Friday, March 6, 2015

The Wolfe Tavern: The place where our ancestors tarried

 My Article From Newburyport News
I came a across this news clip while doing some archival research: "Mr. H. Russell Perkins has brought home from Quebec a bayonet found on the heights where Wolfe fell in battle. The bayonet is now at the Museum of Old Newbury. Perkins was grandson of Harriet Davenport and Henry Coit Perkins both of whom born at the Wolfe as were their parents. I decided to ferret out more tales and tidbits of the old Wolfe to share with readers. See Who was Gen James Wolfe

                      Photos of Bayonet from Museum of Old Newbury

In 1762, Captain William Davenport opened his doors under the sign of General Wolfe. Sturdy patriarchs sat around the fire in Davenport’s parlor nursing their toddies while rocking the cradle of liberty. See Wolfe and Stamp Act
The Sons of Liberty rallied volunteers for the Continental army. They raised their glasses to toast Nathaniel Tracy and his “Yankee Hero” the first privateer outfitted to fight British fleets. During the Revolution Gen. Lafayette used the Wolfe for his headquarters.
The original Wolfe burned in the Great Fire of 1811 and a second opened on the corner of Harris and State streets. 
The Wolfe was never without a jester. Such chaps included “Lord” Dexter, “Foony” Gerrish and John Denier, who “footed into the tap room” by walking across State Street on a tight rope stretching from one of the great mansion chimneys to the Wolfe.
For bedside manners no one topped John Greenleaf Whittier. He snored his nights away peacefully, “when it was considered something of an art.”

 Portrait of Ebenezer Moseley. History of Newburyport. John J. Currier.

One Wolfe waiter had an eye for fashion and noticed a fine pair of boots on Ebenezer Moseley. The waiter paid a visit to the local shoemaker and insisted on having the same sort made: “Let em be jes like Squire Moseley’s,” he commanded, “only a quarter dollar better.”
Dueling rose up in the early 19th century and Bostonians needed a refuge from the authorities. Seabrook became an arena to settle scores. The battle was usually over an object, namely a woman.
The duelers each had a doctor and empire on hand. As a rule the crew lodged at the Wolfe on the eve of battle. They crowed in the lounge belting down liquid courage. At early dawn they would work their way over the border to some secluded area to “conduct their bloody business.”
A duel set to go down between a Harvard grad army general and a South Boston fellow (1809) made headlines. It was ignited when a Boston maid would give neither the satisfaction of who she fancied. However, the day before the match she sent a red rose to “Southie.”
“It smells of disdain!” cried the general. He never showed to fight. He was spotted at the Wolfe on “the hot seat” drinking and thinking his maid away.
In 1828, the Eastern Stage Coach Company purchased the Wolfe. The company flourished for 20 years until railroads reduced the need. However, a few of the “Old Whips” refused to hand over the reigns.
Major Samuel Shaw put on a coach with the fare at $1.50 to Boston. David Batchelder ran a coach from Amesbury to the front door of the Wolfe.
John G. Whittier put great stock in coach service. Guests at the Wolfe would receive the following note: “I’ll get my parcel or you will get your books if left in care of Mr. Batchelder.”
Edward P Weston, the world’s greatest walker rested his feet at the Wolfe. He was on a Maine to Chicago jaunt. The 68 year-old crouched up the inn steps with blistered feet and uttered “oyster stew.” He broke his own record that year.
Daniel Fowle, Wolfe proprietor was a close friend of native James W Westcot who became one of the best known professional gamblers in the country. He owned the New York Long Aces Club and the Manhattan Club at Saratoga.
If the chips were down for a Port pal Westcot always turned the wheel with a generous handout. At age 64 he fell ill and Fowle carried out his wish to be “buried with his kindred at Belleville.” A momentous service for Westcot was held at the Wolfe.
Unfortunately Westcot never mended a 25 year-old rift with his sister Katherine Tingley. She was founder of the Theosophical Society and Raja-Yoga School and spiritual differences split them apart.
Daniel Fowle passed in 1914, but wife Mabel kept the business going. Captain Arthur Clark, a successful mariner fell ill at the Wolfe and “in the tradition of old colonial hospitality” Mabel took good care of her guest. A bond formed between them.
The two passing ships felt “alone in the world,” and marriage was discussed. Due to the age difference Mable thought Clark suited her more as a father. Clark adopted her and bought 64 High Street where the two lived happily as companions.
Newburyport was “up in arms” when owner Robert S Weltsche closed doors and boarded up windows (1923). The Wolfe had operated without interruption since its early years, but Weltsche insisted he needed to tend to his health.
The city fathers were not pleased with his “conspicuous closing sign.” They warned him they would “get even” by withholding his inn holders and victualers license.” Weltsche quickly opened as one ad indicated in April 1924: 1,000 reward “no questions asked” for a ring left in the ladies room at the Wolfe.
When the Wolfe finally did close New England newspapers captured the general atmosphere with every headline reading: “Tavern Doomed.” (1953). The building was taken by the wrecking ball and all its contents sold in the W. P. “Chuck” Emmons auction.
The Wolfe tavern booths found a home at Ten Center Street in Molly’s Pub. Owner “Toby” Hoare took pride in serving spirits upon the same benches in which our ancestors tarried.

