(Continued From Yesterday)
These men of the First Infantry missed the bitter siege and fighting when
the British attempted unsuccessfully to capture Fort Meigs. Harrison then
marched into Canada, captured Fort Maiden at Amherstburg, Ontario, and
decisively defeated General Proctor with his British regulars and Indian allies
at the battle of the Thames in which the noted Tecumseh, Harrison’s old
enemy, was killed.
Captain Anderson came with his parents from Ireland and settled on what
was later the Duvall farm on Brush Run, Hopewell Township. After his marriage in
1816, he moved to a farm one mile east of Claysville, on the National Pike,
where he died in 1861.
Just how long Mrs. Calohan operated this inn is not certain. Searight
states that she conducted a tavern prior to 1840, but fails to mention its
location. She later married a man named Kelly as shown in another deed, but
it is probable that she was in business in the 1840’s. Through travel by stage
coach and freighting ceased on the pike by 1852.
It is uncertain just when David Bell, an old stage driver, became
proprietor, but Searight gives the impression that it was during the pike era.
If this is correct he must have rented the tavern from Mrs. Calohan, for
she may have retired after her marriage to Kelly. However, Bell did not own the
property until 1859, by which Rachel Kelly (Kelly was evidently dead) conveyed
the property to David Bell. At least Bell ran this tavern from that time until
Imri H. Taylor who had conducted a hotel at Wind Ridge (old Jacktown), Greene
County, took charge in the latter 1880s. Caldwell’s Atlas of 1876 shows that
during Bell’s time it was known as the Claysville Hotel, but the popular name of
the Bell House remained until the end. Taylor left on April 1, 1892, to manage
the Auld House in Washington.
Daniel Irwin followed Taylor, and later he came to Washington where
he conducted a restaurant on East Beau street. The next and last proprietor was
William A. Egan, who retired about 1928, after which Harry A. Miller occupied
it as a residence for a short time. Then it was vacant until demolished.
The date this historic building was razed is fixed by an account in The
Observer of March 8, 1933. This states that the east wall was bulged, the
west wall, had cracked and bricks had fallen out of the second story. This
account mentions that T.H. Sawhill, William Rice and Henry Anderson were
proprietors after Taylor, but no dates were given.
After it was demolished, the present Esso Service Station was
erected on the ground, now owned by R.D. Scott. The old stable on the rear of
the lot, which had accommodation for from 60 to 70 horses (as advertised in
1831) is still standing.
David Bell, the proprietor, died in 1896, as his will, dated December
17, 1887, was probated May 18, 1896.
SIGN OF THE BLACK HORSE
Another early tavern keeper who probably started the second inn after
Calohan went in business, was James Sargent. In 821, he moved form Washington,
where he had conducted the “Sing of the Swan” and the “Sign of the Cross Keys.”
This removal is shown by an advertisement in The Reporter of June 11, 1821:
Having lately removed from Washington to
Claysville, on the national turnpike road, 10
miles West of Washington and 22 East from
Wheeling; respectfully informs his friends and the
publick, that he has opened a PUBLICK HOUSE OF
Sign of The
in the brick building formerly occupied by Mr.
John Porter. His house is commodious and the
stabling good, and will at all times be furnished
with everything necessary for the accommodation of
travelers and wagonners. He has a lot of excellent
pasture containing 8 acres, situated for the
convenience of drovers. By due attention to
business he hopes to merit the approbation of all
who favour him with their custom.
Claysville, Pa., June 11, 1821
Very little has been found of Sargent’s tavern, but he remained in
Claysville for the rest of his life. This is pretty good proof that his stand
was well patronized, and the eight-acre pasture must have been an inducement
for drovers to stop at this house, for many herds of cattle, sheep and swine
were driven over the pike to market.
The only deed I found of property owned by Sargent was dated May 16,
1857, when he purchased for $345 Lot No. 39, 50 by 200 feet, on the north side
of Lawrence street, from James M. Whitehill, of Allegheny City. It is doubtful
if this was ever a tavern.
