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Remembering Bedford’s Charles Kendall the shoemaker

Friday, January 17, 2014

By Melinde Lutz Byrne

Special to the Journal

Blacksmith Nathan Kendall came to Bedford from Litchfield in the 1820s and decided the spot on Ministerial Road just beyond Bedford Center would be a nice place for a home.

The neighbors were quiet in the small cemetery to the west of the property where he built a modest cape, a barn and several outbuildings and raised his family of at least four sons and a daughter.

Nathan and his wife, Elizabeth Thompson, were succeeded in the home by their unmarried son, Charles, who made the house his home almost continuously from 1826 until his death in 1907.

In September 1863, men of Bedford between the ages of 18 and 45 were eligible to be drafted into the Union Army. Charles Kendall was 45 that year and went to register. The descriptive list says he had blue eyes, grey hair, a dark complexion and stood 5 feet 11 inches tall. He was not exempted like his neighbors Daniel Gardner, who had a bad right eye, or John Cutler who was so badly crippled that he stood much less than 5 feet tall. Charles Kendall was not the support of aged or infirm parents like William Boynton or the only son of a widow like George R. Mudge.

Even so, at 45, Charles Kendall was disinclined to go to war. Like 15 other Bedford draftees that year, he paid a substitute to serve in his place. Frank Mitchell, age 29, a bookbinder and native of Breton, Maine, filled the enlistment. Charles faced no further demands from his government; in the next draft, he was too old to be called up.

Charles Kendall had a long career as a shoemaker, working with his brother, Oliver, in the house their father built, and later in what was called the “Little Green House.” After the Civil War, he employed a housekeeper at the house on Ministerial Road. In 1880, this housekeeper was divorcée Elizabeth Streeter.

In his later years, Charles Kendall preferred to live alone. He became something of a recluse and it is said that he “prided himself on living on five cents a day.” He came out on important occasions, though. Charles served as a vice president on the committee for the sesquicentennial celebration of Bedford’s incorporation in 1900. He was one of the 100 or so people who were present for both the 150th and the centennial in 1850.

Charles Kendall came from a long-lived family and might have set a record if it were not for his preferring to be alone. Sometime in October 1907, he fell and broke his hip. It was much too late when he was finally found. Charles’ nephew, Willis B. Kendall, sold the home his grandfather built, and after serving on the Bedford Center Cemetery Committee for more than 30 years, left a handsome bequest to that property. Charles rests with many other Kendalls in three family plots on his father’s property.

Melinde Lutz Byrne is a member of the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries.

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