The Fourth Duke of Bedford, John Russell, gave Bedford its name. In 1754 Bedford County was formed from Lunenburg County and was named for Bedford, who was then Secretary of State for Great Britain during the reign of King George II. Although New London, in Bedford’s eastern section, was the first county seat, the seat was moved to the more centrally located town of Liberty in 1782. This is the present-day Town of Bedford.
Bedford County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It encompasses 764 square miles of Piedmont Plateau in the Western Central portion of Virginia and is bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, the James River on its northeast and Smith Mountain Lake to the south. It has rolling, hilly terrain with elevations ranging from 800 to 4200 feet above sea level.
In 1782, the Town of Liberty (now the Town of Bedford) was established. The Town of Liberty was changed to the Town of Bedford in 1890 and to the City of Bedford in 1912 to the now present day Town of Bedford. The town covers an area of 6.81 square miles of history, culture, outstanding architecture, boutiques and fine dining.
Thomas Jefferson, architect of The University of Virginia, author of The Declaration of Independence and President of the United States, chose to build a home in Bedford – Poplar Forest, which Jefferson designed as his personal retreat. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate’s general and loyal Bedford visitor, rode his horse, Traveler, farther up Sharp Top at the Peaks of Otter than anyone else. And the Beale Treasure – an elusive horde of gold, silver and jewels and a complicated, only partially solved, code – draws treasure hunters from all over the world.
Important Dates In Bedford’s History
1754: New London becomes county seat of newly formed Bedford County, comprising 50 acres deeded by Maj. William Callaway, located at the intersection of two colonial trading roads.
1775: New London village has grown to include 80 houses, a number of fine mercantile establishments, and several ordinaries. A colonial arsenal and muster ground were expanded during the Revolutionary War by the Continental government and included a powder magazine, laboratory, a musket repair shop, and arsenal buildings to produce gunpowder, cartridges, shells and accoutrements.
1782: Settled by Europeans
1795: New London Academy, a private boys school, is established. The building now houses Bedford County Elementary School and a museum.
1806: Thomas Jefferson began construction of Poplar Forest, an intricate country villa built for his personal retreat.
1838: Avenel Plantation, built on 200 acres hosted luminaries such as Robert E. Lee and Edgar Allan Poe.
1856: Booker T. Washington born into slavery on Burroughs tobacco farm, now restored and a historic site; Washington went on to establish Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881.
1864: Union General David Hunter’s troops come through Bedford (Hunter’s Raid) on their to and from Lynchburg.
1892: Liberty changes its name to Bedford City.
1912: Bedford City becomes Bedford.
June 6, 1944: D Day: Bedford, with a population of 3,200, suffered higher losses per-capita than any other American community.
1984: Bedford listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
June 6, 2001: The National D-Day Memorial opens.
July 1, 2013: The City of Bedford changes its name to Town of Bedford