From the location given by Searight on the south side of the angle
of the pike after crossing the bridge just where it turns to the left to
go up the hill," it is plain that this was originally the Adams or the
later Armstrong tavern. Samuel Adams kept a tavern at this location
as early as 1820, succeeded by John Huston. The original house, described
by Searight as a wooden structure, was torn down at an early date, and
the present building erected on the spot, was a popular and prosperous
hostelry during the pike era and for many years afterwards.
Joshua Armstrong was the first proprietor after this building
was erected before 1840, and he was succeeded by Morris Purcell.
Searight says that Major William Paul succeeded Purcell about 1842, and
his barman was James Watkins, an old stage driver from Washington.
Paul's son-in-law, Thomas H. Hopkins, the next proprietor, gave it the
name of Hopkins Tavern, by which it is still known, although it has not
been a hotel for more that half a century. During all the years of pike
travel, and long after Hopkin's death, it was very popular, always
catering to the tastes of stage travelers and Pike Boys. A large wagon yard
was on the east side, and Searight says that Dr. Estep Adams told him
that when he was a boy he counted 50 Conestoga wagons in the yard one
night during Purcell's regime.
Mrs. Rebecca Hopkins, still living gave me an interesting description
of this historic tavern, which was popular with the townspeople as well as
travelers. After Hopkins died his wife, Betsy ran the place for many years,
even after travel on the pike closed. Mrs. Hopkins was the aunt of Mrs.
Rebecca Hopkins, so this description from a woman who knew the old stand
during its last years as a hotel from family tradition, is authentic.
She told me that the brick building at the right of the present
saloon is the original tavern of Joshua Armstrong, built before 1840, and
the frame section, still standing, was added by Mrs. Hopkins. The old
barroom of pike days was in the present cleaners' establishment.
What is now a barber shop was the ladies parlor, and the men's parlor was
in the far right end as you face the building. The old wagon lot where many
Conestogas were parked every night, is still vacant ground at the east
Back in those years lumbering was a big industry in the mountains
at the head of the Monongahela River in West Virginia, and during
the season when the river was clear of ice, many big rafts of logs came
down on their way to the saw mills on the lower Monongahela. that was
before the days of steam tow boats. This log traffic can be compared
to the coal barges of later years, towed by steamers.
Mrs. Hopkins said that Hopkin's Tavern was a popular stopping
place for lumber jacks who brought the rafts down from West Virginia.
Every evening during warm weather a group of loggers was on the porch,
swapping yarns, and many were the tall tales they told. Gathered around
were the people of the town, including every small boy in West Brownsville,
listening to those tales of adventure in the mountain lumber camps and
on the river. It is easy to picture those boys of long ago listening
with rapt attention, and I wondered if those stories heard on the porch
of Hopkin's Tavern, were responsible for many of the boys of that
time taking up the adventurous life of a lumberjack. Mrs. Hopkins was
still operating the tavern when Searight made his tour of the pike in
1892 and 1893.
In seeking information on the old tavern I was directed to Mrs. Ophelia
Lynch, who told me that Solomon Watkins kept a tavern on the site of the
present freight station of the Pittsburgh, Virginia and Charleston
Railroad. Searight says that Solomon Watkins kept the Hopkins, but he
evidently made a mistake, for he relates that the old Adams or Hopkins
Tavern was in 1892 owned by the railroad company and used as a freight
station. He mentions Watkins as proprietor of the Hopkins Tavern;
but it is evident that he confused the two stands, for the Watkins
Tavern was across the pike from Hopkins.
Mrs. Lynch remembered that Solomon Watkins still kept the tavern on
this road when she was a little girl. Of others mentioned in Searight
as proprietors of the Hopkin’s Tavern ther is no record of them at that
place, but they may have kept the Watkins Tavern before Solomon took charge.
Mrs. Lynch recalls that a town pump was in front of this inn, but the
well was filled when the present freight station was erected.
The oldest building in West Brownsville is the stone house on the
south side of the pike, on the old Sam Thompson Distillery property,
at the foot of the river hill. Searight says that Vincent Owens kept a
tavern here when the road was opened and for a number of years during the
prosperous days of the pike. He was a Revolutionary soldier who settled
there early in the 19th century or possibly in 1790s. I cannot say that
he built this house, but he probably did.
One night while Owens was proprietor his father was murdered
in this tavern. The motive for the crime is a mystery to this day.
