Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 25
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: July 1987 Volume 25 Number 3, Pages 79–91
Early Inns and Taverns
The sign of an inn along the roadside always generates a warm feeling of welcome, and it meant essentially the same thing to mankind in the 1700s that it does today.
The early inn, tavern, or public house -- these words are used interchangeably -- played a major role in the development and rapid progress made in Colonial America. In fact, I think possibly nothing contributed more to the rapid growth in America than the colonial inn.
A well-operated inn not only refreshed and sheltered the weary traveler, but it was also the hub of the settlement where it was located. It was the place where neighbors gathered for social and civic meetings, to vote, and to pick up their mail; the first post office in Chester County opened in 1798 at the "General Washington" in Downingtown.
The inn was the gathering place for politicians, a recruiting station, a mustering center. Often the cellar became a temporary jail. The inn acted as the village newspaper, as all public notices were posted on its door and gossip was exchanged inside. Auction sales and sporting events were held at the local inn.
During war times the inn was often used as the quarters for generals and other high-ranking officers: during the Revolution General Grey quartered at the "Howell Tavern" prior to the Paoli Massacre. It has been said that more military and political decisions emanated from inns than from any other place during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Of course, the primary reason for an inn's existence was to accommodate the traveler. Pennsylvania had more roads than any other colony -- and at that time Chester County made up a large part of Pennsylvania -- so we were amply blessed with early inns. Some of these inns, such as the "Paoli", the "Eagle", or the "Red Lion", gave their names to the settlements that built up around them. A blacksmith, wheelwright, and cobbler would cluster around a prosperous inn, and soon a village was born.
The selling of spirits has always been controlled in Pennsylvania. When settlers first arrived here, under the Duke of York's authority, they asked that the sale of liquor be controlled. Governor Lovelace, at the Assembly of 1671, enacted a law whereby a license was required to distill liquor, and a tax of one guilder for each cask of liquor was levied, the proceeds to go towards building a blockhouse, fort, or public building.
After William Penn received his Charter for Pennsylvania in 1681, in his "Body of Laws," he provided that no ordinary tavern could be kept without a license, to be obtained from the governor; and also fixed the amounts that a landlord could charge. To get a license to open a public-house, it was necessary to send in a petition, signed by reputable local citizens. (It is from these petitions, and also military and diary accounts, that I have done much of my research.)
There were two kinds of licenses: a full license, granting the privilege to vend all kinds of liquors, and a license to sell only beer and cider.
While the licenses were freely granted, some were refused on the grounds that the inn was not necessary or that the innkeeper was not deemed proper. Sometimes a full license would be refused and the beer and cider one granted. If granted, it would be marked "Allowed" on the back of the petition.
Some of these early petitions are interesting. There was no special format for them; they usually stated the necessity for the tavern, distance from other taverns, and the good character of the applicant. In Edward Thomas's petition to sell beer and cider in 1717, for example, he states, "Living near St Davids Church Radnor [he] is obliged to entertain many people that come to worship at the church." And in Robert Richardson's petition in 1735 he says, "Am incapable by reason of lameness in arms, and have to support two ancient helpless women, my mother and mother-in-law besides wife and children."
The licenses were issued with the understanding that the innkeepers were at all times to be of good behavior and not allow drunkeness, unlawful gaming, or other disorder. The justices were careful to protect the public interest by guarding against an undue concentration of taverns and restricting those which encouraged rowdiness. The licenses had to be renewed each year.
In 1758 thirty-four licenses were granted for taverns in Chester County, and the number continued to increase with the growing population until 1830.
At first the stranger winding his way through the wilderness on foot or horseback was greeted at dusk with generous hospitality at any home. He brought with him news and interesting conversation. However, as traffic increased the traveler was becoming a nuisance to the families living near the bridle paths, and so they began to ask money for bed and board. These houses were called "racon" taverns, and it was their owners who first applied for licenses to open a public-house.
The earliest inns catered to anyone passing their door. However, the traveler was usually asked to identify himself before being served. It was customary to carry a pass from the local authorities when traveling.