                        Dr. Henry C. Perkins 1804 – 1873

Henry C. Perkins, was born November 13, 1804 in Newburyport, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Perkins. He married Harriet Davenport, November 7, 1828* [The Boston Recorder & Telegraph, 1828.] He died February 1, 1873, Newburyport. See Passing of the Wolfe Tavern
 Dr. Perkins, attended Newbury Academy and entered Harvard in 1819, graduating in Class of 1823, at age 19. After graduation he studied medicine with the older Dr. Warren of Boston, and finished his studies in Newburyport with Dr. Richard S. Spofford, husband of the writer Harriet Prescott Spofford. Dr. Perkins began his practice here in 1827 and continued his profession until his death.
   “Dr. H.C. Perkins was known to be the first person in American to imitate the invention of Daguerre, in taking pictures by the light of the sun. In doing this he made his own apparatus even to grinding the lens. The first successful picture he took was of the house on the corner of Centre and Middle streets, then occupied by the late Enoch Huse, which he kept in his possession, and is now held by the family.”* [Newburyport Herald, February 3, 1873.]
    He was not only interested in medicine, but also the sciences. He kept up with the latest observations in meteorology, microscopy and astronomy. He represented Newburyport in the State Legislature, was a director of the Public Library, trustee of the Putnam Free School, trustee of the Institution for Savings, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Committee on the Observatory of Harvard University. 

Through the Lens
Revised and Enlarged Edition
Updated June 10, 2007
Page 8 of old book
Making this all double space for additions and corrections by reviewers.
   We dedicate this book to Dr. Henry C. Perkins, (1804 – 1873) and to all the area photographers who followed him, in recognition of the value of their work. Without their record, we could not appreciate, nearly so well, the flavor of our beloved surroundings. Many of our photographers were dedicated enthusiasts and little of moment eluded their keen eyes. This place has been well photographed for the edification and enjoyment of residents and visitors, and for anyone who agrees that “Newburyport is Everyone’s Home Town.”
Some clips from News Archives

