National Pike, Road of History, Romance
Monday, March 28, 1955 page 15 of
The Washington Reporter, Washington, Pennsylvania
by Earle R. Forrest
Greenfield's National Hotel.
The tavern kept by William Greenfield was among the most famous west
of the mountains during the prosperous days of the old National Pike.
Although it was generally known as Greenfield's Tavern, the name was National
Hotel, painted on a large sign fastened to the second story porch for
many years. I have a photograph taken in 1914, which shows the old tavern
as it appeared during Greenfield's time, for no changes had been made since
he took over and built the addition.
You may get the impression from Searight that William Greenfield
was the original proprietor following advertisement appeared in The Reporter,
July 2, 1821. This was shortly after the pike was opened
Washington County to Wheeling:
The subscriber wished to inform his friends and the public
in general that he has removed from the stone house at Ginger
Hill, to the large and commodious brick house in the town of
Beallsville, on the national turnpike, between Washington and
Brownsville, 15 miles from the former and 8 1/2 miles from the
latter, and has opened a house of
At The Sign of The
Where travelers, wagoners and others can be accommodated in the
best manner and on moderate prices. There is a large brick
stable and two fountain pumps on the premises. Care will be
taken to render general satisfaction.
Thomas G. Norfolk.
County, July 2, 1821
Having found no previous mention of Thomas G. Norfolk and his
Beallsville Inn in either Searight or Crumrine or any other source, I
again appealed to Jess P. Miller, and I believe that he has established
the fact that Norfolk was the first proprietor of this tavern.
Mr. Miller well remembers the two fountain pumps and a watering
trough that stood on the highway at the east corner of the Greenfield
Tavern in front of the porch. In later years the stable was frame. It
was in the rear, fronting on the road to Fredericktown. In this connection
Mr. Miller recalled having heard some of the old people tell of a brick
stable that burned, and a frame building was erected in its place. The
frame stable burned about 25 years ago.
Mr. Miller recalls that the original tavern contained only two stories.
William Greenfield erected the third story, which is not as wide as the
original building, and Greenfield�s son, Eli, once told him that this was
a mistake. It should have been as wide as the rest of the building;
but it did give it a more distinctive appearance, unlike any other on
the pike. Greenfield also erected the two-story porch around
sides of the house.
My own recollections of the National Hotel go back to my boyhood
when my father and mother, and Uncle Jack Munce and his wife, who was
my father's youngest sister, drove to Wiggins' summer resort, an old stone
house near Chalk Hill, in the mountains east of Uniontown. It was a
two days journey with a horse and surrey, and we always stopped at the
National Hotel the first night. William Greenfield had long been dead, and
it was conducted by his two daughters, the Misses Eleanor and Lewiza
Greenfield, until they died. The old hotel was operated by others
after the Greenfield sisters died, but it was finally closed in 1835 and
the present store was opened.
Years later when working on the engineering corps of the Washington
County Road Department, I stopped there again. The Greenfield sisters had
long been dead. From the time of William Greenfield and his daughters
and all those who followed, the National Hotel was noted for the excellence
of its table. Food was always served in the old time manner, even to
the last meal, by placing it on the table in large dishes filled to overflowing.
These dishes were passed around, each guest helping himself. When emptied
they were taken to the kitchen to be filled again. With the coming of
the automobile the old hotel became famous for its chicken and waffles,
served with rich gravy or pure maple syrup. You could take your choice or
have both if your digestion was in good order, and eat as many waffles
and as much chicken as your capacity would stand. The slogan was "all
the chicken and waffles you can eat," and it meant just that. The waiter
kept the dish filled until you said you had had enough.
William Greenfield was noted as the founder of the first bank in
that section. In describing it, Mr. Miller said that Greenfield issued his
own paper money. It was as good as gold, for he promptly redeemed
it in hard cash when presented. According to Searight, Greenfield's
"Beallsville Savings Bank" was in his tavern and his safe was in his pocket."
This seems doubtful for I remember a large old fashioned iron safe that
stood in the office. Printed across the top was "William Greenfield."
The key was large enough for a "key to the city." Mr. Miller thinks
that this safe may have been used later by his son, Eli, who was a jeweler.
Searight is authority for the statement that the pressure of redemption
of the paper money became more that this pioneer banker could stand, and
he was forced to close the banking business; but no serious losses were
sustained by holders of the script. This must be true as he continued
to keep the tavern very successfully until his death, respected by all
who knew him.