One day in the fall of 1952, in company with John Montgomery, we
found James Sargent’s grave in the old Purviance Cemetery in the rear of the
Methodist Church. He died June 1869, aged 86 years and seven months. This
places the date of his birth at about December 1782, or January, 1783. Beside
him is the grave of his wife, Deborah, who died April 13, 1857, aged 72 years,
one month and 23 days.
I have been unable ti definitely locate this tavern “in the brick house
formerly occupied by Mr. John Porter. His house is commodious and the stabling
good.” This shows that the house was large, and the account of the Fourth of
July celebration in 1832 shows that it was at the west end of the town. A
near as I can determine, Sargent rented the property from John Porter, who went
to Cincinnati, Ohio, probably in 1821.
Old deeds show that in 1791, John Porter, “of the Town of Union, of the
County of Fayette,” bought from Thomas Waller, of Donegal Township, for 387
pounds, 97 ¾ acres in Donegal Township. This was part of Waller’s patent
called “Content,” granted to him June 2, 1788.
On October 25, 1821 Chester Bidwell sold to Caleb B. Porter of Portsmouth,
Ohio, and John J. Porter, of Maysville, Kentucky, Lot No. 9 in Claysville, for
$1400. This consideration indicates a pretty good house on the property. The
description shows that it was on the south side of Lawrence and extended back 200
feet along Greene Street. Lot No. 10 was on the west. John J. Porter was a son
of John Porter.
Although this could have been the site of Sargent’s tavern, the
location is a little obscure. On July 9, 1826, James McNinch bought from
John J. Porter his half interest in Lot No. 9, “now occupied by Thomas Miller,
Esq.” For $175. However, on May 7, 1837, Hugh Davis, United States marshal,
sold to George Wyeth, of Williamsport (modern Monongahela), Lot No. 8 for debt
owed by Porter at Baltimore. The consideration was $830. The property is
described as though Porter was the sole owner. On it was a large brick house,
stable and other buildings. This could have been the tavern.
Although I have been unable to establish the fact, my opinion is that
Sargent’s tavern was the large brick house still standing on the north side of
the pike and known today as 139 Main street. This house has all the earmarks of
having once been a tavern. There is an alley at the side and old residents
remember when there was a large barn on the rear.
It was owned, in the last quarter of the 19th century, by Dr. George
Inglis, the all-time famous Washington and Jefferson College football player
and coach of 1890s. For many years he has lived in Columbus, Ohio. I wrote to
him, but he was unable to throw any light on the history of the old house.
Searight says that John Walker kept a tavern in a frame building on the
north side of the pike, diagonally opposite of the Bell House. Walker subsequently
moved to a hotel in Wheeling, but Searight does not give the date. Others who
operated this stand were Stephen Conkling and James Kelly, although I believe
that Searight confused this James Kelly with the Kelly who married Mrs.
Calohan. At any rate this was a prominent stand where the stage coaches of the
Good Intent line stopped.
Searight mentions an interesting incident that took place in this
tavern while Kelly was proprietor, although again this may have occurred at the
Calohan house across the street. On the occasion mentioned Jim Burr, a famous
stage driver, knocked out a pugilist of that known as the “Cincinnati Buffer.”
Searight’s description of this encounter is both interesting and
vivid. As already stated, Burr was a powerful man who could easily take care
of himself in a fight, but he was not of a quarrelsome disposition. On
the contrary he was rather quiet, and generally minded his own business. The
“Cincinnati Buffer,” whose real name does not appear, after whipping everyone
in and around Cincinnati, looked for greater conquests. In some manner he heard
of Jim Burr, and decided to add his scalp to his belt. He learned that he
would probably find him in Claysville, and so he came all the way from Cincinnati
just to “lick” the noted stage driver.
