Notes on Dr. Nathaniel Bedford
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203
A Series of South Side History
By Ed Vidunas and pittsburghbrewers.com

August 12, 2020, updated August 18, 2020

Dates are of prime importance in tracing the life of a person. Unfortunately, there is almost no information on Bedford and even less in the form of dates in his time-line. This document does try and follow Bedford’s life in a time-line fashion.

There are serious issues with the dates found in many other documents. If Bedford was born in 1755 then he would have been 10 years old in 1765 when he was to have arrived in America. He is tied to other people, places and events that call into question his birth date and age. The timeline I have below seems to be accurate scant first-person authenticity but the years give me reason to question Bedford’s age and or birth date.

Bedford Timeline


General Information
Born in Birmingham, England about 1755.
Died on March 21, 1818. at the age of 63.
Died in his house in the Village of Birmingham, Pittsburgh.
He was to have been in Pittsburgh in 1770 as a doctor but he would have been 14 at the time.
Known to have a sister in Birmingham as noted below.
Many “facts” on Bedford are questionable. The only two that I can accept as fact are; that he was in London in 1770 and that he died in Pittsburgh in 1818.
John H. Nusser (Post Page 118) remembers seeing Bedford’s birth date on Bedford’s monument to be wither 1745 or 1754. The (Post) leaned to 1745 as that would have given a reasonable timeline for Bedford. The monument is in Trinity Churchyard in Pittsburgh but the numbers are worn off. Without any other information I have to think the 1745 birth date is probably correct making his age in 1818 to 73.

London
I can’t find anything on his life in Birmingham but he apparently moved to London where he associated himself with several London hospitals to begin his medical education.
See Bedford’s Death, below. There is evidence (Obituary) that he was in London in 1770, which would have been between his first visit to America and his second when he moved to Pittsburgh.
See Bedford’s Diploma from London, below.

American War of Independence
Placed here for a time-line reference.
Bedford was to have been in Pittsburgh in 1770, which was the year of the Boston Massacre.
Preliminary Articles of Peace are signed by the British and American in 1882.

On Board Ship during the War (Obituary)
He was “appointed” as a surgeon’s mate on an English vessel.
It is not known who appointed him. I could have been the British Army but we have no facts linking him to the army. It was not uncommon for medical students to work on a ship to earn money.
It should not be assumed that he was on the ship during the war.
Folklore has that he was friends with a Philadelphia sea captain in which he named Carson Street after. This is address below.

We see in this paper that surgeon mates did not have to have advanced medical traning.

Philadelphia
Bedford was in Philadelphia before or during the war and became friends with a Dr. Rush.
It may have been this time Bedford was on board ship.
Dr. Rush advised him to go to Pittsburgh. The dates of Rush’s time in Philadelphia as a doctor do not tie him to Bedford very well.

Dr. Benjamin Rush sub-note
Born near Philadelphia on Dec. 24, 1745 or January 4, 1746.
He completed his medical education at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Rush received his doctorate in 1768, then returned to Philadelphia in 1769.
If Bedford moved to Pittsburgh in 1770 then it would appear that the two would have known one another for only two years at best.
Rush was appointed surgeon general of the armies of the Middle Department in 1777. The Middle Department was the term used at the time to mean the middle states.

Return to England (Obituary)
His death notice had that he returned to England after the war and toured France and the Low Countries.

Return to America
He returned to Philadelphia.
During his first stay in Philadelphia he became friend with a Dr. Rush. (Obituary)
Rush advised him to go to Pittsburgh.

Possible realignment of Events
Accepting Bedford’s birth to be 1745 and not 1755, it is possible that he worked in London as a young lad. After gaining experience in hospitals he could have signed on with a ship and be a surgeon’s mate but not necessarily the surgeon. Hi second visit to Philadelphia could have brought him to Dr. Rush, followed by his coming to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh (Known to be in Pittsburgh in 1769)
Bedford was to have arrived in Pittsburgh on or about 1770. Other documents suggest 1765.
He was to have resigned his commission in the British Army at that time.
He lived along Sixth Street between Liberty and Penn until after 1779 when he moved to the South Side after his wife’s death. If Bedford was born in 1745 and not 1755 then his arrival age would have been 25. But if he was in London in 1770 then he could not have been in Pittsburgh in 1770. Having said that this 1769 Map of Pittsburgh shows his estate on Liberty, which means he had to arrive prior to 1769 to establish himself.

