History Unlocked-May 2017, Taverns

Taverns in Concord Township

By: Karen Dingle Kendus, Concord Township Historical Society

When I was a child, summertime meant road trips, battlefields and hanging out with my cousins. My parents liked to mix family visits with anything else we did so that we could keep in touch at least once a year, (and have a welcoming landing pad, no matter how far from home we ventured). My dad would take a week off each summer and we would head south in our blue Dodge Minivan. We had family in Virginia, Ohio, Atlanta, Kentucky, and Tennessee and managed to visit all of them, every year, (with some exceptions). My parents were lucky in that my family was spaced rather well for road tripping. We rarely had to stay in hotels or find accommodation on any given leg of our trip.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, travelers sought good accommodation and refreshment as well. When travel from Philadelphia to Lancaster took a wagon team 5 days, accommodation along the way became necessary. As the market grew for taverns and “public houses,” entrepreneurs along major thoroughfares took little time in purchasing buildings and conducting business. Even though taverns started as accommodation, they became more than just a place to stay throughout the 19th century.

Photo courtesy D.G. Yeungling & Son, Inc., who likely travelled the Wilmington-West Chester Pike and stocked the taverns along the way

Concord Township was prime territory for running taverns. With the Great Road (Wilmington-West Chester Pike/Route 202) and the Chester-Philadelphia Road from points west (Baltimore Pike then Concord Road) crossing the township, Concord Township residents and travelers had their choice of places to stay, eat, and drink. While official records of taverns are rare before 1709, taverns became easier to track when Pennsylvania passed a law requiring any proprietors, wishing to sell “rum and other liquours therein”, to apply for and receive a liquor license from the government entity, the Pennsylvania Court of Quarter Sessions. Liquor licenses were granted to the proprietor, as opposed to the establishment. Since this was the case, the first two liquor licenses granted in Concord Township went to Mathias Kerlin of Kerlin Tavern and John Hannum of Buck Tavern, both in 1722. In most cases, application for a liquor license came with a petition from area citizens either vouching for the proprietor and his morality, or imploring the court to reconsider as there are too many taverns already and this proprietor is not morally equipped to run such a place. Licenses were renewed yearly, and if sentiment in the community changed, the renewal was not guaranteed.

For those who continued to obtain liquor licenses, the business model for taverns was rather lucrative. While taverns did accommodate travelers passing through the township, money was made on the sale of alcohol. The market for alcohol consumption did not slow down when travelers were rare, for example, in winter when the roads were not passable. The local community could also be found imbibing at their nearby establishment, and offering a constant flow of patrons, no matter the season.

While taverns were important to travelers, local citizens also found value in having a tavern nearby. The quickest way to get news outside the immediate township was from travelers passing through. Local citizens could whet their whistle and listen to stories coming out of Philadelphia, New York, and Wilmington. Local residents also found taverns to be a convenient place to congregate with others in the community. In addition to being a convenient meeting place, taverns could also be used as polling places. The White Horse Inn, opened in 1817 by Joseph Hannum, was used as a polling place until 1837. This inn was located on Concord Road and offered a central location for residents from Concord, Birmingham, Bethel and part of Thornbury Townships to cast their votes. After Hannum closed his White Horse Inn, the polling place was moved to Concordville Inn, which was opened in 1830 by John Way.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the number of taverns dwindled. While still several decades before the start of the Temperance movement in the United States, local residents started to voice their displeasure at the number of public houses, usually through petitions submitted to the Quarter Sessions for review. Licenses seemed to be more difficult to acquire, and owners turned their sights to other business ventures. In some cases, taverns were transformed into personal homes, with the surrounding land tilled for farming.

 

Six horse team pulling a supply wagon

In Concord Township, several of the buildings where the taverns once thrived are still standing today. The Nine Tun Tavern, opened by Nathaniel Newlin in 1748 on the corner of Route 202 and Beaver Valley Road, contains the offices of State Representative Steve Barrar. The Drove Tavern, opened by James Smith in 1823 on the corner of southbound Route 202 and Smithbridge Road, is now the Pool Care Specialists. Other tavern buildings are private residences.

If you ever have a desire to see the Cross Keys Tavern sign, it is housed in the Virginia Merion DeNenno History and Educational Center at the Pierce-Willits. Please stop in when we are open to check it out!

Taverns of Concord Township

  • Kerlin Tavern: opened by Mathias Kerlin in 1722; located on Concord Road near Mattson Road; closed 1750.
  • Buck Tavern: opened by John Hannum in 1722; located on Concord Road near Cheyney Road; closed 1822 (with periodic closures in the 100 years it was open).
  • Nine Tun Tavern: opened by Nathaniel Newlin in 1748; located at the corner of Route 202 and Beaver Valley Road; closed 1814. Known for accommodating the large teams of horses used to transport goods from Wilmington to Reading. Nine Tun referred to the size/weight of the wagon, which was normally pulled by 8-10 horses.
  • Bullock Tavern: opened by Moses Bullock Jr. in 1815; located a quarter mile north of Nine Tun Tavern on Route 202; closed 1832.

    Cross Keys Tavern, photo taken 1926
  • Cross Keys Tavern: opened by Joshua Vernon in 1787; located on Concord Road at Cross Keys Drive (near Kerlin Tavern); closed 1836.
  • The White Horse Inn: opened by Joseph Hannum in 1817, was located on Concord Road; closed 1837. Known for being the polling place for residents from Concord, Birmingham, Bethel, and part of Thornbury.
  • The Drove Tavern: opened by James Smith in 1823; located at the corner of southbound Route 202 and Smithbridge Road; closed around 1868. Known for being renamed by subsequent owners: also known as Dovers’ and Travelers’ Inn, Pleasant Hill, The Drove, and the Farmers and Drovers Inn.
  • Concordville Inn: opened by John Way in 1830; located in Concordville on Route 1 (where it currently stands today); is not closed. Known for housing the polling station for elections after Hannum closed his tavern.

References

Ashmead, Henry Graham. 1884. History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. pp. 497-500.

Case, Robert P. 1983. Prosperity and Progress: Concord Township Pennsylvania, 1683-1983. Chester, Pa.: John Spencer, Inc. pp. 111-113, 52-53.

Schmidt, David. Unknown. The Road West. The Lower Merion Historical Society. http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/texts/schmidtd/way_west.html Accessed: 5/1

Did You Know?

Paper for the first U.S. Currency was produced by the Wilcox’s Ivy Mills

Ivy Mills Property