From "Ould Newbury": Historical and Biographical Sketches By John James Currier

In 1762, to meet the demands of the traveling public, he converted his dwelling-house on the corner of Threadneedle alley and Fish Street (now State Street) into a tavern, and hung from a lofty pole a swinging sign, embellished with a quaint portrait of General Wolfe.
In the days of William Davenport the tavern was a popular place of resort. Under its roof the hungry and thirsty found comfort, shelter, good suppers, and good wine. Saturday evening, from all parts of the town, men came to the tavern to hear the news and to discuss politics, theology, and the state of the crops. During the winter months farmers from the surrounding country brought pork, butter, grain, eggs, and poultry to market, and gathered in the capacious bar-room at night, around the cheerful, blazing' fire, to while away the time with mugs of flip and mulled cider. The land travel from Maine and the eastern part of New Hampshire passed through Newbury on the way to Boston; and Wolfe Tavern, or Davenport's Inn, as it was often called, soon became a famous resort.
The arrival and departure of the stage-coach brought reliable information from distant places, while items of local interest were gathered from well-known and prominent men about town. Alice Morse Earle, in "New England Customs and Fashions," says: —
It must be remembered that our universal modern source of in formation, the newspaper, did not then exist. There were a few journals, of course, of scant circulation; but of what we now deem news they contained nothing. Information of current events came through hearing and talking, not through reading. Hence it came to be that an innkeeper was not only influential in local affairs, but was universally known as the best-informed man in the place. Reporters, so to speak, rendered their accounts to him; items of foreign and local news were sent to him: he was in himself an entire Associated Press.
At the tavern, hot rum punch and egg toddy were intermixed with gossip of the day and vigorous political discussions. The modern doctrine of total abstinence from the use of intoxicating liquors had few advocates a century ago. In those good old times wine and strong drink were generallyprovided at funerals for mourning relatives as well as for joyous guests at the marriage feast; and the courage and patriotism of those who stoutly resisted the encroachments of King George III. were evidently stimulated and encouraged by frequent libations of punch and toddy.
William Davenport was also the owner of considerable real estate within the limits of Newbury arid Newburyport. One lot, several acres in extent, just beyond the New Hill burying ground, is still known by the name of Davenport's hill. Feb. 13, 1771, William Davenport purchased this land of the estate of Oliver Clark. The deed of conveyance is recorded in the Essex Registry of Deeds, book 128, page 209. The land afterward came into the possession of Anthony Davenport, his son, by inheritance and by purchase from other heirs (book 139, page 167).
Letters of administration were granted Anthony Davenport in October, 1773, for the settlement of his father's estate. He was then only about twenty-one years of age, but seems to have conducted the business of the old tavern successfully until his brother Moses was old enough to serve in his place, and was licensed as an inn holder by the court at Ipswich.
Under the management of Moses Davenport the business continued to prosper and the number of patrons increased.
In 1782, Marquis de Chastellux, who served in the Revolutionary army under Rochambeau, made Davenport's Inn his headquarters during his stay in Newburyport, and briefly mentions the fact in the published account of his travels through New England.
An old almanac, printed in 1788 by Nathaniel Low, gives the names of the most noted inn holders on the road from Boston to Portsmouth. In the list is "Putnam of Newbury" and "Davenport of Newburyport." The first-named undoubtedly refers to Oliver Putnam, who kept a tavern in what is now known as the Ilsley house, on High Street, near the head of Marlborough Street. . ..
A skilful artist, by the name of Aiken, residing in Newburyport, made about this time an admirable engraving of the old Wolfe Tavern, which has been reproduced by the half-tone process for the illustration of this sketch. The artist himself subsequently acquired considerable notoriety by the retaliatory measures he adopted to mortify and humiliate a fellow-townsman (Edmund M. Blunt, the publisher of Bowditch's Navigator and Coast Charts), with whom he had quarreled.
In 1804, Thomas Perkins, after some years of service with Moses Davenport, was licensed as an inn holder, and assumed control of Wolfe Tavern on his own account. He was born in Topsfield May 28, 1773, and married Elizabeth Storey, of Essex, Feb. 16, 1804. His son, Henry C. Perkins, afterward an eminent physician of Newburyport, was born in one of the upper chambers of the tavern Nov. 13, 1804.
The columns of the Newburyport Herald contain some advertisements that seem to indicate that Mr. Perkins did not occupy the position of landlord for more than three years. Under the date of June 8, 1804, the following announcement appears :—
The mail stage from Portsmouth will leave Perkins' Tavern (formerly Davenport's), Newburyport, at half past 12 o'clock P.M. every day (Sundays excepted,. BENJAMIN Hale.
The paper for March 31, 1807, has this notice: —
The Proprietors of the southeast division of the Fourth General Pasture in Newbury and Newburyport are hereby notified and warned to meet at the house of Mr. Thomas Perkins, inn holder. in Newburyport. on the 14th day of April next.
May 15, 1807, "Emperor Francis," a tonsorial artist of some celebrity, announced that he had opened rooms on State Street, Newburyport, " one door above the celebrated General Wolfe Tavern, now kept by Mr. Stetson."
It is evident from the above citations that between the thirty-first day of March and the fifteenth day of May, 1807, Mr. Prince Stetson took possession of the house, and was duly established therein as landlord. He continued to serve the public in that capacity until the great fire of 1811. His son, Charles Stetson, was afterward connected with the Astor House in New York City, and was exceedingly popular with the patrons of that famous hostelry.
