Townships’ creation to be marked

Re-enactment of region’s birth set in Bedford

Two hundred fifty years ago, the ground you’re standing on was likely considered a wild frontier: an area with no local government and no official status, where American Indians fought running battles with new colonists.

That changed in October 1767 — 250 years ago this week — when a swath of land in central Pennsylvania was formally turned into five townships. Those townships would go on to become Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton counties.

A group of history enthusiasts plans to re-enact the moment of those townships’ creation Sunday afternoon, with a formal proclamation at 2 p.m. in the Bedford County Courthouse.

A narrator will tell spectators the story and explain why the townships were created, local historian Larry Smith said. The proclamation is set for the courthouse’s main courtroom, which has been restored to its early appearance.

To look at a modern map and see the hodgepodge of townships and boroughs, it can be hard to imagine the time when central Pennsylvania was perceived — by European colonists at least — as a wild frontier with little need for central organization. Conflict with France spurred the building of military roads and drew settlers into the area in the 1750s, but local Indian tribes resisted their new occupiers by force.

“It was quelled. That is why then, in 1766, the town of Bedford was laid out,” Smith said. “(The townships) were formed out of the land that was purchased, so to speak, from the Indians.”

Until 1767, the entire region was considered a wild frontier of Cumberland County, which today sits about a two hours’ drive from Altoona. The new townships — Bedford, Cumberland, Barre, Coleraine and Dublin — were listed that year in a court record, effective Oct. 20 (Altoona residents today might be surprised to know they once shared a municipality with modern-day Tyrone and the area that would become Raystown Lake).

Now given official recognition, the townships grew as settlers surged west toward the new colonial frontier.

The anniversary re-enactment is part of a growing interest in the 18th century in Bedford, where locals and businesses have embraced the area’s important role in colonial and early American history.

Events and exhibits there have celebrated the Whiskey Rebellion and a young George Washington’s wartime travels through the county.

The public is invited to attend the Sunday proclamation, organizers said. Those with questions can call the Bedford County Historical Society at 623-2011 or visit http://www.bedfordpa

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.