He found out that the Walker House was headquarters, for Burr’s stage
line, and when he inquired of James Kelly, the proprietor, where he might find
him he was informed that the driver was in the stable looking after his team.
When Burr entered a little later Kelly pointed him out.
The “Buffer,” who was larger than Burr, walked up and said: “Burr, I’ve
been told that you are the best man in all this country, and I have come all the
way from Cincinnati to lick you if I can.”
“Well,” Burr replied, “you’ve come a long distance for a job like that;
but I don’t know you, and there’s no reason why we should fight.”
“You must fight me,” the “Buffer” insisted. “I insist on it, and will
not leave until you do.”
Burr again refused to fight, and went up stairs for a short rest. When
he came down half an hour or so later he was surprised to meet the “Buffer” at
the foot of the stairway. When the Cincinnati man again demanded a fight, Burr
decided to accommodate him. The stage driver immediately squared into position and
the fight was on; but there were just two blows, Burr struck the “Cincinnati
“Buffer,” and the “Buffer” struck the floor. He took the count for several
minutes, and when he recovered and arose decided that he had had enough of Jim
Burr, stage coach driver.
Some say that this tavern burned many years ago, but John Montgomery
told me that it was razed about 65 years ago and the present building erected
by John Gourley for a hotel. At any rate a public house has stood on this
site since the early days. Now known as Claysville Hotel, it is owned and operated
as a rooming house by Louis Emeterio.
Searight says that Basil Brown kept a tavern in Claysville as
early as 1836 and probably before. This was a stage station, headquarters
for Stockton’s National Road Stage Company. It was also a wagon stand, and
enjoyed a large patronage from both passengers and Pike Boys. It must have
been a large house, but I have been unable to locate it, for Brown never
owned any real estate in Claysville.
Searight relates an interesting incident in connection with Dan Rice,
the famous clown and circus owner of many years ago. Some time in the 1840s
Rice’s circus was stranded in Claysville, and to raise money to get out of town
he gave an exhibition of a “learned pig’ in Brown’s Tavern one night. During
the entertainment Brown’s overcoat disappeared. He charged Rice with stealing
it, and the clown was sent to Washington to await trial in “durance
vile.” Rice employed Seth T. Hurd, a noted lawyer of that time, and was acquitted.
A short time later Rice again came to Claysville with a new circus.
On this occasion Dan appeared in the ring and sang an original son describing
the overcoat episode, in which he lampooned Brown, most unmercifully.
The sarcastic thrusts at the landlord were thoroughly enjoyed by the Claysville
audience; but this did not detract from the popularity of the tavern keeper.
After Brown’s time, John McIlwee kept this stand. He may have been the
James McElwee, who died in Claysville before February 10, 1880, the date of the
probation of his will.
James Dennison, an old wagoner and stage driver, kept a tavern as early
as 1840, according to Searight. On account of his long connection with
the road he was popular with wagoners, and had the patronage of one of the stage
lines. Having been on the road himself he knew how to make the Pike Boys feel at home.
After leaving Claysville, Dennison kept the Keys Tavern at Beallsville,
and Searight says that he went from there to a stand at Hopwood; but this is a
mistake. Mrs. Edith D. Blayney, of Claysville, a granddaughter, and the late
William R. Dennison, as attorney of Washington, and a grandson, informed me
that their grandfather returned to state driving after leaving Beallsville.
Like all stage drivers he loved the excitement of six fast horses hitched
to a big rolling Concord stage coach. He was killed near Hopwood, Fayette
County, when his stage upset during the descent of Laurel Ridge.
I was unable to locate his stand in Claysville, and neither Mrs.
Blayney nor Mr Dennison could give any clue. Although a search of the Recorder’s
Office failed to reveal any information I am of the opinion that it was the Samuel
White home on the north side of the pike, near the old mill property at the
east end of Claysville. Caldwell’s Atlas of 1876 shows that at that time E.C.