In the list of buildings burned in Newburyport May 31, 1811 (published in the columns of the Newburyport Herald), will be found "the dwelling house and barn of Prince Stetson." Two weeks later (June 14, 1811) "Prince Stetson informs his friends and the public that he shall open his Tavern on Monday next in the House of Col. Bartlet, State St., where he solicits their favors."
Colonel Stephen Bartlett's house was on the lower, or easterly, corner of Temple and State Streets; and the brick addition on Temple Street was built about this time to accommodate the patrons of Wolfe Tavern.
(ln the corner of State and Harris Streets was a spacious brick house owned and occupied by Colonel John Peabody, uncle of the eminent banker, George Peabody, of London. Colonel Peabody had built this house at great expense, and resided there until, owing to losses by the great fire andthe general stagnation of business, he decided to remove to Georgetown, D. C. Jan. 20, 1812, he gave a quitclaim deed of "the land with the buildings thereon" to Ebenezer Wheelwright and Thomas M. Clark (Essex Deeds, book 195, page 168). Jan. 1, 1814, Ebenezer Wheelwright and Thomas M. Clark sold the property to Benjamin Hale for $7,500 (book 202, page 290).
The alterations and additions required to render the estate suitable and convenient for the entertainment of travellers were speedily provided for, and the property was then leased to the proprietor of Wolfe Tavern. Since that date, notwithstanding frequent changes in ownership, there has been no change in the location of the tavern.
In the Registry of Deeds at Salem the following additional conveyances of this estate are recorded: —
July 16, 1828, Benjamin Hale to the Eastern Stage Company (book 251, page 224).
Feb. 1, 1838, Eastern Stage Company to Simon P. Drake (book 306, page 229).
June 18, 1838, Simon P. Drake to the Ocean Bank (mortgage) (book 306, page 230).
Aug. 31, 1840, possession taken and title to Ocean Bank perfected (book 321, page 19).
March 22, 1844, Ocean Bank to Enoch Tilton, innkeeper, for $7,000 (book 342, page 264).
While the property was in the possession of Mr. Tilton, the building was enlarged on the westerly side by the addition of a dining-room, parlors, etc.; and the brick dwellinghouse adjoining, then owned by Mr. Francis Todd, was purchased, and connected with the tavern by a covered bridge.
April 15, 1867, Mr. Tilton sold the tavern, with the land under the same, to Moses S. Little, retaining for his own use the dwelling-house formerly owned by Mr. Todd (book 722, page 87).
June 1, 1871, Moses S. Little sold the property to Ephraim Tebbetts and George Montgomery, of Gilmanton, N. H. (book 829, page 59).
Feb. 19, 1872, Ephraim Tebbetts sold one-half the property to Dr. George Montgomery (book 848, page 5).
Oct. 7, 1873, Dr. George Montgomery sold the tavern with land under the same to Henry S. Shattuck, of Concord, N. H. (book 890, page 223).
The will of Henry S. Shattuck, proved in December, 1883, devised the real estate above described to his wife and children.
July 30, 1887, Nancy A. Shattuck, widow, George H. Shattuck, James A. Shattuck, and Mary E. Shattuck, single woman, conveyed the property to Edward P. Shaw (book 1203, page 566).
Nov. 16, 1891, Edward P. Shaw sold the land with the buildings thereon to Daniel H. Fowle and William Richard Johnston, the present owners and occupants of the tavern (book 1327, page 493).
After the great fire in 1811 Messrs. Anthony and Moses Davenport built the stores now occupied by the Misses Wilkinson, Sampson Levy, and , on the site of the old Wolfe Tavern at the corner of State Street and Threadneedle alley. Aug. 18, 1825, partition deeds to and from Anthony and Moses Davenport were recorded in book 238, pages 263 and 264. These deeds state that the land then occupied by the brick store or stores "was purchased by their honored father of Jonathan Dole," which statement is corroborated and confirmed by the conveyances to which reference is made at the beginning of this sketch.
The quaint old sign that hung on its lofty pedestal in front of the old tavern narrowly escaped destruction during the Revolutionary War. Public opinion denounced and condemned everything that savored of royalty in those patriotic days. Even the names Queen and King Streets were changed to Market and Federal Streets in obedience to the will and wishes of the people. The Essex Journal, bold and vigorous in its comments on public affairs, declared in its editorial columns that the sign bearing the portrait of General Wolfe, displayed in the very centre of the place, "is an insult to the inhabitants of this truly republican town." Fortunately, however, the views so vigorously expressed were not acceptable to the more conservative members of thecommunity; and the obnoxious sign was allowed to hang in its accustomed place until long after the close of the war.
Tradition asserts that the head and bust of General Wolfe, surrounded by an elaborate wreath of scroll work, were carved upon the sign and appropriately painted and gilded. The workmanship was effective; and the head and bust, cut in profile, were said to bear a close resemblance to the form and features of the distinguished commander of the English forces at Quebec. As Captain William Davenport was by trade a carver, he was fully competent to do work of this kind, and probably exercised his own skill and taste in the production of this unique sign. In the great fire it was partially, if not wholly, destroyed. When Wolfe Tavern was removed to the corner of State and Harris Streets in 1814, a new sign bearing the portrait of General Wolfe, painted by Moses Cole, an artist of some distinction at that time, was placed in front of the house where it has since remained, with the exception of a brief interval when it was withdrawn from public view, and the name of the hotel itself was changed to "Merrimac House."
In 1887, the old name was restored, and the sign painted by Moses Cole was again hung in its accustomed place. Renovated and improved, the ancient tavern still furnishes entertainment for man and beast, and with its interesting history and associations connects the living present with the old colonial days.

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