Bedford County, Pennsylvania, (population 49,727) traces its beginnings to about 1750, when a Scotchman named Robert MacRay built three cabins near what is now downtown Bedford. Both the village and the stream took the name “Raystown.”
In 1758, General Forbes selected the location for a fort and supply depot, and constructed a road later named in his honor. Settlers used the fort during the 1760s and 1770s to escape Indian raids.
George Washington marched his army to Bedford in 1794 and used the Espy house as his headquarters as he moved to subdue the Whiskey Rebellion.
Transportation has shaped the development of Bedford County. Forbes Road, which later became known as the Lincoln Highway and U.S. Route 30, crosses Bedford in an east-west direction.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has two exits in Bedford County, and the recently completed I-99 originates in Bedford Township and travels northeast to I-80. This network of roads has helped facilitate the development of tourism and the hospitality industry, as well as agriculture, light manufacturing, and distribution warehouses, all of which contribute to the local economy.
One of the county’s most famous building complexes is the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, parts of which date to 1796. The resort was placed on the National Register in 1984 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. Its recent renovation reclaimed the Georgian-style exteriors, restored one of the country’s first indoor pools, and refurbished an 1895-era golf course, one of the first designed courses in the United States.
Bedford County is home to several museums, including the National Museum of the American Coverlet, located in a former elementary school built in 1859. It features coverlet exhibits, looms, and weaving demonstrations. The Fort Bedford Museum holds the only surviving British Red Ensign flag identified with a North American British fort, as well as Native American artifacts and colonial household items.
Visitors can take a driving tour past the county's 14 covered bridges or follow the Bedford Heritage Trail to view significant buildings and historic sites in the downtown area. Other attractions in Bedford County include Old Bedford Village, a living history museum comprised of more than 40 log and stone structures and featuring displays, oral interpretation, and craft demonstrations.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.