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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Information Gathering Suggestions

        This article is intended to give researchers (of regions / townships / towns) suggestions on what kind of information to gather, so that there can be some uniformity from one chapter to another. But please note: these suggestions are not the only types of information that you should gather. Look at the region you are researching and include anything that made in the past, or currently makes, that region unique (for example, a certain type of industry, noteworthy residents, influential event, etc.). If you are working on a region that includes a number of townships, collect the following information on each of them. [If you have any specific questions about what I mean in any of the following points, please feel free to contact me by email (]

1.)    Description of the ‘genesis’ of the township ~ prior township(s) out of which it was formed, the reason for its formation, the date of its formation.

2.)    The court entry describing the formation of the township. Transcribe this ‘act’ of the court verbatim (spelling mistakes, punctuation and all). For example, if the document uses the word ‘thou’ instead of ‘you’, don’t change it just because we use ‘you’ today. Also, try to get this from the court records (should be in the Quarter Sessions records). If a survey is attached to the record of the township’s formation, get a photocopy of that.

3.)    Brief description of physical / natural features ~ the geographical location of the township. Note the mountains and rivers that form natural boundaries and/or those that may lie or flow within the township. If other townships were formed out of this one, note how they were separated (for example, using a mountain or a river as a dividing boundary). An example of what is meant here would be if you are working on East Providence township, a brief description of ‘Providence’ township should be noted, followed by the division into ‘East’ and ‘West’ Providence either by a surveyed line or a mountain range. Include a list of the villages, towns and/or boroughs that are found within the township. Also note any ‘traditional’ named regions that are not necessarily a specific town or village, such as the Texas Corner.

4.)    Narrate the ‘Early History of the Township’. Include noteworthy events that occurred within the township. A Time-Line of suggested events/topics is attached. Pick and choose from that list depending on what relates to your township region.

        Describe how settlements took place ~ did an industry within the region draw workers? (For example, the iron industry through the 1830s to 60s drew many Irish immigrants who had come to America because of the potato famine in Ireland. They found ready work at forges and furnaces. German farmers were attracted to the rich soil found through the Morrisons Cove valley.) Was the region settled primarily because a certain religious group located there (such as the Quaker Valley)? Another example would be how Bedford Borough developed around the fort.

        In this section, include a transcript of the first tax assessment return taken following the formation of the township, and/or the first return taken in the region from which the township was formed. For example, if you are working on Snake Spring Township, you should include the tax assessment return for 1857. And you could also include the return for Providence in 1783 and West Providence in 1844 to reveal who was residing in the Snake Spring township when it was part of those earlier two township regions.

        Include any ‘traditions’ or ‘legends’ from the early history of the township / region. (Be sure to note if the information can be proven, or if it is just a ‘tradition’.)

        Work your way to a milestone that would define when the ‘present-day’ started for the township. That could be the changing of the township’s primary industry or the building of a road that diverted traffic from the earlier towns (resulting in the development of new ‘transportation oriented’ businesses such as restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores etc.).

5.)    Describe the township and its towns / boroughs today. Include all businesses and public places. Most townships or towns have had an anniversary celebration in the past, and they might have produced a ‘souvenir booklet’. Gather what information you can from those booklets as a starting point for your research.

        A suggestion on how to identify places that you need to obtain information about is to travel over every road within the township and make note of every place that is either a business at the current time or looks like it had been a business in the past. (For example, if you see a ‘Kendal Oil’ sign beside an old garage-type building, it might have been either a repair garage or a gas station years ago.) If there is a residence near the site, stop and ask the homeowners if they know anything about it. You’ll find that most people are proud to tell you stories about their history. You should visit every current business also to ask the questions below.

How to Approach Businesses and Private Homeowners for Information

        a.)        Introduce yourself by name and state that you are working with the Bedford County Historical Society on a book for the 250th Anniversary of the county in 2021. (You can also tell them that the BCHS received a resolution from the Bedford County Commissioners to produce a book for the 250th Anniversary.)

        b.)        Ask the person who answers the door if you may ask a few questions about what the business is, when it was started, and who started it. [There is no need to argue with anyone – if they do not want to provide information, simply thank them and leave. Information about any particular business can probably be found by asking a neighboring business.]

        c.)        Ask if they can give you any additional information or history about the business – such as who were successive owners of the business, if it changed names over the years, or any other important things they’d like in the history book.

        I organized the present-day history of the townships in the book for Blair County by treating them like I was doing a travelogue. You might want to do the same. I started at one end of a road at the township line, worked my way to the end of that road and then went back and did the same on each road that branched off that first one. I noted where each current business, and every past business, was located by whether it was on the north, south, east or west side of the road and a simple relationship between one business and the next. In others words, after noting “business A”, being on the north side of the road, I might note that “business B” was located about half a mile past “business A” on the same side of the road, and then that “business C” was located on the opposite side of the road to “business B”. The reason I did that was so that fifty years from now, if only “business B” is still standing, it will be easier to remember/guess where the other two businesses were located.

6.)    I would suggest compiling a list of churches and cemeteries separate from the foregoing section. By collecting all the churches and cemeteries together in a separate section, they can more easily be found by the reader ~ as compared to searching through all the other businesses to pick out the churches. Most churches maintain their histories, and so should be easily researched.

7.)    A list of schools and their histories can also be separate from the foregoing sections.

8.)    A list of service organizations, including fire companies, police, etc., and their histories can also be separate from the foregoing sections.


Earliest settlements (incl. both Amerindian and Euro-American)

Indian Paths to Military Roads (incl. Burds Road and Forbes Road)

French & Indian War

Revolutionary War

Whiskey Rebellion

County, township and town development

Individual-based Industry (incl. grist mills, tanneries, blacksmiths, gunsmiths etc.)

Early ‘national’ military conflicts (incl. War of 1812, Spanish American War, etc.)

Development of roads and travel (incl. toll roads, taverns/inns, etc.)

Covered bridges


Group-based Industry (incl. coal mining, iron forging, woolen mills etc.)

Start of oldest continuously published newspaper (Bedford Gazette 1805)

Public Education – 1830s

Civil War (incl. slavery history, underground railroad and anti-slavery movement, etc.)

Railroads (incl. towns created at railroad stops)

Beginning of Auto Industry

Transportation and Recreation (incl. hot spring spas and hotels)
World War I


The Wall Street Crash of 1929 (resulting in the The Great Depression of the 1930s)


Start of movie theaters and other entertainment

Migration of work ~ from farms to towns (facilitated by better transportation


Rise of Service Clubs – Lions, Elks, Rotary

The Depression

World War II (incl. air force radar station in Pavia twp at Blue Knob and internment of Japanese at Bedford Springs Hotel)

The “Resettlement” / (development of state game lands)

Pennsylvania Turnpike (opened 1940)

Education (one-room schools)

Korean Conflict and Vietnam War

Fort Bedford Bicentennial (1958)

Education (consolidation of one-room schools into “school districts”)

Highway and Inter-state Highways (smaller towns by-passed and start of new commercial centers)

Bedford County Memorial Hospital (1951)

Radio Stations (WBFD 1955)


Bedford County Bicentennial (1771)

Old-Bedford Village


Refurbishment of Bedford Springs Hotel

Recent companies locating in the county