All taverns had to have a sign hanging by their door. It was a regulation put into law to help the traveler. This law was first put into effect in Salem, Massachusetts in 1645, and other colonies followed. In Chester County these signs were usually made of wood, and swung from a yoke with turned wooden posts. They had a picture on both sides, and sometimes the date the inn first opened. Some signs were real works of art, but more often they were simple pictures, painted by itinerant artists for their board.
The innkeeper usually chose a simple name for his tavern, one that the traveler could easily identify and remember. Thus the same names appear again and again throughout the county.
After 1790 better roads were constructed, and wagon traffic became much heavier. To accommodate this new traveling public, four standard types of inns developed, based on function and social status. Now the signs took on added meaning. Almost all the innkeepers followed an unwritten rule of naming their inns to help the traveler determine the type of clientele that the inn catered to.
The stage stand was the first-class inn, providing bedroom, washroom, and the best dining facilities to be had along the road. This inn often used the name of a prominent hero. Their signs also sometimes gave an indication of the feelings of the time: thus during the Revolutionary War the "King George" in Downingtown became the "George Washington" by painting the red coat blue, and the "Crown" quickly became the "Eagle".
The wagon stand was the second rung on the social ladder, and the most prevalent type of inn along the road. It was usually a large stone house with big barns and stables, and plenty of yard for the wagons. It did not offer all the services of the stage stand, but was adequate for the wagoner who carried his own straw bed and needed only a big bar room to drink, eat, and spread out his mattress. This type of stand usually used such names as the "White Horse", the "Unicorn", or the "Wagon".
The next type of stand was called the drovers' stand. It was much like the wagon stand, only smaller. The food was simpler; usually the fare was only mush or stew and cider. Around them were more pens and outbuildings and pasture to take care of the livestock. Some of the larger stands held livestock sales weekly. They used names such as the "Lamb", the "Sheaf of Wheat", and the "Drover".
The tap stand was the lowest class; it was nothing more than a local bar, rarely having overnight facilities. They usually used such names as the "Cat and Fiddle", "Jolly Tar", or the "Twinkly Star". These houses sold only beer and cider, usually home brew or "moonshine".
These class distinctions were adhered to very rigidly by the innkeepers. If, for instance, a drover was stuck without any place to spend the night and had to be put up at a stage stand, he would be kept out of sight and sent on his way before anyone was up the next morning. If a wagoner entered a tap room, he risked being fleeced by local hoodlums -- so for the most part everybody stayed where he belonged.
Pennsylvania became known for its fine stone inns, with thick walls and huge fireplaces. Many are still standing, and some of them are still in business.
By 1796 bigger and better inns appeared all over the county, especially along the new Lancaster Turnpike. These inns were mostly self-supporting farms, often called plantations. They had a large acreage in timber, meadows and orchards, and at least a two-story stone house, with a barn, stables, and many outbuildings. We can get a good description of these inns from the sales notices posted in old newspapers. In the American Republican for November 28, 1815, for example, it was announced that the "William Penn Tavern" was for sale, "Situated on the road [the West Chester Pike, between West Chester and Newtown Square] . . . containing 53 acres of land, 8 of which are good woodland the remainder in high state of cultivation, mostly clover and timothy. The buildings are large and commodious stone tavern house, 2 stories high, with 4 rooms on the 1st floor and 5 on the 2nd, with a good cellar, 2 stone sheds, stone barn and good water with pump".
The present-day guest, dining in an old country inn with soft candlelight, checked tablecloth, and old oak beams showing overhead, feels that he has captured the atmosphere of the quiet simple life of the early inn. Nothing could be farther from the truth! This is just a myth the present innkeeper would like to perpetuate. There was nothing quiet or romantic about an early inn. It was a noisy, smelly place, and avoided by gentle folks unless the trip was absolutely necessary.
The arrival of a coach always caused a lot of excitement. As the coach came thundering along the dusty road towards the inn the coachman would blow three loud blasts on his horn, to notify the innkeeper of his arrival and to chase the chickens and dogs out of the way. As soon as the coach pulled into the yard the hostlers would come running out from the stable to open the coach door and catch the reins. The mailbags would be thrown on the porch, and the hustle and bustle for accommodations would begin.
