History of Bedford Inquirer
"A trading post built in 1750 on the Juniata River in southwestern Pennsylvania was joined by a British stockade in 1758 and named Fort Bedford after the fourth Duke of Bedford. Bedford County, named after the fort, was formed on March 9, 1771, out of Cumberland County, with Bedford town as county seat. Mainly a farming region, Bedford also attracted many visitors to its natural springs resort.
The True American was the second newspaper (after the Bedford Gazette, established in Bedford County, becoming the Democratic Enquirer in 1827. Its editor was Thomas R. Gettys, followed in quick succession by five others until David Over purchased the weekly, then known as the Bedford Democratic Inquirer and of Whig affiliation, on January 1, 1850. Over’s predecessor, William T. Chapman, Jr., is notable for being sued at least twice (1845 and 1846), once by the editor of the Bedford Gazette, for allegedly libelous comments in the Inquirer.
Over was born in Bedford in 1825 and learned the printing trade at an early age. He purchased the Bedford Chronicle in 1854 for $1,000 and merged it with the Inquirer, complaining in the issue of January 4, 1856, that he still owed $500 and “we have not a dollar to meet it with.” “Fearless and Free” was the Inquirer and Chronicle’s motto, and Over took it seriously, regularly lambasting “that reckless and shameless paper, called the Bedford Gazette.” In a typical harangue, on January 2, 1857, Over referred to a recent Gazette article: “It is a compound of absurdity and folly, malignity and baseness, leaving the reader in great doubt whether the proper place for its author would be the lunatic asylum, or the State penitentiary.” The Inquirer and Chronicle became simply the Bedford Inquirer on November 27, 1857, with Over referring to the change as a matter of improved appearance for the paper.
The Civil War represented a clear and present danger for Bedford County, located on the Mason-Dixon Line. On January 4, 1861, the Inquirer advised, “Let the People Arm….If you have a gun, get it ready for instant use; If you do not own one, get one as soon as possible.” War coverage in the newspaper was extensive and vivid. Joseph R. Durborrow became editor on April 4, 1862. (In his farewell, the irrepressible Over wrote, “If we have wrongfully offended any during our long connection with the press, we ask for their pardon.” Those rightfully offended presumably could remain so.)
Durborrow handed over management of the Inquirer to a Methodist Episcopal minister, Benjamin Franklin McNeil, on April 1, 1864, and it became McNeil’s sad duty to publish the issue (April 21, 1865), every column black-bordered, reporting Lincoln’s assassination. McNeil penned a heartfelt editorial conveying genuine personal loss. “Once we were permitted to hear him – on the memorable occasion of the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and never shall we forget the impression he made on our mind: Never were words better than those uttered….And if any man has been more instrumental than another, in unloosing the fetters of the oppressed, and giving liberty to four millions of American bondsmen, that man is Abraham Lincoln.”"