In 1750, Robert MacRay established a trading post in the region which would one day become Bedford County. Life on the frontier was full of turmoil, a result of hostilities between the British & French. Raids and attacks from hostile Indians, allies of the French, eventually pressured MacRay to abandon his Raystown outpost.
In 1759, the British ousted the French from Fort Duquesne. In preparation, a new road was cut to Raystown and toward the French stronghold. A new garrison at Raystown was named Fort Bedford. The captured French fortification was renamed Fort Pitt. The new road west was transformed from a network of Indian trails to become known as the Forbes Road. Later, this evolved onto a toll road, or turnpike, providing direct access across the state.
Following the defeat of the French and with the expectation of greater safety afforded by Fort Bedford, the area soon began to increase in population. Pioneers used Forbes road to reach and settle in the lush valleys and timber-rich mountains. However, outlying communities, such as Saxton, still experienced the dangers of the frontier. Casualties from the Indian conflicts were frequent as late as 1780.
Fort Bedford and the surrounding area grew as a transportation and lodging center because of its strategic location on the major route through PA. In 1794, the Nation’s first President, George Washington, stayed at the Espy House in Bedford. The President’s arrival was in response to one of the Country’s first tax crisis, the Whiskey Rebellion.
The discovery of curative spring waters and the establishment of the Bedford Springs Hotel, lured the wealthy and influential to Bedford during the 19th century. President James Buchanan used the hotel as his summer White House. It was here that our President received the first trans-Atlantic telegram, sent by Queen Victoria, from England.
Presidents Hayes, Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison also stayed at the Springs, as did famous Kentuckian, Henry Clay.
With an excellent combination of agriculture and commerce, early industry also flourished in the county. As the colonies pushed for independence, coal was discovered in the Broad Top. Iron foundries were established in Hopewell around 1800.
Rail service between Huntingdon and Bedford expanded the transportation industry carrying coal, timber, and iron. Passengers also used the service to commute or for touring points of interest along the line.
The second half of the 19th century was a time of prosperity in the County, with population increasing almost 100% between 1870 and 1890.Many of the area’s attractive homes and Victorian neighborhoods were built during this time. The Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroads steamed between the mines, foundries, and coal fields. The picturesque route crossed the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River at several sites, such as the crossing at Mountain Rose Beach. Passengers could enjoy a trip through wooded mountains and fertile fields with stops at locations with colorful names like Cypher Station.
Transportation services continued in importance with auto and truck traffic using the Lincoln Highway (Route 30 ) and the new Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Interstate highway system brings an ever growing stream of traffic to the County via I-76, I-70, and I-99. For many travelers, Bedford County is an easy place to visit, but a difficult place to leave.