The three burials of Gunning Bedford Jr.

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Gunning Bedford Jr.'s new resting place at Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery. (DDD photo)
Gunning Bedford Jr.’s new resting place at Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery. (DDD photo)

Lombardy Hall, tucked away on Rt. 202 in Brandywine Hundred, is the former home of Gunning Bedford Jr., framer of the Constitution and Delaware’s first attorney general.

His historic home overlooks the graves of over 3,000 people – except for one: The grave of Gunning Bedford Jr.

• Will the real Gunning Bedford please stand up?

Gunning Bedford Jr. was a prominent early Delawarean. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he received his law degree from Princeton University, and later moved to Dover, Delaware, before taking up residence in Wilmington.

He served in the Continental Army, in the Delaware General Assembly, as a Continental Congressman, and was one of the framers of the Constitution, representing the First State at the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, where he was a powerful advocate for the equal representation of smaller states.

He later served as the state’s first Attorney General, and as president of the Board of Trustees of Wilmington Academy, later known as Wilmington College.

In 1806 Bedford became the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Delaware. Fellow Masons included Delaware Constitutional signers Broom, Dickinson, and Read – and George Washington, among other founding fathers.

Unusual historical fact: There were nine Gunning Bedfords, — all related — and at one point in history, seven of them were alive at the same time. This  particular Gunning Bedford used the “Jr.” to differential himself from his cousin, Gunning Bedford Sr., who was a prominent officer in the Continental Army.

 • Lombardy Hall and Cemetery

Lombardy Hall, a historic stone colonial-style stone house which now serves as a Masonic lodge, is tucked away on Concord Pike in Wilmington, so hidden by trees you wouldn’t know it was there if not for the historic marker. Nestled behind the backs of businesses at the Independence Mall Shopping Center, it sits on the right side of the cemetery grounds, formerly farmland owned by Bedford.

Bedford died in the house at the age of 64. It seems logical that with the graveyard so close to his beloved home, he would be buried there, but, at the time of his death, the land surrounding the house was still part of the family farm.

After Bedford’s death, the house stayed in the family until 1847. Parcels of the land had been gradually sold off, and in 1889, some of that land was converted to a cemetery (For some time, one of the rooms in the mansion served as a morgue.). The original house had many owners and went through some renovations, until the local Masonic fraternity was able to take ownership of it in 1967. It is believed to be the only former home of a Grand Master now owned by a lodge, Granite Lodge No. 34.

• Musical graves

Bedford died shortly before his 65th birthday in 1812 and was buried in the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Wilmington. Later, the church was closed (it is now the site of the Wilmington Library near Rodney Square). His remains were then moved to a spot under a private monument at the Masonic Home on Lancaster Pike in Christiana, and remained there until October of this year.

With a pending sale of the Masonic home property, efforts went into motion to find a new resting place for him . On October 24, 2013, Bedford Gunning Jr. and members of his family found a new home in a below-ground concrete vault at the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery, in downtown Wilmington, just blocks from his original resting place.

Today, Dec. 7, we had the chance to visit the Holiday Open House at Lombardy Hall, and I asked one of the docents about the reason for moving Gunning to W & B, rather than to the cemetery at the site of Lombardy Hall. He indicated that it was a “protection” issue, related to historical perpetual care. I’m not sure if that answer satisfied me, but, I wasn’t going to push the issue. He was a nice guy, and we were guests in his lodge today.

In any case … we also visited the new site of Gunning Bedford’s memorial. I thought it was only fitting, since this is also the anniversary of Delaware’s signing of the Constitution, otherwise known as Delaware Day.

Here are a few shots from our cemetery outing to celebrate the life and death of Gunning Bedford Jr., who helped make Delaware the First State.

Happy Delaware Day, and continue to rest in peace, Gunning.

More fun next time,

Ginger

••••

Gunning Bedford’s life was really much more interesting than I’ve compressed into a few paragraphs. Find out more here:

http://www.wdel.com/story.php?id=54482

http://www.granite-corinthian34.org/Gun_Bed_Hist.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunning_Bedford,_Jr.

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