Tavern bedrooms were usually shared by several people. Travelers did not undress except to remove their shoes or boots, coats and hats. Often the inn would have a sign posted, NO BOOTS TO BE WORN IN BED or NO MORE THAN FIVE TO A BED. A traveler stopping at the "Paoli" in 1813 described the following scene in a letter: "A scene of bustle unprecedented by anything I had ever met before presented itself till midnight, supper was three times spread, and as the chambers were not very numerous we were under the necessity of agreeing among ourselves for bed fellows."
The wagon stands were even noisier, and the language and accommodations rougher.
What did the thirsty traveler ask for when he entered the bar? Rum. It was the most common drink served. Whiskey was not in general use until the beginning of the 19th century. Early beer was nothing like the beer we know today; what they called beer was a poor weak home-brewed beverage unrelished except to wash down a meal.
After 1800 menus became more elaborate at the first-class inns, particularly those in towns and along the Lancaster Turnpike. These inns not only competed for the traveling public, but also for local parties, banquets, and balls. Houses were small and cooking facilities limited, so many large gatherings were held at the inn. Many first-class stage stands were operated by Germans; they were noted for clean beds and good food. They operated the inn as a family effort, all the members helping out.
One of the oldest taverns in the county was the "Halfway House" in Tredyffrin township. It was located about nineteen miles west of Philadelphia, along a narrow Indian trail which later became the first Lancaster road.
Robert Richardson took out the license for the inn in 1735. It was known as the "Halfway House", being half way between the Brandywine and Schuylkill waterways and also half way between the two Anglican churches in the area, St. David's and St. Peter's.
In 1741 Thomas McKean, the uncle of Thomas McKean who was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence and second Governor of Pennsylvania, became proprietor of the inn. The license in 1757 was granted to Thomas Wickinson, and he renamed the inn the "Blue Ball", the name that remained from then on.
During the French and Indian War this inn was the mustering place for the troops of General Forbes and General Stanix. The stable doors were unusually high, and tradition says it was so the King's troops could ride in and out without dismounting. Also at this time the appraiser for Tredyffrin, Easttown and adjoining townships -- obviously a very unpopular person -- had his office here.
In 1760 Bernhard Van Leer bought the property, some two hundred and nine acres, and leased the inn. For the next quarter century there were a number of tenant innkeepers. By 1786 Moses Moore, Van Leer's son-in-law, was the host, and he ran the inn until 1793. Van Leer died in 1790 and left the property to his daughter, Moore's wife.
At about this time Moore learned that the new Lancaster Turnpike would by-pass his inn by about half a mile, so he decided the build a new inn at the other end of his wife's property, on the new road. The Moores sold the old inn to John Llewellyn in 1793. By this time the building was very run down, off the main road, and getting only local taproom trade. Llewellyn was the last innkeeper there. When he closed down in 1796 the license went to the new "Ball" along the Turnpike.
Another early inn in Tredyffrin was opened in 1745 when Joseph Mitchell applied for and received a license to sell "cyder and beer" at his house along the Swedes Ford Road. He was the innkeeper there for many years, and named his inn the "Sign of George III".
In 1762 David Howell was granted the license, and after a few years the tavern was locally referred to as "Howell's Tavern". The little village that grew up around it became known as Howelltown or Howellville.
This tavern is frequently mentioned in old county records. It was the meeting place for Anthony Wayne and other patriots before the Revolution, and was very much involved in activities during the Revolution. During the Revolution, Mary Howell, David's widow, was innkeeper, and she filed for the following losses from the British occupation: one hogshead of whiskey, one hogshead of rum, 20 gallons of gin, three horses, 23 head of cattle, 36 sheep, 360 bushels of wheat, and 6000 rails of fence.
Captain Fritz received the license in 1801 and named the inn the "Sign of General Washington." The inn was the typical Pennsylvania farmhouse, a two-story stone structure with a fireplace chimney at the end. Through the years several additions were made as needed.
