Historic Name: Merrill-Barnard House
Address: 7 Meetinghouse Road
Use: Residential; Business; Commerce/Trade
Construction Date: 1844
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The property at 7 Meetinghouse Road was first developed by Rufus Merrill in 1827. Merrill’s lot was located at Bedford Center immediately south of Town Hall and thus was a prime central location within the developing town landscape. In 1840, however, the original buildings on the property were destroyed by fire. Shortly thereafter, the current house on the site was constructed.
Daniel Barnard and Martha Riddle Barnard:
Daniel Barnard and his wife, Martha Riddle Barnard, purchased the property in 1844 by which time the dwelling house had been replaced.
It is likely that when the farm buildings were reconstructed following the fire, the property owner seized the opportunity to follow a growing trend in New England farm complexes: the connected farm. During the mid-19th century in New Hampshire, it was considered both stylish and practical to connect one’s farm buildings to form a spatial unification of the farm’s landscape. Each section of the connected buildings had its purpose and allowed the small farmer to mix farming and home industry. This signaled a shift toward a new social order and a commercially-oriented agricultural operation as opposed to a subsistence operation. The farm complex reconstructed after the fire at 7 Meetinghouse Road in 1844 followed the connected farm trend as it consisted of a center hall “big house” with a rear ell connected to a gable-end barn. The associated farm fields spread out to the south away from the center of town.
The location of the Barnard’s farm at Bedford Center allowed for both a successful farming operation as well as the convenience of participation in town life. In 1844, David Barnard served as the Bedford town constable. The 1850 population schedule for the Town of Bedford lists Daniel Barnard as a 47-year-old farmer residing with his wife, nine children ranging in age from 2 to 19, and his 78-year-old mother-in-law. Daniel’s name appears with this property on maps of Bedford Center in 1844 and again in 1858. The 1870 population schedule for the Town of Bedford lists real estate valued at $9,000.
David R. Barnard:
Following Daniel’s death in 1872, his eldest son, David R. Barnard became the head of household.
The 1880 population schedule for Bedford lists David as a 47-year-old farmer living with three of his siblings and a boarder. A large detached barn was added to the property, probably during David’s lifetime, and quite possibly associated with the growing importance dairy played in the local economy as Bedford came to supply milk to consumers in the City of Manchester. The barn was torn down between 1952 and 1965 but the stone foundation remains to the southeast of the house. David’s name appears with the property in the 1892 Atlas of the State of New Hampshire. David died a single man at the age of 65 in 1897.
George and Sarah Barnard; Martha and Ralph Wiggin:
The house was then left to David’s youngest brother, George Barnard, also a farmer, and eventually his widow, Sarah L. Barnard, at the time of George’s death in 1918. The same year her husband died, Sarah Barnard sold the property to Martha F. Wiggin in 1918. Martha served as the town clerk for 30 years, conducting the business of her post from her home, conveniently located across Meetinghouse Road from Town Hall. Her husband, Ralph, farmed the land and served 13 terms as a representative to the General Court and one term as a New Hampshire state senator in 1948. An early 1960s souvenir sketch map of the Town of Bedford identifies the house as the Town Clerk’s office. Upon Martha’s death in 1965, Ralph inherited the property.
William and Marie Nelson/Marie Tefft:
Three years later, Ralph Wiggin sold the house to William P. and Marie E. Nelson. In the middle decades of the 20th century, the Wiggins began to subdivide the farm and eventually stopped farming. The subdivision of the farm followed a downward trend in farming as Bedford became a bedroom suburb of Manchester during the mid-20th century. In 1978, Marie became the sole owner of the house under her re-married name Marie E. Tefft. In 2004, the property was transferred to a revocable trust in her name. It then became occupied by Bedford Center Antiques and the Law Offices of Stanton E. Tefft, before turning back into a residential home.