Bedford County

The Musgrave Pencil Company in the 1930s.
PHOTO: Musgrave Pencil Company


The Bedford County seat of Shelbyville used to be known for its production of pencils.

The pencil business isn’t nearly as big as it used to be, but there are still a couple of pencil factories in what used to be known as “Pencil City.”

Click here for a virtual tour of one of them — the Musgrave Pencil Co.

Shelbyville’s former status as “Pencil City” was even recently the topic of a question on the game show “Jeopardy!” (See clue at the left.) The answer to the clue, by the way, is “What is cedar?”

The giant Moon Pie is unveiled at the Bell Buckle festival PHOTO: Bell Buckle Chamber

Bedford County also contains a small community called Bell Buckle. Once a stop on the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, Bell Buckle didn’t vanish from the map as did many railroad communities in Tennessee.

The home of a boarding school called Webb School, Bell Buckle hosts many festivals. One is the RC/Moon Pie Festival and 10 kilometer road race in June, where you can burn thousands of calories and make up for it by eating part of the world’s largest Moon Pie!

Here’s something else about Bedford County that few people know: Shelbyville is famous in “urban planning” circles.

In 1810, the Bedford County square was designed as a full city block with the courthouse in the middle and streets intersecting at each corner. This rather simple design was new at the time and was later copied by the planners of other town squares all over the country.

This map shows how the Shelbyville plan spread to other counties

For example, 79 of the 92 counties in Indiana used the same plan (now known in urban planning circles as the Shelbyville Square) and 157 counties in Texas used the same plan. What’s especially interesting about this is that no one knows who first came up with the design, according to scholars who have researched such things.

Speaking of the town square, here’s the Bedford County Courthouse.