Searight says that two persons who lodged there that night were suspected;
but they made their escape before daybreak and were never apprehended.
The killing caused great excitement, for murders were rather rare, even
in those rough days.
Owens was succeeded by Samuel Acklin, and after him John Krepps, of
the Krepps' Ferry family, took charge. The next proprietor was Morris
Purcell, who went from there to the Adams, later the Hopkins Tavern.
The old stone house was closed as a tavern long before the decline of
travel on the pike. On each side of this ancient house are the big brick
buildings of the Sam Thompson Distillery, which was in operation for many
years prior to national prohibition. Since 1927 the old stone tavern building
has been the office of the Ward Supply Company.
When I went to the office for information I was referred to Willard
Griffin, a brother of Shan Griffin, of Washington. The history of the old
building had been told to Mr. Griffin years ago by James Risbeck,
an old Pike Boy, and he verified the statement that this was the Owens Tavern.
He related the story of the murder of Vincent Owens' father.
Risbeck had told him that Krepps' Ferry of early days crossed the
Monongahela River at this point, with a landing just in the rear of the tavern.
As this ferry was in operation as early as 1794 it is reasonable
that the stone house may have been erected about that time, and was probably
used as the property was owned by the Krepps family. This ferry continued
in operation as late as 1845.
Samuel J. Thompson, of Washington, a grandson of Sam Thompson,
founder of this distillery, told me the story of how his grandfather
became interested in the business. The first distillery at this site was
built before 1844, for it was in that years that Sam Thompson acquired the
property from a man who owned him a debt. Thompson was not particularly
in the whiskey business, but that seemed to be the only way in which he
could get his money.
He told a friend that he had a distillery on his hands, and did not know
what to do with it. There were many distilleries along the river in those
days, and competition was so keen that there was not much money in the
business for any of them. The friend old Thompson to make better whiskey
than the others. He did make better whiskey, beginning in that year of
1844, and West Brownsville became known as the "Home of Sam Thompson's
Old Monongahela Rye."
During the days of the distillery the old Owens Tavern building was
the office of the government gauger. In what is now the basement, but
originally the first floor, on the river front, barrels were filled with
Malden or Kreppsville, as it was originally named, 2.3 miles west
of West Brownsville, a noted tavern on the old pike is one of the finest
examples of Colonial architecture west of the mountains. The original
or west section was built for a tavern in 1822 by the Krepps family of
Brownsville. This date and a double-headed eagle are carved on a dressed stone
in the west gable. Below that date stone is a fine old fanlight window.
The east section was erected in 1830 as shown by the finest date stone,
I have ever seen. Carved upon it is an eagle with a ribbon from tip to tip
of the wings and upon it is "Liberty." At the side of the eagle is "Kreppsville
1830," with a plow and sheaf of wheat under the name.
The Krepps family believed that a town would grow up around the tavern;
but this village was a hundred years in the future. For some reason
unknown today the name of Kreppsville was never popular, and it became Malden
at a very early date. The origin of this name is a little hazy, but there
is an old tradition, which is probably true, that a party of emigrants
from New England camped there one night, and from a fancied resemblance
to their native town of Malden, Massachusetts, they gave it that name. For
some reason long forgotten it struck the popular fancy, and as Malden it h
as been known for a century and a quarter. It anyone would inquire
today for Kreppsville not one person in 50 could tell where it is.
Back in the 1820s, during the time of Bry Taylor, the first proprietor,
this old house was the scene of a sad family tragedy. Searight relates that
one-day when Bry's son, James returned from a hunting trip and laid his
gun on a table, his sister, Kizzie asked him to put the weapon in a safe
place. He refused with the remark that it would not hurt anyone where it
was, and when Kizzie picked up the gun her brother seized it. During the
scuffle it was discharged, and the girl was fatally wounded.
Many years later James Taylor became a riverman on the Ohio and Mississippi,
and was killed by a United States marshal near Memphis, Tennessee.
The wagon yard was west of the tavern, with a large stone barn at
the side, which is still standing. In recent years this building was converted
Samuel Acklin followed Taylor, but the date is not certain.
Searight says he was there as early as 1836. Samuel Bailey, the next proprietor,
was succeeded by William Pappern and then came William Garrett. Since travel
closed on the pike this old tavern had been a private residence.