In the early 20th century the building became a multiple-family residence, but by 1935 it had fallen into decay and was torn down.
The "Black Bear" stood just below the 18th milestone of the Lancaster Turnpike, on the south side at the Newtown-Howellville road, now called Leopard road, in Tredyffrin. It was an old house, having first been a tavern on the Provincial road, before the Turnpike was built.
The first innkeeper to petition for a license under this name was Thomas Pennington. He named the house the "Bear" in 1785, and put up a large sign out front, with "Bear" in gilt letters.
One of the later innkeepers was a John Philips. He called himself "Captain" Philips, and insisted the he was a captain during the Revolution, although in the Pennsylvania Archives he is listed as a lieutenant -- but it also lists him as having died in action whereas in reality he died at the inn in 1790.
This tavern was a very popular place for vendues or auctions. Many old newspapers advertise sales to be held at the "Black Bear" in Tredyffrin.
Hugh Steen was the last innkeeper at this tavern coming there in 1857. The old inn was torn down twenty years later, in 1877.
The "Paoli" was built by Joshua Evans, a son of one of the earliest emigrants to the county. William Evans, a Welshman, bought 500 acres from William Penn in Tredyffrin in 1719. On this land his son built an unpretentious stone house at the intersection of the Lancaster Road and the road from the Yellow Springs to Darby.
In 1769 Evans filed the following petition to the August Court:
"The petition of Joshua Evans Humbly Showeth That whereas there is no house of public entertainment between the 'Yellow Springs' and the Square in Newtown on the road leading through a large body of the upper part of this country by the Valley Church to Chester, Darby, &c. which is too great a distance for one stage, being fourteen miles apart, and of consequence must be attended with great disadvantage to the large concourse of people passing that way and as your petitioner has a very commodious house situated in the township of Tredyffrin, on Lancaster road, where the aforesaid road meets with the same, as the great road leading down through Newtown to Darby and Chester branches therefrom, and as your petitioner humbly considers a public house in the aforesaid place would be of great use not only to those passing to Chester and Darby, but also to travelers going and coming that way from Philadelphia &c, your petitioner therefore humbly requests your Honors to recommend him to His Honor, the Governor, for a license to keep a public house of entertainment in the aforesaid place and your petitioner as duty bound shall ever pray.
Anthony Wayne, Lewis Gronow and sixteen others signed the petition, recommending Evans. The innkeepers of the "Ball" and the "Warren", on the other hand, did not think this tavern was necessary and sent in their objections to the petition. Nonetheless, it was marked "Allowed".
The tavern was named "The Paoli", after a Corsican general, a patriot and champion of liberty popular in England, where he was living in exile, at that time.
The story of its naming is quite interesting. It seems that the Hibernian Society, forerunner of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, was having a gathering of the clan one evening at Evans's new inn to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. After a big dinner of roast duck and venison had been consumed, the toasting began. When everyone from the King to the tavern dog had been toasted, and the candles were flickering and gutting out, someone raised the 45th toast, in honor of General Paoli. All who could still stand got up and drained their tankards of "royal cyder" in one last loud cheer. Evans was so carried away with all this enthusiasm that he decided then and there to name his house "The General Paoli". Thus an inn owned by a Welshman was named by an Irishman for a Corsican. (Soon afterwards, the "General" was dropped from the name, and the inn became better known simply as "The Paoli".)
When Lancaster and York were the temporary capitals in 1777 and 1778, the Lancaster Road showed a great increase in travel, and "The Paoli" likewise felt an increase in patronage. This was when Evans built the first addition to his inn. It wasn't until after the completion of the Lancaster Turnpike in 1794, however, that the inn really became famous. The Turnpike ran right by the inn, and the regular stage lines stopped at the door. The inn was again too small to accommodate the increase in trade, and this time Evans built a larger addition, 81 by 38 feet, and faced the inn toward the new Turnpike. It soon became a prominent meeting place for military and political functions.
