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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Ohio Taverns Of Note

Dallas Bogan on 8 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

One of Troy's first settlers was a Mr. Overfield. He opened a commendable tavern for that day, and treated all guests alike. Due to this treatment, whether dressed in broadcloth or buckskin, Overfield soon became famous as a tavern keeper.
The first courts of Miami County were held in this tavern, as well as the latest news, scandals and political decisions being discussed.
Mr. Overfield had little leisure time, but when circumstances called for his withdrawal from the business, he spent it hunting and would bring in his kill and share it with his guests.
A tavern kept by Moses Bridgeport was the first in Belmont County; the "Stone Tavern" was located a few miles further west. Some other proprietors of taverns in the county were: Woodmansie, McMechen's, and McCaffrey's, better known as the "Good Intent"; Joseph Smith, Neiswanger, Hoover and Chamberlain.
The first hotel in Toledo, called "The Tavern," was opened by John Baldwin in the old warehouse in 1828, though his father had previously furnished meals and lodging for travelers and tourists in the same quarters. He soon had a competitor in the hotel kept on Perry Street by Ezra Dodd.
Ira Smith started the "Eagle Tavern" in Toledo in 1834, and the next year Cornelius G. Shaw opened the "Mansion House," near the corner of Cherry and Summit streets.
Several taverns had the sign of "The Golden Lamb." Chillicothe, Columbus, Coshocton, Delaware, Mt. Vernon, Lebanon and Portsmouth all shared this insignia. It is said the name was conceived from a Captain William Lamb, who first used it and was for years proprietor of an inn in Chillicothe.
A tavern was built in Burton Township, Geauga County, in 1798, named the "Umberville Coffee House." The second inn was built by Gideon Finch, and like many other inns, owners and name changes followed.
Clitus Pinney was the last owner of the "Coffee House" before a fire destroyed it in 1843. He lost a fine carriage, the mail coach and horses were burned, some seven horses in all.
Middlefield Township, Geauga County, sported a fine hotel built in 1818 by James Thompson. It was the most spacious and largest house between Warren and Painesville.
Thompson not only tended the tavern, but he was also hunter and trapper, farmer and operated a sawmill. He was one of the best hunters in the area, and the first farm that he ever bought was from the money made in hunting and trapping.
In 1824, Asa Hosford, of Galion, opened a tavern in the double log house that his father had built. He was unmarried and he contracted with his sister to act as landlady. He prospered in this business for eight years and sold out to John Ruhl.
Joshua Howell, in 1828, former Darke County Sheriff and Commissioner, moved from Fort Jefferson and opened a tavern in a small frame house on Third Street in Greenville.
In 1830, he constructed a frame house on the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street, which carried the dignified name of "Traveler's Rest." Howell, in 1831, who was in the process of running for Congress, sold the inn to Nicholas Mark. Some years later Mark leased it to David Angel, who was its occupant in 1840 and sometime afterward.
The first tavern in Mt. Gilead was built and operated by John Merrill. It was of the typical early Ohio tavern design that of a small logs structure. It was the great community gathering place for all who sought the news of the day, and where the male population would smoke their pipes and exchange their daily experiences.
It was a market place for all; the hunter with his venison, the trapper with his furs and skins, and the knapsack peddler would delight the hearts of all with his "boughten wares."
It served the usual foods at mealtime, with corn-pone and wild meat as the main appetizers. Coffee was served occasionally, sweetened with the fine taste of maple sugar.
The first public hall in Xenia was held in Jimmie Collier's tavern, which was the grand hotel the place. During the War of 1812 it was the seat of Courts of Enquiry and Courts Martial. At one time a British Officer and his servant were held prisoner within its walls.
The better class inns on the stage route had their version of finery. Quality China, glass and silverware were often top- notch, and provided a certain air of distinction for the passenger.
The aristocracy, the politician, and the higher-class professionals all looked for, and expected, the elegant type tavern. They expected to dine upon the gold banded dishes, consume the fine meal with eating utensils that consisted of solid spoons and ivory handled knives and forks.
Colonel Werden, owner of the Werden House in Springfield, was approached by a servant one day and was told that a brazen guest had been seen putting silver in his pocket. The Colonel quietly walked over to the man and reached into his pocket and took the silver out. He then grabbed him by the collar and proceeded to throw him bodily out of his hotel.

Tavern Tales

Mr. Jarvis Spafford had built his fine hotel in Perrysburg in 1832. He was in the market for a bell, which would summon his guests to their meals. He traveled to Detroit, in Michigan Territory, to have the bell cast for his tavern.
Samuel Davis, bellsmith, lacked a portion of material to make the bell as sweet toned and large as Spafford desired. The latter threw in thirty-six Spanish dollars, which were melted and run into the molten mixture.
The bell was cast in 1834 and brought home for the curious to observe. It was considered a great novelty for this part of the wilderness, Indians and wild animals being still very much in existence.
Being hung in a tree in front of the establishment was not only a summons to the guests at mealtime, but a curiosity to the Indians. They intermingled around the strange contraption and were so fascinated by it that they even climbed the tree to ring it for themselves. Day and night the bell was rung to the annoyance of Mr. Spafford and his guests. Eventually, force was used to drive them away.
One night the Indians sneaked in and carried the bell away to their headquarters in Upper Sandusky. Mr. Spafford offered a reward for the return of his precious bell and hired Sam Brady, a half-breed scout who had his way with the Indians.
Spafford, Brady and Frank Hollister joined forces and started in search of the bell. (Hollister was the first white man who settled at Perrysburg. He had dealt with the Indians in furs and knew much about their habits, having slept in almost every wigwam on the Maumee River.)
On the fourth day of the trip, they heard the ring of the bell. They left their camp with their skimpy breakfast half-eaten and followed the trail gingerly through tangled woods and deep grass to the point from which the sound emerged.
At first glance they could not believe what they saw. The bell was strapped to a pony, which was being driven around in a circle to the enjoyment of the whole Indian tribe.
Being totally surprised at the presence of the white man, the Indians broke the circle and began slipping away. The pony was so terrified that it galloped away into the nearby woods. The search party followed the sound of the bell and finally caught up with it.
Brady, with rifle in hand, brought down the frightened animal. He cut away the bell and lugged it back to camp and finished breakfast.
They encountered no difficulty on their trip home, but afterward a second attempt was made to steal the bell. To secure the bell to the premises of the tavern, Mr. Spafford had a blacksmith make a heavy inch-square framework to which the bell was mounted and hung in the belfry of his tavern. It remained in this location for many years, even after Mr. Spafford's death.
Another moving story regarding a bell was told about Sammy Taylor, former proprietor of the Ohio House in Urbana. The last guest had left; the building was closed for good and stood quiet as a mouse. Sammy found it lonesome and gloomy and so he, being the owner of the building, entered it three times daily and rang the bell just as though the meals were to be served as of old. According to the town locals, he continued this until his death.
The tavern bells became a part of each village's presence. They were greatly missed when they ceased to ring.

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This page created 8 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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