The old Malden Tavern is now the home of Jack Cupple, owner of the
nearby drive-in theater. For many years a large porch was in front,
but whether this was there originally in not certain. This porch has been
removed, and a fine colonial doorway, in keeping with the architecture
of the house was built. This building has been repaired and placed in
excellent condition without destroying the original beautiful lines, and
today it is one of the handsomest homes in all Western Pennsylvania.
Quite a modern village has grown in recent years around old Malden of
pike days, with the usual service station and modern tavern just across
FROM MALDEN TO CENTERVILLE
If you are looking for old scenes and historic points on the pike
follow the original road by turning to the left seven-tenths of a mile
west of Malden. The new route, paved with concrete and a much better
highway, goes straight ahead at this point, and does not pass through
The first point of interest is Ike Taylor Methodist Episcopal
Church and cemetery. Before reaching the church you will see the high stub
of a granite monument wall, all that is left of one man's efforts
to perpetuate his memory after death.
James S. McCutcheon, a well-to-do farmer of Centerville, died
November 29, 1902, leaving an estate of $32,738.52, as shown by the second
audit filed in 1905. In addition to this amount a number of notes were
due McCutcheon, the amount of which does not appear, so that his estate
probably amounted to around $40,000 or more.
His will shows that before his death he had made an agreement
with T. Wright and Company, of Brownsville, for the erection of this monument
of $20,000 and he directed his executors to carry out this agreement.
He stipulated in his will that after his estate was converted into cash
and all his debts paid, the balance of the money, "much or little,"
after the monument was paid for, was to be used to erect a fence of some
description around his burial place "with a monument at each corner as
high as the balance of the money will permit, the corner monuments
to be the same style as the main one."
He directed that a plot 40-feet square be purchased for this monument,
and the executors were requested to see that "all the work be done strong
and in a mechanical manner." The executors did their work well; and a handsome
monument, the equal of which was not to be found in all Western Pennsylvania,
was erected in the center of the 40-foot square cemetery lot, in which is
only one grave--McCutcheon's. The plot is enclosed by a low granite wall,
at each corner of which is a smaller duplicate of the monument.
It was a handsome monument, a massive shaft at leats 75 feet high,
which could be seen for a long distance. Engraved upon the front is "James S.
McCutcheon 1824-1902." Many a President or other great man does not have
its equal to mark his grave.
The actual cost of the monument and extra work around it is a little
hard to determine, but it was between $28,000 and $30,000. The record in
the Register of Wills' office shows a balance of $25,148.93 after the
payment of his debts and other expenses. In the expense account of T. Wright
and Company, evidently as the work progressed.
This colossal monument was blown to the ground during the tornado
that swept over that section at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of July 27,
1936. The force of the wind must have been terrific to tear the high sections
of granite apart, leaving only the base, which still stands. These
sections lay on the ground for some time until the cemetery authorities
offered to give them to anyone who would remove them. The statement
was made at the time that no money had been provided by McCutcheon's
will for the care of the huge shaft. The executors had carried out the
stipulations in the will as far as humanly possible, and every cent had
been put into its erection. It had been built well and strong, but neither
McCutcheon nor the executors had counted on "an act of God."
In the account of the description of the monument, which appeared
in The Observer at the time, it states that the shaft had been previously
struck by lightning and toppled over. The date was not given, but the
damage was evidently repaired, and probably was not very great. The sections
blown down in the storm of 1936 were eventually removed.
Taylor Methodist Episcopal Church.
At the west end of the cemetery is the Taylor Methodist Episcopal
Church, claimed to be the oldest congregation of this denomination
in Washington County. Some authorities state that the society was organized
between 1772 and 1784. A log church was erected in 1781 on land owned by
one Hawkins, and was named Hawkins Meeting House. In that year the Rev.
Robert Wooster held meetings there, and made some converts. The Rev. Eli
Sickle, a Methodist minister from Ann Arundel County, Maryland, preached
there in the summer of 1772.
William Taylor afterwards acquired the land where the meeting
house stood and the name was changed to Taylor's Meeting House. The log
church was replaced in 1801 by one of stone, and during all the early
years of the National Pike a constant stream of stage coaches and
Conestoga wagons passed this historic edifice. In 1857 the stone building
was replaced by a brick edifice. This was destroyed by fire in 1872, but
was rebuilt immediately; and remodeled as seen today in 1904.
During the tornado of July 27, 1936, which wrecked the McCutcheon
monument, the roof was torn from the church, windows were smashed,
and other damage done to the amount of about $5,000.
(To Be Continued)
For part 6 of The National Pike Story For part 8 of The National Pike Story