Joshua Evans died in 1817, at the age of 85, and his son, Joshua Jr., took over the thriving business. He was a brigadier-general in the state militia, and soon became a very prominent man in the county. When a post office was established at the "Paoli" on December 9, 1826, he was the first postmaster. He was elected to the Congress from 1829 to 1833, representing three counties, Chester, Lancaster and Delaware. He was also very influential in getting the new railroad to come by his inn at this time.
With the railroad coming by the inn, Evans erected a separate barroom to accommodate this new traveling public. The new building was two stories high, with front and rear porches. The upper rooms were used for meetings and parties, the lower floor as a bar and lunch room. When a train arrived, the trainman called, "All out, five minutes for refreshments", and all the passengers would rush into the "Paoli".
The "Paoli" under General Evans was also a great rallying spot for county Democrats. For many years it was also the polling place for Tredyffrin, Easttown, as well as East Whiteland, Willistown, and Charlestown Townships.
It was not uncommon to see several hundred men going in and out of the inn on election day, and there would be even larger crowds milling around it at a Democratic rally.
General Evans died in 1846 and his son John became owner of the inn. Here modeled it and turned it into a fashionable summer resort and boarding house. Some of Philadelphia's most prominent citizens spent many summers at the "Paoli" during the last half of the 19th century. In the centennial year of the Paoli Massacre, the inn was again a beehive of activity. A huge two-day celebration was held, with a big parade on September 20, 1877. The marchers all assembled that morning at "The Paoli", and proceeded from there to the site of the massacre. It was estimated in the newspapers that a crowd of over 8,000 witnessed the affair.
Episcopal church services were also conducted in the parlor of the inn from time to time between 1848 and 1876.
In 1881 John Evans sold the inn and 357 acres of land to the Paoli Improvement Company. It remodeled the inn and divided the land into building lots. It was not a profitable venture, however, and after a few years the inn stood deserted. It was destroyed by fire in 1899.
The "Admiral Vernon," later the "Warren" in East Whiteland Township, was one of the earliest inns west of the courthouse in Philadelphia. George Aston built the inn on the Provincial (Lancaster) road in the Great Valley in 1744, and was granted a license to open a public house the following year.
Aston must have felt that his inn was destined for fame when he gave it such a distinguished name: Admiral Vernon was the idol of England at this time. (Mount Vernon was also named after him.) However, he was soon supplanted in the minds of the people by another naval hero, Admiral Warren, so in 1748 up went a new sign, proclaiming the inn the "Admiral Warren".
Aston was also a prominent and popular man in the area. He was one of the vestrymen at St. Peter's Church, and one of the first men in the county to form a company for defense when the French and Indian war broke out. The inn became the center for the military in the area, and it is mentioned several times as a landmark or stopping place in General Braddock's reports.
In 1763 Captain Aston sold the inn to Lynford Lardner, a brother-in-law of Richard Penn and the agent for the Penn family in America. Lardner had several tenant innkeepers: one, Caleb Parry, was innkeeper from 1767 until the Revolution. At that time he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in Colonel Atlee's first regiment of Pennsylvania Musketry. He never returned to the inn, as he was killed in the Battle of Long Island.
In 1774 Lardner died, willing the inn to the Hon. John Penn, of Philadelphia. Peter Mather became Penn's innkeeper, and the inn soon became a meeting place for Tories and British officers in the vicinity, notable among them Major John Andre, a paroled prisoner of war at the time. Local belief was very strong that Mather played a part in the Paoli Massacre; he denied it and it could not be proved, but suspicion remained attached to him for the rest of his life. In any event, patronage at the inn dwindled, with only the chance traveler stopping by.
After the Revolution, when there was renewed discussion about moving the county seat from Chester to a more central location, the three suggested places were "Downing's", the "Turk's Head", and the "Admiral Warren". When the "Turk's Head" was selected, Penn was anxious to sell his property, and it was sold in 1786 to a Casper Fahnstock, a Sabbatarian from Ephrata.