Bedford’s Diploma from London
Thomas Denman (b. 1733 – 1815) and William Osborn gave lectures on obstetrics, which Bedford attended. Bedford was given a copper plated diploma dated April 8, 1770, London. The diploma was in the possession of Dr. Robert B. Mowry, whose uncle, Dr. Peter Mowry, was a partner with Bedford since 1786. A story on the Post on June 18, 1883 indicated that Bedford was “well established here in 1784”.
(Denman Street, now South 12th Street, Pittsburgh.

Bedford taught Medicine in Pittsburgh
Bedford’s first student was Peter Mowry in 1786.
Mowry was a trustee at the Western Academy and taught medicine there.

Bob Hoover for the Post-Gazette wrote on August 10, 2003:
Bedford came to America as a surgeon in the British Army in 1765 and stayed on, enlisting in the American cause. He sustained his European tastes at his Liberty Avenue home, where he lived "in the style of an English nobleman, had servants, horses and hunting dogs," according to a contemporary description recorded in the 1901 work, "Pioneer Physicians of Western Pennsylvania."

Marriage
Standard History of Pittsburgh (published in 1898) says he never married, which is not true.
Bedford married Jane Ormsby, daughter of John Ormsby who owned most of the land south of the Monongahela River from the Smithfield Street Bridge to Beck’s Run Road.

Jane died on July 8, 1790 giving birth. I have no information if the baby survived or died at birth but his death notice said he left no descendants. After Jane’s death Bedford moved to her estate. Bedford married his wife’s maid noted in other works as the lady-maid or pretty-maid.

The Bedford’s were living on Liberty Street at the time oh Jane’s death. After that Dr. Bedford moved to Jane’s estate. Bedford’s estate was illustrated on a 1795 Map of Pittsburgh. His estate is also shown on this 1869 Map of Pittsburgh although the University of Pittsburgh Library System has it dated as 1795. His lot was between Liberty and Penn and between Irwing and Barker.

After Jane’s Death
After jane died, Dr. Bedford along with his late wife’s maid mover to Jane’s estate in the Ormsby territory south of the Monongahela River. Jane inherited it after her father’s death and as she had no heirs Dr. Bedford inherited it.
His house was on what is now Brosville Street coming down from Pius to Clinton, before the bridge over the tracks. It was not on the land that he laid out that was to become Birmingham but remained in Lower St. Clair Township.

Bedford’s Death and Other Family Members (Post Page 118)
The (Post) notes that Bedford’s will names his executors who were: Mrs. Mary Bedford, Dr. Peter Mowry, and James Patterson. Mary would have been his second wife, the former maid to his first wife, Jane Ormsby. Mowry is noted above. Patterson is noted as being the first person to live on the South Side near the Smithfield Street Bridge.

After Bedford’s death, his second wife, Mary, moved to Bayard’s town, now known as the Strip District. Her entry in the 1819 Pittsburgh Directory can be found on page 102; Bedford Mary, widow, Bayard’s town. (Post Page 118)

Bedford’s Will (Post Page 118)
Recorded in Will Book 2, Page 146 in the Allegheny County Register’s Office on March 17, 1818. His will was written four days before his death.
His will was written by attorney Walter Forward (Forward Avenue named).
Witnesses: Walter Forward, Frederick Went and Edward Encell Jr.
Executors: Mary Bedford, Dr. Peter Mowry and James Patterson.

Martha Bedford Bingham
Martha Bedford Bingham of Birmingham, England was Nathaniel’s sister.

William Bedford
William was mentioned in Nathaniel’s will, which granted him an annuity of $200.
There was no mention of his brother’s location.

Samuel Bedford
Bedford’s Will names a Samuel Bedford as getting a part of his estate but does not indicate who he was. It does mention Nathaniel Bedford Bingham as the son of his sister, Martha.

Jane (Ormsby) Bedford died in childbirth in 1790. Nothing has been documented that her child survived but it is possible as child have survived childbirth when the mother has passed. We can only assume at this time that the child may have survived. Nathaniel Bedford’s Will did mention a Samuel Bedford but no mention as to his relationship or place. Nathaniel “contracted a marriage” with Jane’s “pretty maid” after Jane’s death. Was it to so that the maid could mother the child?
Bedford’s Home on the South Side
3-S-222 14 BROSVILLE ST
When Bedford moved to the South Side he lived above Manor Street. That area was in St. Clair Township.

