Historic Document ‘Discovered’ in School Superintendent’s Office

April 27, 2023
The 264-year-old document by Lt. Eleazer Davis has been hanging by the entrance to the office of the superintendent for years. Courtesy Image.

A 264-year-old document written by a familiar leader from Bedford’s Colonial period, which had been displayed in the superintendent of schools’ office for years, is suddenly getting more interest. 

For years this document by Lt. Eleazer Davis proudly hung by the entrance to the office of the superintendent. It wasn’t until the lobby recently was repainted that this document was properly examined. 

Davis, who was born in 1734, is best known as a lieutenant in the Bedford Militia that confronted British forces at North Bridge in Concord on April 19, 1775. He lived on what is now Davis Road, and is also memorialized by one of the town’s elementary schools.

Superintendent Philip Conrad explained that when he realized the significance of what had been found, he decided to move it to a more secure location. He added that he contacted some of his predecessors about the origin of this document, but none of them knew. 

The next attempt to uncover this document’s origins was reaching out to the Bedford Historical Society, which also didn’t know. 

Town Archivist Ashley Lange was also unable to explain how the document came into possession by the schools. However, she explained that the artifact was a form of authorization, signed by the selectmen, that granted Eleazer Davis permission to collect taxes. 

It also explains that the taxes collected should pay for schools, the salary for the minister, and smaller town charges.

The bulk of the document describes what should happen if people refuse to pay. It was written and signed by the town clerk of the time, John Reed. Large said that by law this is a town document and thus needs to stay with the town. Its legitimacy was confirmed with Reed’s handwriting matching other town records.

The small hole in the document was likely caused by bugs at some point since 1759, Large said. There is also a red stain from the wax that was used to seal letters at the time. 

When asked what it meant to them, both had similar answers. Large talked about how she enjoys seeing the connection that New England still has to its past. She commented how even now some of our civil procedure is based on old English law.

For Superintendent Conrad, this artifact showed how even 264 years ago, Bedford had a strong desire to ensure that the kids of the town had the skills that were needed for the time. 

“What I really love about it is how it helps you with the continuity of where they were in 1759 and where we are in 2023, and how the community continues to be committed to the young people of the town,” Conrad said. 

However, the mystery of how this document got into the hands of the superintendent’s office is still unsolved. 

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Toby Favalora is a Bedford High School, Class of 2024 student.

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