This tree has stood as a symbol of the Town of Bedford’s strength, beauty and heritage, predating, some think, even the beginning of the Town itself.
A white oak, with branches spanning approximately 130 feet and a girth more than 23 feet, it is thought by some to have been 200 years old when the 22 men from Stamford purchased the Hopp Ground from the Indians in 1680.
In 1977, with construction planned on nearby property, a group of Bedford citizens raised money to purchase that property, providing additional protection for the tree. Not only were they successful in raising enough to purchase the property, but the remaining funds provided a fund for the tree’s care.
The Town of Bedford traces its origins to a land transaction, which occurred on December 23, 1680. It was on that date that 22 Puritan men from Stamford, Connecticut purchased land of roughly three miles square known as the “Hopp Ground”. The lands were bought from the native Mohegan Indian Chiefs for an assortment of coats, blankets and wampum totaling “46 pounds 16 shillings and ten pence.” A copy of the original deed is displayed in the Town House lobby.
The new “proprietors” promptly set about to lay out their new settlement, planning for a meeting house, grist mill on the nearby Mianus River, and a burying ground. Today’s Village Green, the graveyard and surrounding principal roadways remain substantially as they were originally planned in 1681.
In 1682 the Connecticut Colony legislature established the name of Bedford for the new settlement. As there is no evidence of a linkage of the settlers to Bedford, England, it is thought that the name was chosen by the legislators in accordance with its principle of keeping alive the memory of England.
For the next 18 years, as both the colonies of Connecticut and New York grew, a dispute developed as to which colony Bedford belonged. In 1700, by Royal Decree, King William III established that Bedford was “henceforth and forever” part of the royal colony of New York.
By 1723, through additional purchases from Chief Katonah and other Mohegan chiefs the Town had grown to over thirty-six square miles. Bedford’s population also grew rapidly. In 1710, but only 156 residents were listed. By 1790, the population was 2,470 persons.
The Town’s importance grew during the Colonial period and it was a model for town meetings and self government. Bedford served as the wartime Westchester County seat during the Revolutionary War after the Battle of White Plains and until Bedford was burned by the British on July 11, 1779.
The Town of Bedford, with its 39.3 square miles encompassing the hamlets of Bedford Village, Bedford Hills and Katonah, is situated in northern Westchester County with a 2000 census of 18,133 residents. Details of the 2010 Census are available from the Westchester County Department of Planning’s website: http://planning.westchestergov.com/census-statistics