BEDFORD — The last names are familiar — Campbell, French, Gault, Kendall and Patten. While some streets and the former library building honor their namesakes, these are names of some of the men who fought during the Civil War, and are buried in Bedford Center Cemetery.
On Saturday, May 3, at 10 a.m., Civil War re-enactor Vinnie Toland will give a tour of the cemetery, and tell some tales of the soldiers such as Daniel and Silas Campbell, Charles L. French, George E. Gault, Edward H. and John A. Patten, and 30 more. The event, sponsored by the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries, is free and open to the public.
"You can see all the early and influential families contributed to the war effort. A good number rushed to enlist after the firing on Fort Sumter, but then it became harder and harder to fill the volunteer quotas, so in the summer of 1863 a draft registration was done of all men from 20 to 45. When your name came up you either went or you paid a substitute to go in your place," said Melinde Lutz Byrne, secretary of the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries.
Toland, a former district chief with the Manchester Fire Department, has been doing Civil War re-enactments for many years. He gives the contributions for doing the tours to the Civil War Trust, a national organization that protects battlegrounds from urban encroachment. The Friends are also publishing a book, "Bedford Men in the Civil War," depicting more than 100 men with Bedford roots who marched off to fight in the Civil War. The book is expected to be available soon.
"Toland contributed almost half of the Civil War book and will be sending his portion of the proceeds to the CWT. The Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries will use their share of the proceeds to restore and repair gravestones in the Bedford cemeteries," said Byrne.
The Friends of Town of Bedford Cemeteries work to preserve and maintain the four cemeteries — Bedford Center Cemetery on Church Street, Old Bedford Cemetery on Back River Road, the Beals Road or South Cemetery on Beals Road, and the Joppa Hill Cemetery.
Old Bedford Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in town. The land was allocated in 1737 and the oldest grave dates back to 1745.
The Beals Road Cemetery, also known as the South Cemetery, was established in 1793, with burials from 1800 to 1883.
The Joppa Hill Cemetery was established in 1789 and was expanded in 1872 and 1905, with the last burial in 2008.
The Bedford Center Cemetery was established in 1799 on a half acre of land and was expanded by another half acre in 1847. In 1871, land was purchased to the west of the Old Center Cemetery and it is known as the New Bedford Center Cemetery.
In 1926, additional land was purchased to the north and the hilltop section, where the last available grave sites in Bedford are available.