Cemetery History

The Town of Bedford, formerly known as Liberty, was established in 1782. Bedford's cemeteries date back prior to that time and have served as a focal point of the community for over 200 years. There are burials from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam.

Original Cemeteries

The original cemetery was Longwood Cemetery. It was in the northern suburbs of Liberty, adjacent to the fair grounds. The cemetery once featured hitching posts for the convenience of people visiting grave sites on horseback. In the early days the cemetery was operated by a Board of Trustees. All maintenance was performed by surviving family members. The markers from that era are some of the best examples of cemetery art available (the regulations on the types and variety of monuments and markers were few if any). The markers were typically commissioned for individual construction. Most of the markers from this era are hand carved marble with intricate artwork and inscriptions.

Longwood Cemetery served as the town's cemetery until the early 1800s, Oakwood Cemetery was added just prior to the Civil War and was developed on the grounds to the south and east of Longwood Cemetery. Liberty played an important role in the Civil War. Over five hundred Civil War soldiers are buried in the cemeteries.

The last section of Oakwood was designated as the Elks National Cemetery and served as the burial place for residents of the Elks National Home from the early 1900s until the Elks Home constructed its own cemetery around 1960.

Fairmont Cemetery

In the late 1700s a separate cemetery called Fairmont was created in the eastern section of town. From the founding of Liberty to the desegregation of the 1960s, Fairmont Cemetery was run by various churches as an African American cemetery.

In 1968, the City of Bedford was chartered and officially took over running Fairmont Cemetery. Fairmont was expanded by adding Sections Two and Three. Section Three did not open until the 1970s.

Longwood, Oakwood and Fairmont served as the town's cemeteries until the fair grounds were developed as cemetery property in the 1940s. The new cemetery was named Greenwood Cemetery. Sections One and Two were opened after completion and section Three was not opened until 1985. Section Four of Greenwood Cemetery was opened in July, 1997.

Municipality Cemeteries

When Bedford became a town, all cemeteries within Bedford Town limits were included as municipal cemeteries. This included Longwood, Oakwood, Fairmont, Greenwood, and three small family cemeteries. The family cemeteries include Jackson Street Cemetery, Otey Street Cemetery, and Fuqua Cemetery. These family cemeteries date back to the early 1800s.

A private family cemetery was relocated to construct the water reservoir for the new water plant. After relocation, this cemetery was placed under the care of the town. This cemetery is located in Bedford County and is referred to as "The Mountain Cemetery". It dates back to the Revolutionary War.

These eight cemeteries represent the current "Bedford Municipal Cemeteries". Only Longwood, Fairmont, Oakwood and Greenwood are active and only Greenwood and Fairmont have spaces available for sale. These cemeteries are maintained as a public service by the Town of Bedford.

The Cemeteries represent a total of 75 developed acres of land containing an estimated 30,000 monuments and markers. The number of the markers is so great that it would take one person using a modern gasoline line trimmer over a month to trim around every marker. However, cemetery maintenance is done by a team and an average cycle takes five men 3 and a half days to mow, trim and blow grass off the markers.

The Cemeteries are evolving in terms of their role in the community. They were once on the outskirts of town and were maintained by the family members. Today they are in the center of town and serve as a focus for the Town's urban forest.

A casual walk through the cemetery reveals a startling contrast between the older sections of Longwood and the newer sections of Greenwood. This stems from the standardization of the monument and marker industry and from the need to allow for more efficient maintenance of the grounds. The older cemeteries feature a diverse amount of marker designs that are in square plots representing individual family plots. A typical family plot in the 1800s included space for ten people. Modern families are much smaller and typically purchase only two or four graves. The newer cemeteries are laid out in rows to facilitate access to each space.

Section Four of Greenwood Cemetery was opened in 1997. It is projected that the currently available space will last until Bedford's tri-centennial birthday, around 2050.