Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some Old Inns of Newburyport

Boston Gazette Monday January 2 1771
"William Lambert, from Yorkshire in England, begs Leave to inform the Publick that he has taken the Inn at Newburyort, formerly occupied by Mr. Choate, which is now completely repaired, and new furnished with convenient Furniture, and the greatest variety of excellent LIQUORS. He has also provided commodious Stabling for Horses and every Accommodation for Travellers and others. He humbly intreats Custom and will strive by his good Entertainment to merit the Publick Favour, at the Sign of the Wentworth Arms, near the Ferry, in Newburyport.





Six months later we find that Robert Calder (Pic above) from London, who writes himself down as " late servant to his excellency Governor Wentworth," has purchased William Lambert's lease and offers, in addition to the attractions of his predecessor's advertisement "best Entertainement with diligent attendance." Not for nothing had he bent to the imperious will of Governor Wentworth, it would appear.

Major Ezra Lunt was another of the late eighteenth century innkeepers in Newbury, adding the calling of publican quite easily to that of publisher, stagecoach proprietor and veteran of the Continental army. His inn was on the northwesterly side of Federal street, near the corner of Water street.

The splurge par excellence in the innkeeping way was made, however, by the enterprising landlord who advertised at the SIGN OF THE AMERICAN EAGLE in the summer of 1799. Under this patriotic headline "Samuel Richardson Informs his friends and the public in general that he has removed from Union Hall into that spacious and convenient building lately occupied by Captain Ebenezer Stocker, East Corner of the Ferryway Wharf, — which he has opened for public Entertainment and will make every exertion to gratify and please those who may visit his House. Every favor will be gratefully acknowledged, Good accommodation for a few Boarders: likewise Stabling for Horses."


It is interesting in this connection to note that the Newburyport selectmen had fixed by law the price of these various items of service. So, because the landlords could not underbid in price they overbade in attractions. The law placed "Dinners at taverns, for I travellers, of boiled or roast meat, with other articles equivalent, exclusive of wine at 1/16. Supper and breakfast 1/ each. Lodging 4/. Keeping a horse for one night, or for twenty-four hours, with English hay 2/—."

The Tracy house, which had accommodated Washington, became briefly the Sun Hotel, early in the eighteenth century, its proprietor, Jacob Coburn, informing the public (May 5, 1807), under a sign which quite effectively reflected the features of Old Sol, " that he has opened a spacious HOTEL in State street, Newburyport, the former mansion of the late Honorable Nathaniel Tracy Esq., and where Mr. James Prince last resided. Having at considerable pains and expense put the above in a situation suited to accommodate gentlemen he assures them with confidence that they will find every convenience and an unremitting attention to ensure the favor of the Traveller. Good horses and carriages to be had at all hours."  ad on L from Currier Old Newburyport


The dwelling-house of the eccentric "Lord" Timothy Dexter also descended temporarily to tavern uses, heralded by the following genial announcement: "The subscriber of Weare N. H. acquaints the public that he has taken the noted house on High Street, Newburyport, known by the name of Dexter House (where the Lion and the Lamb lie down together in peace and where the first characters in the land are known to make their stay) which he opened on the 20th ult. as a house of Entertainment for the weary traveller who may sojourn thither, and for the conviviality of the jovial citizens of the town who may wish to spend a social hour freed from the cares of busy life; and he respectfully solicits their company, fully persuaded that he shall be enabled to afford them satisfaction. Country people are informed that he will entertain them as reasonably and with as good cheer, both for man and beast, as any regular Innkeeper between M'Gregor's Bridge and Newburyport, having commodious and convenient stables with good attendance. He flatters himself they will call and see William Caldwell." This advertisement might have been written yesterday, so modern is its tone and so little archaic its spelling. Yet its date is April, 1810.


Prince Stetson, formerly of the Wolfe Tavern, returned to Newburyport in 1823 and assumed charge of the Washington hotel on the corner of State and Temple streets. He had the honor of serving Lafayette when the Marquis visited the town in 1824, and took the spacious apartments in the Tracy house which Washington had occupied during his visit in 1789. The landlord's son, Charles, then a lad of thirteen, had the honor of acting as valet de chambre to the liberty-lover who had done so much for America in her hour of need. From Newburyport Herald  May 31 1825

A tavern which is constantly mentioned in John Quincy Adams's account of his young manhood days in Newburyport is Sawyer's on the Bradford road at or near Brown's springs, and within the present limits of the town of West Newbury.


Picture by Southworth & Hawes

One interesting entry in the diary of this law student is that of May 21, 1788. "I walked," he says, "with Pickman in the evening to Sawyer's where we drank tea and made it almost ten o'clock before we got home. I then went up with my flute to Stacy's lodgings, our general headquarters. About a quarter before twelve Stacy, Thompson, Putnam with a couple of young lads by the name of Greenough and myself sallied forth upon a scheme of serenading. We paraded round town till almost four in the morning."


