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Rachel Gladden & the Bradford House: A Love Story

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June 08, 2018 | By Dorothy Tecklenburg

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Rachel Gladden had to do something, so she did what she does best.  She baked apple pies, and sold them on the street in Washington to raise money for the David Bradford House.

“Those were bleak times,” she sighed. “The House had some hard years, we were at a low ebb. We kept trying to find people in the community to help.”

Today, things are not as desperate as when selling $5 pies was crucial for keeping the house available to Washingtonians. The House is in better financial shape since she first set foot in it twenty-seven years ago.

Rachel has fallen in love twice in her life- once with her husband of more than 50 years, retired Judge Tom Gladden, and once when a neighbor invited her to the David Bradford House.

“I love history!” she says, her passion evident in her face.  “I was an elementary teacher but I could easily have been happy as a high school history teacher. I walked into the house and fell in love.”

For much of her adult life, Rachel had a lot on her plate, between her husband’s periodic elections, raising her children and teaching.

“When I grew up in McDonald, I was a quiet kid- the doctor’s daughter. I didn’t do a lot of community service.  At some point, I realized I had gifts and value and started to get involved.”

She became the local history representative on the Washington Business District Authority, and realized our history is so rich, that the city of Washington and its history are inseparable.

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Over the years, she’s served the House as a docent, an officer, a board member, the calendar maker, a fund raiser, and overall procurer of whatever was needed.  “I did anything I was asked to do.”

When the idea was floated for the first Whiskey Rebellion dinner, Rachel was skeptical.  All those years struggling to get people to donate left her with one thought: “Who will pay that much for a dinner?”  Now the dinner is the cornerstone of the yearly fundraising strategy.

“Seeing that first Whiskey Rebellion dinner was unbelievable. The House, as well as the strength of the governing board has evolved dramatically.  It is wonderful to watch.”

The house is important, but the house’s impact on children is even more important.

“It is so imperative to do outreach to school kids, to teach them the history that is unique to our area. President Washington sent troops here!  I love watching kids hear the story, especially when their eyes light up like Christmas trees.”

She also listens when adults confess to her.  “So many times, adults will tell me, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and this is my first visit.’  What a shame! So many people are missing out on our history, our heritage.”

Rachel, the teacher and Rachel, the volunteer, have one unified goal: “I want everyone to know the story of David Bradford, who he was and what he meant for history.”