There is quite an interesting tale concerning this sale. It seems that Fahnstock had heard the inn was on the market, and he and two of his friends made a pilgrimage down to look over the property. They traveled on foot, their usual custom, dressed in the rough habit of their order, Fahnstock carrying a pair of heavy saddlebags. When they reached the "Admiral Warren" they asked for a room, but were rebuffed by Mather, who thought they were beggars. The trio continued into Philadelphia, where one of them, Brother Miller, was known to Penn. Arrangements were made for the sale. When the price was agreed upon, the sale was executed by the Hon. Edward Shippen, president-judge of the Court of Common Pleas, conveying to Fahnstock "the Warren Tavern plantation of 337 acres, the consideration being two thousand pounds lawful money of Pennsylvania in specie of gold or silver". The £2000 came from the saddlebags Fahnstock had carried all the way from Ephrata. As soon as the sale was completed, the trio started back, the saddlebags lighter as they now contained the deed for the property instead of money. They arrived at the inn after nightfall and had to get Mather out of bed. When he got to the door, he was told that Fahnstock was the new owner and would like to spend the night before looking over his property in the morning. In about a week Mather was gone, and the German Sabbatarian from Ephrata was in charge.
The new host, although a man over sixty, soon made his presence known. A new sign appeared, the "General Warren", named after the American heroof Bunker Hill, and soon all the German teamsters and wagoners were pulling into his yard. The whole family immediately became involved in the operation of the inn, and it was not long until it was known as a clean and desirable stopping place for gentlemen as well as the "Deutscher".
While the Philadelphia-Lancaster Turnpike was being built, Fahnstock built a new and larger house, facing the north side of the Turnpike, in 1794. By this time the inn had obtained international as well as national prominence. In 1798 three fugitive French princes, Louis Phillippe, the Due de Montpensier, and the Count de Beaujolais, spent several week sat the inn.
Casper Fahnstock was getting along in years, and due to the infirmities of old age had to relinquish his duties as host to his son Charles, who took out the license in 1799. The new century opened with the "Warren" still very much in the thick of things.
The opening of the first mail stage line from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, on the morning of July 4, 1804, added to the excitement at the old inn.
But Charles Fahnstock was a temperance man. He had the courage, even when his tavern was at the height of its popularity, to close the bar on Sundays. This was unheard of at that time, but he persisted, and even hung a sign over the bar, NO LIQUOR SOLD ON THE SABBATH.
In 1829 the inn burned to the ground. In the American Republican of September 8 of that year it was reported, "FIRE! A very unfortunate fire took place on Thursday the 3d inst; the public house, long known as the Warren Tavern, on the Philadelphia and Lancaster turnpike, was burned to the ground. There was also a livery stable burned at the same time. Mr. Fahnstock, the owner of the property, by the exertion of himself and friends, was able to save much of his property from the devouring element. His loss probably not less than three thousand dollars."
The inn was rebuilt at once on the sturdy stone walls of the old building and on its completion enjoyed an increase in patronage until the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad opened in 1834. Within a month of the railroad's opening the western stage line ceased operations, the last coach stopping at the Warren on May 20, 1834. The local stages were still in operation, but Charles Fahnstock had never encouraged their trade and was not interested in starting now. He was getting along in years, and soon aftwerward decided to turn the inn over to his son William.
The glory days of the old inn were coming to an end. William Fahnstock was a prominent man in the Great Valley Presbyterian Church and shared his father's views on temperance. He immediately took all liquor out of the inn, and put up a new sign, the "Warren Temperance Hotel". The sign was on a pivot, and at sundown Saturdays it was turned to read "NOTHING SOLD ON THE SABBATH".
This did not meet with public favor, and business declined rapidly until the inn became only a summer boarding house. At this point the new owner decided to go into the silkworm craze, the "Morus Multecaulis", that was sweeping the country. When this failed, he tired of the place and put it up for sale, in 1845.
One other tavern deserves mention here. The "Sign of the White Horse" in Whiteland (now East Whiteland) township, was one of the earliest tavern signs to swing in Chester County. This tavern, in the Great Chester Valley, was in existence perhaps as early as 1711; the tax records of that year show the dwelling to have been taxed twice as much as the other dwellings in the township, indicating a public house.