A modern grocery now occupies the front rooms of the old tavern,
and when I visited the place in the summer of 1953 the lady in charge
kindly showed me the old Greenfield safe which had been moved into a
room back of the store.
I well remember the old pump in the well on the east side, with a
large stone watering trough upon which "Wm. Greenfield: had been carved in
script by a master hand. The trough disappeared years ago, and no one,
not even Mr. Miller could tell me what became of it. This priceless
relic should have been preserved. No one will ever know how many state coach
drivers and Pike Boys watered their horses there during the years of
William Greenfield's National Hotel.
Of course, Greenfield had a liquor license, as did all taverns and
wagon stands in the pike era.
The two-story porch still stands on two sides of the ancient
building. On the east side of the second floor is the one fine type doorway
with glass panels at the sides and a handsome fan light transom
Millers Private Bank.
On the southwest corner of the pike and the Fredericktown road, opposite
the National Hotel, is a large brick building to which the Miller
Private Bank was conducted continuously for 53 years. It was in 1870 that
James E. Miller, father of Jess P. Miller, opened a private bank that was
to serve the people of the Beallsville section uninterruptedly for 63
years; and this, in a way, was the successor, of William Greenfield's
bank of many years before. But there was a difference. Mr. Miller was
more successful than Greenfield. As he conducted his business on sound
The first bank was in a room of the Miller home, which still stands
on the north side of the pike, opposite the present building. The business
increased, and in 1880 he moved to the corner room of the large
still standing. When James M. Miller died in 1913, his son, Jess,
continued the business. This bank easily weathered every storm, even a
robbery one night more than 35 years ago, and three great
closed many other financial institutions--the panics of 1873, 1893, and
After the banking holiday declared by President Roosevelt in early
March, 1933, Mr. Miller saw that banking would never be the same again. He
decided to quit and devote his time to other interests. After making
this decision he made a public announcement on March 15, that as of that
day the bank would be closed, and he would only receive deposits to meet
any outstanding checks of his customers. He asked the depositors to claim
the amounts due them, and each was paid in full. This marked the passing
of one of the historic financial institutions of Washington County.
During almost two thirds of a century the Miller bank had been in existence
not one depositor lost a cent. It was a record of which to be proud.
During our trips to the mountains years ago I remember a small house
near the west end of the town that was a great curiosity in its day. The
panels of the front door were made of two old fashioned coffin lids. Where
they came from or why they were used for this purpose I never learned. No
one remembers this house today. Even Mr. Miller could tell me nothing of
About two miles west of Beallsville the pike passes over VanVoorhis
Hill, at an altitude of 1,445 feet above sea level as shown by a State
Highway sign. It is presumed that this is the altitude at the point
crossed by the pike, and if this is true the summit of the hill in the
rear of the VanVoorhis house is around 75 or 100 feet higher. In that case
this hill must be as high or even higher than Mt. Wheeling south of Washington,
long regarded as the highest in Washington County with an altitude of
1,528 feet and the highest point between the Allegheny Mountains and the
Mississippi River, the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee excepted.
At any rate the point at which the road crosses VanVoorhis Hill is
the second highest on the National Pike west of the mountains, the highest
being at the west end of Scenery Hill with an altitude of 1,456 feet.
Although the old VanVoorhis homestead on the south side of the road
was never a stage station or wagon stand. It is one of the interesting
and historic buildings on the National Pike in Washington County.
Built of brick made on the farm, it was and still is a handsome old home.
Frank VanVoorhis, the present owner of the old farm gave me some
interesting notes of the life of his grandfather, Isaac VanVoorhis,
who built this house in 1870. One end faces on the road, which gives you
the impression in passing that this is the front, but the front is on a
lane from the pike. Both the front and side porches are of that style of
architecture in vogue 90 years and more ago. The doorways are of the
type of that period, with glass panels on each side and transoms above.
The stonework is unequalled in any house I have seen in Western
Pennsylvania. On the right side of the large stone cap over the front
door, a hand is carved in bold relief with the index finger pointing
toward the entrance, and standing out clearly on the left side is a tree
of life. Carved in relief on the stone over the side door, facing
the pike, is a dove, almost life size, with wings spread and head down,
holding an olive branch in its beak. Over the gable window in the third
floor or attic are two clasped hands on the stone cap.
this all of the interesting stone carving. A brick smoke house stood
until recently at the side of the dwelling, and on the stone cap over
the door was a man in an old style sulky driving a race horse.
