Although the earliest services of the Christian religion in what is now Bedford were those of the Episcopal church, being held by the chaplains of the British troops occupying the fort (Raystown) in and prior to 1755, there was no organized parish here until 1861, when the courts granted a charter constituting the parish of St. James to Hon. Alexander King, Espy I. Anderson, Dr. Charles U. Hickok, Dr. George W. Anderson, William Watson Anderson and John Watson, vestrymen.
A parcel of ground on East Penn street, lots Nos. 130 and 131 on the borough plan, was devised to “The Church” by Gov. John Penn, of the Province of Pennsylvania, when the town of Bedford was laid out by his surveyor-general, John Lukens, Esq., in June, 1766, on his private estate—Penn’s Manor.
The lots were never occupied by the church save as a burial-place, the earliest English settlers and the officers at the fort using it for that purpose. Judges Dougherty and Scott, and Col. Terrence Campbell, of His Majesty’s Highlanders, with their families, being among those interred there.
At a later day the property fell into private possession, and finally, when the common school law of Pennsylvania went into operation, a brick schoolhouse was erected thereon, by permission of the quasi occupant. This building, on the erection of the present public schoolhouse, was used as a private dwelling.
By due process of law, the vestry of St. James church being, as the courts decided, “the successors of the Church of England,” obtained possession of the property, and finding the lots unsuitable for church building purposes, and being duly authorized by an enactment of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, passed in 1866, they removed the dead to the new cemetery, sold the lots, and purchased the present church site, on the corner of Richard and John streets, and at once proceeded to build the beautiful Gothic stone building now standing there.
The corner-stone of this church was laid in September, 1866, by Rt. Rev. Bishop Lee, of the diocese of Delaware, the bishop of Pennsylvania, Rt. Rev. Wm. Bacon Stevens, D.D., LL.D., being, at the time, in Europe. The Masonic fraternity were present on the occasion and assisted in the ceremonies. Rev. Alfred J. Barrow, the rector of the parish, and Dr. Hickok, of the vestry, being members of the craft.
The church building was in due time finished, and being free from debt, as the canons of the Episcopal church require, was consecrated on the 2d day of October, 1879, by Rt. Rev. M. A. De Wolfe Howe, D.D., LL.D., bishop of the diocese of Central Pennsylvania, in which see the parish of Bedford now belongs.
The Rectors of the parish from its organization to the present have been as follows, in the succession names: Rev. Alfred J. Barrow, Rev. J. B.Pedelupe, Rev. Wm. Jarrett, Rev. Robert F. Murray, Rev. Wm. Preston, D. D., Rev. Richard J. Osborne, M. D., Rev . J. McBride Sterrett, Rev. Wm. Chauncy Langdon, D. D., who is the present rector.
Rev. Dr. Preston died while rector, and Rev. Wm. Jarrett is also dead.
The present vestry are: Geo. Smith, Hon. Jno. M. Reynolds, church wardens; Wm. Harley, Solomon S. Metzger, John S. Bowers, Thomas A. Roberts, Dr. C. N. Hickok (clerk).
(Source: The History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania, 1884, Waterman, Watkins & Co., pp. 262-3.)
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