James Thomas, the constable, was the first proprietor. He had erected alog structure along a well-trodden Indian path that led from the Schuylkill to the Brandywine at a time when the county this far west was still almost unbroken wilderness. The inn was a rough three-room cabin, one room on the first floor and two small ones above. The furnishings were very crude; an early record mentions a split slab table, pewter plates, wooden bowls, and noggins.
In 1719 Edward Kennison filed for a license, but was refused. Two years later James Thomas received a license to sell wine, brandy and strong liquor. He turned it over to Kennison the next year, and Kennison remained the innkeeper there for many years.
The inn soon became a popular stop for Indians coming in from the west to trade their pelts in Philadelphia. They would ask the innkeeper for sugar and rum. When they had nothing to trade, they would offer to shoot for pennies: a penny would be put up on a stick and set up about 30 yards away and the marksman would then shoot at it with his bow and arrow. If he hit it, he got the penny; he usually hit.
These Indians were always friendly, and there is no record of the inn ever having been attacked. But since there was a possibility of attack, precautions were taken. A wooden pipe was laid from a spring in back of the cabin through the cellar and into a shallow well in front. In the event of an attack, a plug could be pulled in the cellar and it would not be necessary to go out of the cabin for water. This pipe remained until the inn underwent extensive renovations in 1890.
From 1730 to 1790 this was one of the busiest spots between Philadelphia and Lancaster. As new roads were built in the area, its location at a point where many of them came together gave it an advantage over any other early tavern in the Province. With the increase in travel, in about 1735 the inn was enlarged. A stone section was added to the eastern end of the log house, and the inn became a first-class establishment.
During the Revolutionary War the inn was operated by John Kerlin, who was a staunch patriot. When the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time at two sites in the county on July 5, 1776, the "White Horse" was one of those sites. During the short time the British occupied the property in September 1777 Kerlin suffered heavy losses.
The inn also served briefly as General Washington's headquarters during the maneuvering prior to the British occupation of Philadelphia, and when the Continental Army was encamped at Valley Forge it continued to be of importance. It was the first stopping place and relay station for express riders going between the Army's headquarters and the temporary capital in York. Throughout the war the inn was a patriot stronghold.
In 1785, after the war's damage had been gradually repaired, travel on the Lancaster Road again increased. This road was now the great road west, and Kerlin was reaping his share of this patronage. He needed more accommodations, so he tore down the old log wing and replaced it with a fine stone structure.
Arthur Rice became the innkeeper in 1787. He had been a volunteer scout during the Revolution, and one of Washington's most trusted men. It is said that he captured, single-handed, two British soldiers and brought them, together with their arms, into the American camp, for which he was complimented by the Commander-in-Chief himself. When Washington became President, Rice received invitations to many events at the capital, so great was Washington's admiration.
When the Lancaster Turnpike was built it by-passed the old inn causing it to lose its first-class stage business, but the inn continued to do a thriving business with teamsters and wagoners. These rugged men could often be seen on a long summer evening playing a game they called "Long Bullets" along the road in front of the inn: they would roll iron cannon balls, relics of the Revolution, dcwn the road, and the one who rolled the shortest ball would have to bring all the balls back -- and buy the winner a drink.
In 1845 the owner of the inn, a man named Ritenbaugh, was a cattleman. He hired drovers to round up local cattle and take them into the Philadelphia stockyards. One drover would come into the tavern yard from the Downingtown area, increasing his herd as he came down the road; another would come in from Lionville, doing the same thing. They would leave the inn early the next morning for the stockyard at 40th and Lancaster Avenue, one in the lead and one at the rear of the herd. They did this every two weeks. It was at this time that the old log barn was replaced with the large stone one that is still standing.
The Ritenbaughs gave up the cattle business a few years later, and sold the inn and property in 1866. The new owner turned it into a private farm. The old inn building is still occupied as a private residence, but most of the land surrounding it has been sold off over the years. Mementoes of the tavern's early days -- wooden noggins, old bottles, and parts of candlesticks -- are still found, however, by the present owners when digging around the yard.
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