Bedford’s Monument on the South Side (Post Page 118)
Bedford’s Monument was placed on

Bedford’s Monument at Trinity Graveyard

Miscellaneous
In Alphabetical Order


Bedford Avenue
History of Pittsburgh (published in 1922) suggests on page 260 that Bedford Ave was named after Dr. Bedford.

Bedford Borough
Bedford laid out the village of Bedford in 1811.
Bedford advertised Birmingham lots in the Pittsburgh Gazette on June 27, 1811.

1768 Land along the Monongahela river to Bedford

Bingham Street on the South Side was named after his sister, Mrs. Martha Bedford of Birmingham, England.

Historical Inaccuracy
History of Pittsburgh has on page 62 that John Ormsby developed Birmingham in 1813. Jane Ormsby was married to Bedford at the time of her father’s death and inherited the land. Dr. Bedford inherited the land after her death. He was the one that developed the plan and sold the properties.

Bedford School
Built in 1850 along Bingham Street in the South Side between South 9th Street and South 10th Street. Cabot Way is in the rear.

Bedford Square (Post Page 118)
Bedford laid-out the streets for the village of Birmingham in 1811. He set aside a square “for market purposes”. The residences of the area gave the square the name Bedford, not Bedford himself. The market stands in the first building were constructed by a contactor in Chicago.

Burgess of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh became a borough by an act of legislature on April 22, 1794.
The first election for government officials took place on May 19, 1794.
First elected officials were:
Chief Burgess: George Robinson and Joseph Tannehill.
Assistant Burgesses: Nathaniel Irish, John Johnson, George Adams and Nathaniel Bedford.
High Constable: Samuel Morrison.
Town Clerk: James Clow.
Assessors: William Anderson and Abraham Kirkpatrick.
Supervisors: William Grey and John McMasters.
Bedford did not take his position seriously and was fined for being late. He subsequently resigned from the position.

Land Holdings
Ormsby deeded land to Bedford as shown on a map of 1787. Two tracks of land were identified near South 1st St in the area of the intersection of Carson and Arlington Avenue. Bedford and John Ormsby had strong ties between one another due to their involvement in the church and community.

Nathaniel Bedford had land in Franklin, Mercer and Venango Counties according to his will.
(Post Page 118)

Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Award
Recognizes a primary care physician for exemplary, compassionate, comprehensive and dedicated care of patients. This award is given annually by the Allegheny County Medical Society.

Naming of Carson Street
The Post noted that Carson Street was after an old sea captain living in Philadelphia. The writer for the Post said that it was “Suggested to me that this Captain Carson was the father of the wife of General James O’Hara, whose maiden name was Mary Carson”. Rearraigning that, Mary Carson’s father was Captain Carson. Mary Carson’s husband was James O’Hara. This Mary Carson was born in 1782 to William & Mary (Hamilton) Carson.

Pittsburgh Academy (University of Pittsburgh)
The Academy was founded in February 28, 1787. Founded by Hugh Henry Brackenridge.
Bedford was one of the original trustees. The Post indicated that the Academy was incorporated on March 24, 1787.

Slavery
Pioneer settlers of the Pittsburgh Region – Slaveholders as recorded in slave and Negro birth registries, the U.S. Census, and Allegheny County slave papers.
Bedford did not have slaves during his time in Pittsburgh.

Street Names of Interest
Bedford Alley in what is now Bedford Alley in the Hill District. As shown on the 1835 map it was in Pitt Township and ran from O’Hara Street along the bluff of the stone quarry. It has been suggested that this street was named after Dr. Bedford but I cannot verity this. The streets in this area were not laid out during Bedford’s lifetime.

Carson Alley was in the Strip District in 1855. The 1872 Hopkin’s map shows it as Columbia Street.

O’Hara Street was located in the Strip District as shown in the1835 map. James O’Hara was one of the people who laid out the street in what was known as the Northern Liberties.

Trinity Church and Parish
The trustees were, according The History of Pittsburgh, page 335:
John Ormsby, Devereux Smith, John Gibson and Nathaniel Bedford.
The land was a burying ground for 37 years until a church was built.
The land was deeded to the trustees in 1787.
Note: Smithfield Street was named after Devereux Smith.

Reference


Bedford’s Death Notice (Obituary) Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Pittsburgh, March 31, 1818.

Dr. Nathaniel Bedford Monument by Historic American Buildings Survey Charles M. Stots, District Officer

Families of the Revolution has O’Hara and Carson on page 883+/-

Post Clippings on Bedford, Market House, Carson by E. W. Hassler

Additional reference can be found in the Ormsby Library page in this work.