Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: October 1938 Volume 1 Number 5, Pages 25–27

The Fox and Springhouse Taverns
Part B.

Franklin L. Burns

(Part A in July issue and Part A continuation in October issue)

Page 25

We are indebted to Mr. Howard S. Okie's interesting abstracts of titles in the preceding article, for confirmation of some local traditions and for source material of a very pleasing nature, and while the courthouse records do not reveal exactly when the Fox Tavern of Cockletown became established or its original name, they certainly discover an earlier date than given by Dr. Sachse.

To emphasize this it is necessary to recapitulate: When Peter Elliott sold to his son Morris in 1762 the tract of 50 acres, later known as the Fox Tavern property, we assume that a dwelling had been or was about to be erected as a place of public entertainment on the Conestoga Road. It will be observed that most of the early owners were of German origin. George King was undoubtedly the identical person of whom it was said that he was a younger son of a German Baron and who in 1756 married Catherine, daughter of Christian and Susanna Levering Brenneman, served as an Ensign in the Revolution and whose body lies in the St. Peter's Episcopal churchyard under a marker erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The property then passed successively to William Braneman (Brandyman, in the vocabulary of the Easttown tax collector) in 1761; Thomas Williams, cordwainer (or shoemaker), 1769; Henry Ruth, for 300 pounds, 1784. The latter becomes definitely the landlord since he is cited as a weaver upon purchase and as innkeeper at the time of disposal.

It is probable that Ruth greatly improved the buildings during his ownership, possibly he replaced a log house with the stone inn. After the sale for 550 pounds to Jacob Waters, 1793, he settled on a farm in the valley near Diamond Rock. He was a Mennonist and the founder of the Ruth family of Willistown.

Jacob Waters, possibly the ancestor of the Waters family of Easttown, is cited as innkeeper in 1795 when he sold the property for 600 pounds to Henry Zook (Zuk), Miller of Tredyffrin and probably an ancestor of General Zook who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. Zook did not occupy the tavern. Sachse asserts that it was occupied as a tavern from 1792 to 1797 by Henry Fox, and there is a tradition to that effect, which brings up an interesting question. Did the inn receive its name from the landlord and if so what was its earlier name?

The last landlord does not appear but due to the recent construction of the turnpike its trade was diverted and it was closed in 1804. The stone house was demolished about 1900 to make way for the new dwelling of the Joseph Williams family.

The late Mrs. Susan Williams, daughter of John and Hannah Kugler former owners of the Springhouse Tavern, and who died in 1932 in her ninety-seventh year, once informed the writer that Bell of the Fox Tavern store was blind. His daughter Eliza married William Law, a plasterer by trade, who after the death of his father-in-law, moved into the store at the corner of Lancaster

Page 26

Pike and Newtown Road (now Waterloo Avenue). She said that the road from Bell's corner to the pike (now known as a part of Contention Lane) had been put through when she was a girl. She thought that there was once a road (Elliott's) connecting the Conestoga Road with the turnpike at the Springhouse Tavern, though it must have been before her time and abandoned when the railroad was opened.

The Springhouse Tavern property was also part of the 250 acres tract purchased by Peter Elliott in 1723, and came into the possession of John Llewellyn by sheriff's sale, a part of which his son David, yeoman of Tredyffrin sold to William Torbert, innkeeper of Easttown for $2,200 in 1804. Torbert was the first landlord and probably the builder of the Springhouse, the successor of the old Fox Tavern.

In 1813, by partition at his death, his son Alexander was awarded the four tracts including the inn at a valuation of $10,326.87 and he disposed of it the following year to John Kugler, Jr., of Charlestown Township.

In 1820 it was sold to John Kugler, Sr. Under the Kuglers the tavern first came into prominence as a first class hostelry.

About 1825, John Dane, the tenant, changed its name to the "George Washington," but the patrons continued to refer to it as the Springhouse or "Big" tavern. After the death of Dane, his widow ran it for awhile, when it became known as "Peggy Dane's" Tavern, but the railroad soon destroyed its usefulness, though for a time public vendues on its porches drew large crowds. She was the last lessee.

It might be stated here that Widow Dane had a number of attractive, dark-eyed daughters, the belles of the neighborhood. Margaret married Charles Thompson, Jane wed William Smith, another Henry Root, who lived in Glassley, another William Porteus who was later killed when thrown from his horse on the Plank Road while returning home near the Leopard from the Bear, and still another to a Pugh of Norristown. Westley Jones married a niece. Widow Dane retired to a house on the Conestoga Road.

Dr. Sachse is evidently wrong in his statement that the Kugler family held the tavern property continuously until 1861. The records show that Benjamin and Valentine Kugler, executors, sold it to Samuel B. Thomas in 1835 and Benjamin Kugler bought it back in 1845. The Rev. Dr. John McLeod rebuilt a portion of the old walls after it had been destroyed by fire while occupied by the White family.

Editor's Note: "Anent" is a word which means concerning or about.

Anent the woodlot at the head of the Devon swamp purchased by Peter Burn and Mifflin Lewis, I find family records of the employment in 1847-1849, of several woodchoppers, namely--Robert Dunwoody, Joseph Burn, Aaron McEntire, Henson and White, Smiley and Jones, to cut and dress cross-ties for the Columbia Railroad, West Philadelphia Road, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Also records and accounts of the sale of posts and rails and cordwood to residents of Easttown, Tredyffrin, Newtown and Radnor.

Mifflin Lewis kept tavern and the post office in the large building connected with the old Eagle railroad station, now occupied by the Rossetti family. Like many of the tavern keepers of his day, he controlled much of the ready money of the neighborhood and was eager for profitable investments.

Page 27

On the opposite side of the pike from the Springhouse Tavern there used to be a deep and open pool of spring water. Few passed on a hot summer day without partaking of its cool and sparkling fluid. On the occasion of the exhibition of O'Brain's circus, it supplied water for the entire troup including a considerable herd of elephants. The proprietor commented so favorably upon its volume and purity that our people felt quite proud. Its overflow made a very pretty willow-embowered pond.

There was another village pond, its breast near Doyle's rock garden, and it backed up quite to the railroad culvert, but like the first mentioned, it served no known useful purpose beyond that of diversified beauty to the rural landscape.

Elliott's road, of which tradition speaks, was an actual fact as shown by Mr. Okie. It doubtless was primarily designed as a means of communication between the spring, dwelling and barn and the Conestoga Road and blacksmith shop long before the construction of the turnpike, and when the railroad came it ceased to exist.

(To be continued)


Page last updated: 2012-05-28 at 17:41 EDT
Copyright © 2006-2012 Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to make copies for personal use only.
All other uses require written permission of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.