Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan
|Dallas Bogan on 18 August 2004|
|original article by Dallas Bogan|
|Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan|
Possibly the first to use The Sign of The Cross Keys was by William Keys in
1798 in Chillicothe. It was located on the road leading northward along the
west side of the Scioto to Franklinton. It was a wood structure with a long
terrace across the front and stood at the corner of High and Arch Streets. It
later served as a barbershop and residence, the barbershop occupying the old
At the intersection of the two roads was erected an ancient post which upon the old signboard was painted two keys crossed.
Located nearby was an old waggon yard capable of being locked at night. The name and sign soon became popular and it was possibly the forerunner of the many taverns bearing the name "Cross Keys."
The village of Cleaveland, two decades later, supported an inn of this name, which was kept by Almon Kingsbury. James F. Morton used the emblem for his "Waggon-yard for the accommodation of Teamsters in Hamilton County near Cincinnati."
A tavern in Warren also chose the signboard in 1812; Steubenville also sponsored an inn with an icon of the Cross Keys. It was located at the site of the old National Theatre, kept at one time by Colonel Todd.
New Lisbon sponsored a tavern which had a large pair of crossed keys ornately fashioned out of wood which for many decades marked the site. Samuel Watson was at one time proprietor, and later it was renamed "The Hostetter House."
It was located fourteen miles from Wellsville and was for a long time the principal exchange between that point and Salem.
Possibly the most famous "Cross Keys" was that of Meneeley's Inn in Columbus at the southwest corner of High and Town Streets.
On Broadway street in Lebanon, J. Keenan kept a tavern, which was called from the sign, "Cross Keys."
Benjamin Rue built the "Crossed Keys Tavern," located in Washington Township, Warren County, in 1802. This has the distinction of being the oldest rock structure in Warren County, and is still in existence. Rue later became manager of the Golden Lamb.
A sign similar to "The Cross Keys" is that of "The Sign of the Padlock." Springfield promoted this inn in the 1840's. It never had the following that the "Cross Keys" had.
Lafayette's tour through the country in 1824 and 1825 seem to have left its
mark as far as French names, fashions and customs go.
Town names were often used in identifying the tavern or inn. Such names as the Cincinnati Hotel or the Portland House in Sandusky are denoted as village names.
Distances from one point to another were often used as names such as the "Four-Mile House" located on the National Road, that distance west from the center of Columbus.
Reasoning for "The Golden Hive" in Dover is unknown, but it could be implied that perhaps the gathering of a swarm of bees suggested the name.
John D. Rose and his son operated the "Golden Plough" on High Street in Columbus. His advertisement read:
"There being a waggon-yard attached to the establishment, families traveling, and large teams can at all times be accommodated. As the subscribers will devote their undivided attention to this business and will spare no pains to keep good entertainment and a quite orderly house they hope to be liberally patronized."
Eight miles east of Columbus, on the old Cumberland Pike, was located a tavern in the village of Hibernia. Possibly the proprietor, who displayed "The Sign of the Harp," was an all-American figure who believed in doing business under this meaningful sign.
There were two noted "Five-Mile Houses" near Zanesville, one on the National Pike and the other on the old Lancaster and Maysville Pike south from that city.
Halfway Houses were also found to be great numbers.
Another common name for the taverns was "The Exchange." Its origin came from the many stops along the way, frequently at distances of ten to twelve miles, for the exchange of the horses. Colt's Exchange in Sandusky is an illustration.
A man named Spafford kept "The Exchange" at Perrysburg. Defiance also had a tavern by that name.
Joseph Tiffin, in 1803, gave up the "Wayne Tavern" in Chillicothe to become the landlord of a new brick tavern on Water Street. The sign of "The Seventeen Stars," was possibly a symbol of the State of Ohio being entered into the Union as the seventeenth state.
"The Sign of the Western Star" was the insignia used by James Reeves at his inn. As a solicitation to the public in reference to his business, he writes:
"Gentlemen Travellers may be accommodated with a useful and convenient list of roads comprising the leading road from this place in all directions corrected by the most accurate sources of information on the subject."
"The Bell" was used as a tavern sign more in colonial America than in Ohio. Colonel William H. Gault came to Newark in 1812 or 1814 and built a tavern on the south side of the public square, known as the "Bell Tavern," whose sign depicted a large bell. Gault was an aspiring man. He served as county commissioner, sheriff, and auditor and represented the county in both branches of the legislature at different times.
A Chillicothe paper of January, 1815, carried an announcement that Robert Smether, dentist, wished to inform the ladies and gentlemen of the city that he extracted and cleaned teeth, removing the causes of their decay, and that he could cure the "scorbutic complaint" of the gums which caused teeth to become loose. He would be seen at the "Bell Tavern," but would wait upon patients at their homes if they preferred.