The charming home of Mrs. Harriett Prescott Spofford, near Newburyport's picturesque chain bridge, was once a tavern, also. It was then close to the public highway and its landlord, Ebenezer Pearson, was therefore not exempt from suspicion when Major Elijah P. Goodridge of Bangor, Maine, told, December 19, 1816, of having been assaulted about nine o'clock the previous evening, very near its doors, and robbed of a large sum of money. From Miner Descent



Pearson proved to be only one of the many who were subsequently accused, however, and, when Daniel Webster took the matter in hand he made Goodridge so contradict himself on the witness-stand that verdicts of " not guilty" were brought in for all the defendants. The whole thing appears to have emanated from the brain of the Major who, in order to escape financial trouble and at the same time account for the loss of his personal property, devised the scheme of a robbery and carried it into effect, firing with his own hand the pistol of the "assailant." Picture below Harriet  P  Spofford


One Newburyport tavern-keeper was a good deal more permanently embarrassed by the cleverness of one of his guests, as we shall see from the following papers on file at the State House in Boston and having to do with the escape of Bridget Phillips, who had been sent to Newburyport for safe keeping during the siege of Boston: "To the Honorable Provincial Congress at Watertown, June 22, 1775
"The petition of Bridget Philips humbly showeth that she hath lately arrived from Ireland and is desirous of going to her husband now in Boston. She therefore prays the Honorable Congress that they would give her a permit to go into the town of Boston & your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. BRIDGET PHILIPS."


In answer to this petition the following resolution was adopted June 24, 1775: — "Resolved, that General Ward do not suffer or permit Bridget Phillips, wife to an officer under General Gage, to go into Boston, nor any other person whatever, without leave first obtained of this Congress, or some future house of representatives; and that an express be forthwith sent to the committee of safety for the town of Newburyport, to order them to take the most affectual measures to prevent the said Bridget from going out of this province, or to Boston." The lady got the better of the law-makers, however, as the following letter shows: —"Newburyport, 26th July, 1775. "Sir: —
"We received some time since a Resolve of the late Congress ordering that Bridget Phillips (who called herself the wife of a Captain Phillips in Gen. Gage's Army) should not leave the Province & that the Committee here be desired to attend to her. Upon the receipt of it we applied to the Tavern Keeper, at whose house she was, to keep an eye upon her movements & to inform us should she take any suspicious steps, at the same time informing her that she must not leave the Province. This she judged to be very harsh but appeared for a month past so to acquiesce in it as to elude any suspicion in us that she would take pains for her escape. Upon the arrival of the New General at Cambridge she seemed to flatter herself, her case might be more tenderly considered by them & that upon application they would permit her to go to her husband. This she mentioned to several of the committee but was told she must not go to Cambridge without consent of a majority of them. However that she never asked & the 18th Inst, she took place in a Chaise with Capt. John Blake (formerly of Boston) from hence to Salem, giving out that she was going to Head Quarters at Cambridge. The Tavern Keeper (Mr. Greenleaf) supposing it not beyond the limits by the Order & from a faulty Inattention never gave the Committee notice. It was not for a day or two known by us that she was gone. Upon enquiry we find that she hired a Chaise & Boy at Salem & in company with Benjamin Jenks (who is said to belong to Casco Bay) she went the next day to Haverhill & the next to Portsmouth & by the assistance of this Jenks procured herself to be put on board the Scarborough Man of War there. This Intelligence was bro't us by the said Mr. Greenleaf whom we sent in pursuit of her.
"As she was a Woman & appeared of Some Fashion we did not think it expedient to put her under close Confinement neither did we suppose by the Order it was intended.
She left here two Trunks supposed to contain valuable apparrell which might prevent in Mr. Greenleaf the apprehention of her intending to go off. We judged it proper to give you this information & as she wrote for her Trunks to be sent to Boston we beg your Order about the delivery of 'em. Upon this occasion give us leave to remark what we hinted formerly to the Committee of War at Cambridge the ease with which an escape may at any time be made to the stationed ship at Portsmh as things are now ordered. We are respectfully


"Your obedt servnts "JONA. TITCOMB. "p. order of the Committee. "To the Honb. James Warren, Esq., (pic above) speaker of the House of Representatives, to be communicated."

The result of all this was that, though Bridget did not get her trunks, Landlord Greenleaf was made pretty uncomfortable,— and what was of far greater importance,— the seaport towns were given leave to do whatever might seem to them wise in the way of preventing other such escapes.

The privileges of tavern-keeping were so great that often a man with every right to whatever his house might earn was made exceedingly uncomfortable by his rivals. Such was the case with the host of the Boynton Tavern on the road between Newburyport and Rowley. In March, 1811, the other landlords of Byfield protested against Boynton's tavern, stating that while it had been established for some time they doubted whether its continued existence was necessary. "The influence of this tavern is pernicious to the morals, the peace and comfort of some families in the vicinity," declares the protest; after which it goes on to allege that " the undersigned are credibly informed that people are there at very unreasonable hours in the night" and that " even the holy Sabbath is profaned by persons who there pass the Sacred hours in an idle and dissolute manner." Whereupon the petitioners humbly prayed "that the license of Mr. Boynton may not be renewed."

Somehow, though, the tavern lived on, and once it was even able to add to its capacity, thereby bestowing the name of Adding upon the latest scion of the family. Another child of this eccentric landlord had been called Tearing because tavern-repairs were in that stage of development at his birth. Verily, some of those old time publicans were men of decided originality.
Poore Tavern Newbury MA from David Allen Lambert


From September 2, 1854 Front page Newburyport Herald William Lambert's son


Taproom Furnishings of an Old Ordinary from Stage-coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle


Skipper Lunt, Seaman
Mary Caroline Crawford on Old Inns in Newburyport,  
News Bank,
J J Currier History of Ould Newbury  

1 comment:

  1. This is fabulous! I love the story of Bridget Philips..thank you for posting

    ReplyDelete