Bedford has been a traditional stopping place for centuries. But the former town that was settled not long after Edward Cornwallis landed in Halifax in 1749, has its own stories, too. Here are 40 things you don’t know about Bedford, just in time for Bedford Days.
1. The Bedford Barrens is home to historically significant Mi’kmaq petroglyphs (images carved in rock surfaces). The true age of these petroglyphs, which include an image of an eight-pointed star representing unity, is unknown, but according to experts, they could be more than 500 years old.
2. In the 1880s, most Dal students celebrated Munro Day with a 14-kilometre-long sleigh ride that eventually led to dinner at a Bedford hotel.
3. Bedford was part of Lower Sackville until 1856.
4. In August of 1866, the Nova Scotia Rifle Association held a shooting competition in Bedford. Around 400 people were in attendance, including Laura Phipps, the Countess of Mulgrave and spouse to George A.C. Phipps, who was the province’s Lieutenant-Governor.
5. Sawmilling was one of the area’s first industries. In fact, the mill that gave Paper Mill Lake its name was built in 1819, making it one of the first sawmills in Canada.
6. You can pet a sea cucumber (or an Atlantic salmon) at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography’s Sea Pavilion.
7. Captain John Gorham and 60 other men built Fort Sackville in 1749. The defensive outpost was deemed necessary by Governor Edward Cornwallis, who believed it would protect Halifax from Mi’kmaq and French attacks.
8. Scott Manor House is the oldest residence in Bedford circa 1770 and the second oldest house in the Halifax Regional Muncipality (after Morris House on Creighton Street.)
9. Two of April Wine’s co-founders, Jim Henman and Myles Goodwyn, have musical roots as part of the Bedford-based top-40s band, Woody’s Termites.
10. In 1939, CHNS-FM, the first radio station in Nova Scotia, installed a 76-metre transmitter tower in Bedford.
11. The heart-shaped pond in Hemlock Ravine was an oval for more than 70 years. Prince Arthur shaped it into a heart when he visited in 1869, 69 years after the Duke of Kent left the area.
12. In the late 1700s, Fort Sackville soldiers tried to ring the bell of the Presbyterian Church by firing at it. When the church was renovated, the contractors found shells in the bell tower.
13. Pete’s Frootique’s roots stretch all the way back to a Victoria Market stall in Nottingham, England in the late 1960s.
14. Although Bedford didn’t officially become a town until 1980, the area first showed signs of self-governance when it created the Bedford Ratepayers Association in 1921. The group discussed things like street lighting, garbage collection and sidewalks.
15. Bedford has a “Street Naming Policy” that is part of the Municipal Planning Strategy for Bedford, which requires 80 per cent of streets to be chosen from a list of people, events and places that are historically significant to Bedford.
16. In 1888, a Mr. Almon went to Ottawa to request $200 to improve the fishway and remove obstructions in the Sackville River so that the salmon and alewives would be able to reach the nearby spawning ground. The debate ended with an argument about whether or not Almon was providing accurate information.
17. In the late 1800s, Bedford had a number of upscale hotels, including the Florence Hotel and the Scott Hotel. These hotels attracted hundreds of Haligonians every summer. Fun fact: Some of these hotels offered bowling.
18. Sixty years ago, the All Saints Bedford Players weren’t the only theatre group in town–there was also the Basin Players. Both groups performed in the former Baptist Church building.
19. Earlier this year, Atlantic University Sport named Alexa Normore of Bedford (who played forward for St. FX) women’s hockey’s most valuable player for the fourth year in a row.
20. The work of Eric Sproul, fourth from left, who plays trumpet with the Bedford Brass Quintet, has been featured on albums by Classified and Joel Plaskett.
21. In the late 1800s, a bicycle club called the Halifax Ramblers used Prince’s Lodge as a clubhouse.
22. Until 1970, women were not allowed in the wardroom at the Bedford Basin Yacht Club. They had to order their drinks through a window at one end of the room.
23. Golf Links Park off Peregrine Crescent got its name from the Bedford Golf and Country Club, a nine-hole, 1,240-yard golf club built in 1919 and closed in 1940. The clubhouse’s chimney and fireplace still sits on the property.
24. Eagle’s Rock was originally named Trafalgar Rock in honour of the Royal Navy’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
25. In the early 1900s, Bedford residents packed their iceboxes with blocks of ice cut from Paper Mill Lake.
26. In the 1920s, people would travel from Halifax to get the “biggest 5-cent ice cream cone in Nova Scotia from D.B. Willis’ Ice Cream Parlour in Bedford.
27. In the evenings in the early 1900s, people (and the postmistress) waited at the train station for the mail. When the train came, the mailbag would be tossed off, and the postmistress would distribute the mail.
28. The father of humourist and political scientist Stephen Leacock lived in Bedford. According to the book, The Captain, the Colonel and Me, written by Elsie Tolson and published in 1979, Captain Lewis “had two boats and a dinghy, but he wasn’t that good a sailor.”
29. Peter and John Kamoulakos invented the donair at a small pizza restaurant in Bedford in the early 1970s.
30. Arthur Lismer, member of the Group of Seven and former principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD University) lived in Bedford, near the head of the Bedford Basin.
31. Canada’s first Hurricane Warning system was established in Bedford in 1987, after the U.S. system failed to accurately predict the strength of 1985’s Hurricane Gloria.
32. Bedford gets its name from John Russell, the fourth Duke of Bedford.
33. In 1782, the Bedford Highway got its first tollgate, but it was quickly torn down by vandals on horseback. A new gate was built in 1785, but later torn down, too.
34. Bedford Tower replaced Tolson’s Pond, which was a popular place to skate in the 1950s. The pond was created by a small dam in the Sackville River.
35. Paper Mill Lake is a man-made lake. It was formed by a dam that was created around the same time the Acadian Paper Mill was built between 1817 and 1819.
36. In 1997, Maclean’s magazine called Bedford “The Best Community to Live in Canada.”
37. The Mi’kmaq called the Bedford Basin “Kjipuktuk,” which means “the Great Harbour.”
38. About 6,000 years ago, Bedford Basin was actually a lake, connected to the Halifax Harbour by a small river.
39. When the Sackville River flooded in January of 1956, some Bedford residents had to evacuate by boat.
40. In a 1989 Town Council meeting, then councillor Peter Kelly requested approval for a new radio station in Bedford—on the grounds that it would “fill a present void in the metro area with respect to the type of ‘easy listening music’ being proposed by Sun Radio.”
Writer’s Note: I couldn’t have put this article together if it weren’t for the following resources: Jon Tattrie’s Pay-Per-Hack Writer Blog (payperhackwriter.blogspot.ca) / Dalhousie University (www.dal.ca/news.html) / The Nova Scotia Rifle Association / The Nova Scotia Archives / The Bedford Institute of Oceanography / Fultz House Museum / Scott Manor House / Jim Henman’s blog (jimhenman.com) / The Chronicle Herald / The Canadian Communications Foundation / Friends of Hemlock Ravine / The Local Traveler Blog (halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler) / Pete’s Frootique / halifax.ca / Bedford Players Theatre / Bedford Brass Quintet / Nova Scotia Ramblers Bicycle Club / The Bedford Beacon / Virtual Museum of Canada / The Globe and Mail / The History of Bedford Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Bedford.History)
Sarah Sawler is a freelance writer living in Halifax with her husband, her two boys and a menagerie. She’s also the author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia, which grew from a series of Halifax Magazine articles like this one. 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia will be published by Nimbus Publishing in 2016.