Isaac VanVoorhis was a lover of fast horses and trained many on
his track around the top of the hill in the rear and I wondered if he got
this idea of the race track around the hill at the Jacktown fair in Greene
County. Frank VanVoorhis informed me that the stone-mason who did this
beautiful work was John McMillan. The man who lives in the old house told
me that when the smoke-house became so dilapidated that it fell down, Frank
removed this capstone and has it preserved in the cellar.
VanVoorhis led a long and interesting life. Frank told me that when his
grandfather was only 16 years old he went to Kentucky, purchased cattle
for his father's farm, and drove 150 head to Washington
As he was born in 1823 the date of this journey was about 1839. There
were no bridges in those days and it was necessary to swim the herd
across streams. In crossing the Muskingum River the cattle got in quicksand
and young VanVoorhis himself had a narrow escape when his horse almost
went down. But he weathered the hazards of the drive, and brought
the herd through. For the benefit of anyone who might cast doubt upon this
story I will say that during the latter 1860's and all through the 1870's
is was not unusual for 10 year-old cowboys, some even younger, to drive
herds of cattle from Texas over the trails to the Kansas shipping
towns. In fact, the majority of cowboys of the trail driving days were
under 21, and the dangers encountered, from swollen rivers and Indians
were far greater that anything VanVoorhis encountered.
On at least one occasion young Isaac VanVoorhis drove a herd of
Texas longhorns through from St. Louis to his father's farm. This was
at a very early date, and those were undoubtedly the first and probably
the only longhorns every brought to Washington County. There is no record
of how these wild Texas cattle fared on a Pennsylvania farm.
As a youth Jess P. Miller was at the Isaac VanVoorhis home frequently.
It was a wonderful place with many attractions for a boy that made a
deep impression on his youthful mind that has lasted these
His father had sold the farm to VanVoorhis, and the families were well
acquainted. Young Miller was fascinated by soldiers that would suddenly
appear out of the top of an old grandfather clock and play a tune when
the hour was struck. He has never seen anything like since then.
pet bear which he kept chained to a tree, was popular with all the boys
of the neighborhood. They fed him all sorts of tidbits dear to a bear's
palate, but they were always careful to keep out of reach of those long
dangerous looking claws. Mr. Miller corroborated Frank VanVoorhis'
story of the cattle drive from St. Louis.
Isaac VanVoorhis was a lover and breeder of fast horses, which he
trained on a half mile track around the hill. Although the old track has
not used for more than half a century, last summer Frank VanVoorhis
graded it and put in good condition. The man on the farm told me that Frank
had intended to race autos over it, but was warned by a pipe line inspector
that if a car ran off the gas line there would be trouble.
Isaac VanVoorhis died April 6, 1908, at the age of 85, and left the
farm to his youngest son, Charles, who later sold it to his older brother,
Thomas, the father of Frank VanVoorhis, the present owner.
The Railroad Viaduct.
At the western end of VanVoorhis Hill the pike crosses the Marianna
Railroad over a concrete viaduct. The first one was constructed about 1908
when the branch was built by the Pennsylvania Company from Monongahela
to the new coal mines just opened at Marianna. A long, deep cut through
this hill for the railroad grade was necessary and with a depth of 94 feet
from the floor of the present
the tracks it is the deepest railroad cut in Western Pennsylvania.
This was the scene of an automobile tragedy about 35 years ago when
a car with only the driver, coming down the hill from the east, failed to
make the curve onto the viaduct and plunged through the guard posts into
the deep cut landing on the railroad tracks a crumpled mass of junk.
Coroner William Greenlee, on his way from Bentleyville to Washington
that morning, was in the rear of the ill-fated car. He said later that
the driver made no attempt to turn onto the viaduct. Heart failure was
the only explanation.
By 1940 the State Highway Department felt that the old viaduct
was no longer safe for heavy traffic, and so the present arched bridge was
erected. The old one that had stood for so many years was blasted with
two charges of dynamite. The present viaduct was completed before the
end of the year.
(To Be Continued)
For part 9 of The National Pike Story
For part 11 of The National Pike Story
Washington County Link Page
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