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The area that is now Bedford and northeastern Ohio was originally inhabited by Native Americans as early as 10,000 years ago. By 1662 the area had become a part of the Connecticut Colony through royal charter. Much of the colony’s land, which extended to the Pacific Ocean, was ceded to the early U.S. government, but a few million acres west of the border of Pennsylvania became what was known as the Western Reserve.
A large portion of the Western Reserve was sold to the Connecticut Land Company in 1795. Surveying of the land began shortly after and was spearheaded by Moses Cleaveland. Seth Pease and Amzi Atwater surveyed Lot 46, which eventually would become Bedford Township. It was surveyed as township 6, range 11.
The first settlers to the area started to arrive in 1813. Early settlers to the region were drawn to Tinkers Creek and the hardwood forests. Waterfalls on Tinkers Creek were ideal for mills, which would power local businesses.
The first mill in Bedford Township was built by Adams and Starr in 1815. It was situated at the mouth of Tinkers Creek. The first official settler to the area was Elijah Nobles. He settled here in 1810 in the western part of the township on one of the 100 lots surveyed.
Bedford Township was officially founded in 1823 and Township 6 was renamed Bedford Township by Daniel Benedict, originally a native of Bedford, New York. The original township covered what today includes Bedford, Bedford Heights, Ohio, Maple Heights, OH, Oakwood, and Walton Hills, Ohio. Bedford became an incorporated village on March 15, 1837.
In addition to the falls on Tinkers Creek and the abundant forests, transportation helped Bedford to grow. Before the roads were even built, Bedford Downtown was situated along the main route between Pittsburgh and Cleveland and was an important stagecoach stop. Today this is Route 14 commonly known as Broadway Avenue.
Transportation became even more important in the area when the Ohio and Erie Canal opened in 1827 and the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad began in 1852. Both of these helped drive more industry to the area. Another railroad, the Connotton Valley Railroad, opened in 1881.
The first church in Bedford was the First Baptist Church, founded with just 14 original members at the home of Hezekiah Dunham in 1834. The first church building was constructed in 1846. The second was built in 1892. This Late Gothic Revival church building still stands and is known as the Old Baptist Church and still stands on the edge of the Commons in Bedford Downtown.
Auto dealerships began opening on Broadway in Bedford in the early 1950s. In 1956 the owners of these businesses formed the Bedford Automile Dealers Association. Today the Automile is on Broadway Avenue and Rockside Road.
Much of Bedford Downtown is the Bedford Historic District and is home to several listings on the National Register of Historic Places including:
- Bedford Township Hall
- Bedford Baptist Church
- Hezekiah Dunham House
- Holsey Gates Handyside House
The Historic District
The Historic District is located downtown and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bedford Baptist Church, Hezekiah Dunham House, and Holsey Gates House are included on the Register. The area is approximately bounded by Broadway, Columbus, Franklin, and Willis. The District also includes the Bedford Public Square and several other historic buildings: the Gates Handyside House, Franklin Victorian House, Moody House, and numerous commercial buildings dating to the 1890s to 1920s.
Bedford Downtown hosts several community-wide events throughout the year, celebrating holidays, seasons, and local culture and businesses:
- The Chocolate Walk, first Saturday after Valentine’s Day
- First Fridays, first Friday of each month
- Memorial Day Parade, Memorial Day
- Rotary Rib Fest, first weekend in June – A family friendly event including a vintage bike show
- Strawberry Festival , second weekend in June – Includes a classic car show and cruise, food vendors, and family-friendly entertainment
- 4th of July Parade, 4th of July
- Historical Society Flea Market, second weekend in August – Held rain or shine in the Bedford Public Square
- Cleveland Pagan Pride Festival, fourth weekend in August – Held in the Public Square with workshops, entertainment, and vendors
- Weekend of the Pooka: A Celebration of the Arts, second weekend in September – Including an art show and sale, food and wine, entertainment, and art activities
- City of Bedford Children’s Fall Fest, first weekend in October
- Tree Lighting Ceremony, Wednesday before Thanksgiving
- Christmas in Bedford Falls, first Saturday in December – An old-fashioned Christmas celebration with photos with Santa, trolley tours, puppet shows, story time, crafting, shopping, and strolling entertainment