Dennison lived in this property. At least the description seems to fit—the
second lot west of the mill. I was told, by Harry White, of Washington,
John Montgomery, and several others, that this old house was once a tavern.
Searight mentions a man named Watkins who kept a tavern in a house that
was destroyed by fire before 1850. It had the patronage of the Good Intent Stage
line. I have found nothing more concerning Watkins and his inn, and no one today
ever heard of him. Searight may have confused Watkins with John Walker, already
COON ISLAND TAVERN
Three miles west of Claysville we come to Coon Island at the foot of the
long hill that takes us to the higher country on which West Alexander is
located. This is historic ground. On the north side of the pike, near the foot
of the hill, was a large frame house in which, Searight says, John Canode kept
a wagon stand for many years before 1840, and after his time by John Brotherton
and Sons. Although it was a wagon stand and enjoyed a good trade from the Pike
Boys, it was a relay station for express wagons, and stages frequently
stopped there. It was kept as late as 1853 by a Mr. Reed, but it ceased to be a
tavern a hundred years ago.
There is an old tradition that during the days of the “Underground
Railway” it was a station in which slaves who had escaped from the South were
concealed until it was safe to pass them on in their journey to Canada and freedom.
The old house stood until the night of February 3, 1927, when fire broke
out about 8 o’clock, and it was burned to the ground. Arch McConoughey owned
the property and resided there; but he and his wife were absent. The flames could
be seen for a long distance, and a crowd quickly gathered; but nothing could be
done to save the building.
When the fire was at its height it was reported that James McConaughey,
12-year-old son of the owner, was caught inside; and there was considerable
excitement until James was discovered in the crowd.
At the time it was stated that the building was more than a hundred
years old, which was undoubtedly correct. The type of construction was
heavy hewn oak logs covered with lap siding. There were 12 rooms.
Arch McConaughey has long been dead, and his son, James, who operates an
automobile repare shop, owns the property.
This small village where John Canode kept his wagon stand, was once an
important point on the pike. The tavern attracted people from far and near, and
farmers from all the western section of Washington County took their grain to the
gristmill that once stood on the Dutch Fork of Buffalo Creek.
Many persons have wondered over the years how the name originated, for
there is no island and raccoons are not found in any large numbers. Searight
and Crumrine evidently did not know how it started; but I found an interesting story
of its origin buried in The Reporter files, telling how it originated during
the famous “Long Cabin and Hard Cider” campaign of 1840. This account from the
issue of August 4, 1888, was taken from the Claysville Recorder.
The grist mill was operated by water power; and the mill race from Dutch
Fork formed an island with the creek on one side and the race on the other. During
those early days, and until 1873, voters from Donegal Township, Claysville and
West Alexander, went to the tavern to cast their ballots.
In the campaign of 1840 the Whigs of all that section were enthusiastic
for their candidate, General William Henry Harrison, and, rallying to the
battle cry of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,” they built a log cabin at the mill
on the island which they dedicated to their “patron saint.” The roof was made of
raccoon skins sewed together with the fur side out, and the gable ends and
eaves were adorned with so many coon tails that the building had a fringe completely
around it. The walls on the inside were covered with raccoon skins, all
furnished by hunters of that vicinity.
At the eastern end of the cabin was a platform on which were kept filled
with cider from early fall until after the election, and everyone helped
himself with big dippers. The people began immediately to call the place Coon
Island, and, like all names that strike the popular American fancy, it has
stuck to this day, although hardly any one now knows how it started. The
cabin and mill disappeared long ago, and when the race was no longer needed the
When a post office was granted and the name Coon Island submitted, it
mush have struck the fancy of the postal officials, for it was accepted without
question. After the Baltimore and Ohio took over the old Hempfield the
railroad officials tried to be superior and gave the station the more classical
name of Vienna. But to the people it was still Coon Island, for that meant
something, and Coon Island it will always be, long after Vienna is forgotten.
(To Be Continued)
For part 24 of The National Pike Story For part 26 of The National Pike Story