced portions of the present counties of
Cambria, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Indiana and Clearfield. The name has
been perpetuated in Indiana county.
TULLILEAGUE, the last township organized at April sessions,
in 1771, embraced parts of the divisions now known as Blair, Centre, Clearfield
and Cambria counties. The name, though unusual and rather musical, has not
been preserved in these counties or in any other part of the state.