The History Of Bedford County's Name


When the citizens of Rutherford County living south of the divide between Duck River and Stones River submitted their petition for the formation of a new county they asked that it be called Bedford. No doubt it was Thomas Bedford whom the people of the petition wanted the county named for. Mr. White's amendment provided a legal foundation for our knowledge that Bedford County was named for this man.

Bedford was really Thomas Bedford Jr., because his father's name was also Thomas Bedford. The Bedford family originally came from Virginia, in Goochland County, where Thomas Jr.'s grandfather Stephens Bedford had been a justice. Thomas Bedford Jr. was the fifth child of Thomas Bedford. He enlisted in the Revolutionary War on February 5th, 1776, as a private in John Brent's Company, 4th Virginia Regiment commanded by Col. Robert Lawson.

On December 27,1780 Bedford married Ann Robertson in Chesterfield County, Virginia. They had eight children. Their descendants are found mostly in Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, and Kentucky. Bedford and his wife had intended to make a home in East Nashville. Bedford however decided to bring his family further south to Rutherford County.

Certainly this Revolutionary War soldier, prominent in Rutherford and Tennessee affairs until his death, was a worthy man and one of whom

Bedford County should be proud of.

The first legislative mention of Bedford County is contained in the house journal of October 8, 1807. On the same day, the senate journal shows the petition received in the Senate and referred it to the committee on propositions and grievances. No bill had yet been introduced. On October 29, 1807, the Senate committee reported that the petition of sundry citizens of Rutherford County, praying that a new county be laid off, including the three forks of Duck River is a reasonable request and ought to be granted. Dickson introduced the bill in the House and it passed on first reading. The house journal reports the bill sent to the Senate that same day, evidently for consideration on first reading there, but no entry appears on the senate journal respecting it. A careful study of the senate journal reveals no mention of the Bedford County bill until November 27, 1807. On November 5, 1807, the bill was taken up, read and withdrawn by Chapman White. He wanted to amend it. On November 13, Mr. White was through with the bill so it was returned with amendments and was read for the second time in the House, amended, passed and sent to the Senate.

On Monday, November 23, 1807, the House passed the bill on third and final reading and sent it to the Senate. According to the journal, still nothing appeared about the act in the Senate record. Finally, on Friday, November 27, 1807, the senate journal speaks: "Received from the House of Representatives a bill to divide Rutherford County and to form a new county on the southwest of said county by the name of Bedford; which was read and on motion of Mr. White, the following amendment by him offered and received to wit: immediately after the word 'Bedford County' in the first section of said bill insert the words 'in memory of Thomas Bedford, deceased'....." The bill was engrossed and on December 3, signed by the Speakers and became law. December 4, the legislature adjourned. It appears that in the rush of business the Senate never passed the bill erecting Bedford County on first and second readings. It assumed this had been done and adopted it on what it called "third reading."

The constitutional provisions requiring the reading and adopting of a bill on three readings on three separate days in both houses was ignored, if the senate journal is correct.

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