Jonathan Whitacre selected a very pleasing signboard emblem in New Lisbon by the name of, "The Rose Tree," the inn being established early in the 1820's.
One of the leading tavern-keepers in Columbus, J.B. Gardiner, named his tavern, in 1816, "The Ohio Tavern and Columbus Inn at the Sign of the Rose-Tree." Three years later he has apparently shortened the name to "The Sign of the Rose-Tree."
He informs "Members of the Legislature and all others visiting the seat of government, that he has taken a new lease of the premises occupied by him for some years past and will continue to use his best exertions to render satisfaction to those who may be pleased to resort to his house. His house is in good order. He still keeps his old faithful hostler and is in every other respect prepared to make the traveller and boarder comfortable." He finishes his request by saying that "At the session of the Legislature next month, he will be able to board a large number of the members on reasonable terms and afford them very pleasant rooms."
The sign of "The Rose Tree" apparently attracted legislators in Columbus, as did the sign of "The Orange Tree" located at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets in Zanesville.
Another Zanesville tavern appeared in 1806, entitled, "The Globe." It was the sign of the tavern owned by Benoni Peerce. This was possibly the first symbol of its kind in the State.
William Williamson took over "The Globe Tavern" in Ravenna in 1836. He likewise "assures the traveling public that no pains will be spared to render comfortable the Weary Traveller to the Far West."
I. Gregg kept a hostelry on Basin Street named "The Globe" in Hamilton. He advertises:
Large and commodious Stabling for any persons who wish their horses kept while they travel on the Canal."
Other signs of "ships" significance were among the larger and more populated towns of Ohio. On St. Clair Street in Cleveland, "The Navy Hotel" was recorded. "The Sign of the Ship" at Steubenville; "The Ship" at Chillicothe; The "Steamboat Hotel" in Sandusky; and "The Hope and Anchor" at Zanesville.
Was the symbol, the wheatsheaf, the insignia of Lord Burleigh in old England, used in America by design or as incidental? William H. Puthuff, of the town of Jefferson, Pickaway Plains, used this signboard on his new brick tavern in the year 1811.
A few years prior to that a Mrs. Willis operated the tavern business under this sign on Main Street in Cincinnati, and in 1808 sold out to William Stratton. It apparently became a center of sorts for political of other town meetings, for on July 24, 1811, Liberty Hall announces a meeting of the Republican Association for the next evening to be held at "The Sheaf of Wheat." In September of the same year, a town meeting of the residents of Cincinnati is requested for Wednesday evening "at the Wheat-Sheaf Tavern at 6 o'clock, to transact business of importance."
The Masonic Lodge, under a warrant obtained from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was established in Cincinnati as early as 1791, or with the actual founding of the city itself. Other lodges sprung up in the Western Reserve at an early date, so it is no wonder that some early taverns bore the Masonic emblems. Eric Griswold, Jr., and Caleb Howard, from Delaware, Ohio, were operating a tavern in the early part of the Nineteenth Century at "The Sign of Two Right Hands Join'd and other Masonic Emblems."
John Davenport carried on the tavern business in Circleville whose logo was "Two Brazen Pillars and Other Masonic Emblems." Mr. Davenport announced that "Measures will be taken for procuring the most interesting publications from the various parts of the Union and every necessary attention bestowed to render the situation of travelling Ladies and Gentlemen agreeable while in his house."
Gallipolis had amidst its tavern names one that suggested a warm atmosphere, "Our House." The citizens of the town had long called it Our House when Harry Cushing, the owner, decided on a more elevated sounding name of "The Rising Sun Inn," but the transformation didn't sell. After a period of time, Mr. Cushing reversed his decision and let well enough alone.
It was asked of the landlord why it was called Our House. His response was that, "It's the only hotel in town isn't it? It belongs to all of us, doesn't it? Well, then its Our House, isn't it?"
Certainly this fine dwelling was suitable for a King, but one dignitary stands alone in his visit to the tavern, none other than Marquis de LaFayette during his visit to America.
These old signboards are all but gone. One might find an occasional one in an antique store, or perhaps some museum, or some collector's memorabilia might bring to light the signs of the past.
Of no importance to no one, many were burned or thrown away into some garbage heap as worthless items.
Ohio was, and still is, the gateway to the West. Without these community taverns and their swinging and swaying signboards, the West would not have been what it is today. "What wonder that in the onrush of progress so few of these old relics remain."
NOTICE: All documents and electronic images placed on the Warren County OHGenWeb site remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. These documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of the submitter, or their legal representative, and contact the listed Warren County OHGenWeb coordinator with proof of this consent.
This page created 18 August 2004 and last updated
28 September, 2008
© 2004 Arne H Trelvik All rights reserved