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Food and Lodging in Early Adair County

Mike Watson presents an in-depth story today, as talk renews about the future of the hotel business in Columbia. He's listed numerous families who have had notable hoteliers in them - Diddles, Hurts, Beards, Lamptons, Martins and Moores,, Reavilles, Burtons, Harveys and Hancocks and Hudsons, Winfreys, Cheathams Hardwicks, Bakers and more. If you read closely, you may find one of your own. But he doesn't stop with Columbia - he includes Cane Valley, Dohoney's Mill with its 1865 Christopher C. Squires Tavern; Millersville/Crocus, Gradyville and its famed Wilmore Hotel, Milltown, and hugely: Neatsville - with no less than 10 entries in his list. That's a neat nugget of information about the town which once vied with Columbia for pre-eminence among cities here, but there is just as neat a list of government interventions in private enterprise, way back in 1802, when the price of Lodging, one night, with clean sheets was 6 pence and a quart of beer cost more, 9 pence. A scholarly work that will fascinate, educate, and entertain those who love history - this work the history of an industry up to the 'modern' era of 1898, when John N. Conover built the most storied private structure in Adair County history, the Conover Hotel, on the northwest corner of the Public Square. CM

By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

The word "tavern" often brings to mind, in modern times, a bar or dive. However, the tavern of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a bit different than what we might think. The tavern often spoken of in early Kentucky history was more of a hotel and restaurant than a bar, though alcohol was an integral part of the business.

Hotels were few and far between on the frontier. Many families who lived on the often traveled roads and paths of early Kentucky would take in any weary wayfaring individual and feed and house them for the night. There were varied dangers in the night, from bears to bandits, from wolves to unfriendly hunting parties. So, any safe haven was valuable to the traveler, and possibly profitable to the inn keeper.

Taverns were often purposely constructed along the more heavily traveled routes, all across the country. A bed, if they were available in the more sparse taverns, might be shared by an number of people, up to half dozen might sleep "cross-ways" on a bed. More than likely, in these small operations, there were no beds by definition, but merely straw spread on the loft floor had to suffice.

As the population grew and travelers were more frequent, to make the establishment more attractive to a paying public, more spacious buildings were turned into what were more like hotels. Rooms were still often shared by separate individuals, but actual bed clothes were used--though rarely laundered.

Towns of any size could boast of a "fine" hotel or tavern, perhaps more than one. Food and drink for customers, and stable and feed for horses were available, usually included in the charges for a light's lodging. Meals and drink could also be purchased without a night's stay. This is how the word "tavern" came to have a less than reputable connotation--some went there to have a drink, perhaps too many.

Columbia and Adair County had many taverns and hotels over the past two centuries. The following is a very brief list of some of those early taverns. Much more in available on the subject, but space does not allow the full picture. Additional information and photographs of these necessary establishments would be greatly appreciated. Mike Watson, 2013.

Some Taverns and Hotels of Columbia and Adair County

Columbia -

William Worley was the first tavern operator in the town of Columbia, and probably in the entire new county of Adair. He obtained a tavern license from the Green County Court in 1799, which indicates the tavern was in operation in that year. He renewed the license in 1800 and 1801 in Green County. He then procured a license from the new Adair County Court in September 1802 to operate "in his house in Columbia." Therefore, we know he was probably on the site of the present town of Columbia as early as 1798 or 1799. He was still operating a tavern in town in 1813.

Hartwell Martin was granted license to keep a tavern in his house in the County of Green, 16 January 1798. Since he was a resident of Adair after its formation, it is presumed this tavern was somewhere in the environs of Adair.

William Lawson obtained license for a tavern at his house in Columbia, granted by the Adair Court in March 1803. Abraham Parker operated in the same house in 1805. Parker may have been a free black man who owned property in Columbia about this time.

John Beard, Sr. operated a tavern at his house in Columbia as early as November 1803 and through 1811. Later he operated at a new site or sites as indicated below.

Charles Reaville operated a tavern at the corner of High and Guardian Streets as early as 1807. This lot, in recent years was the home of Mrs. Ruby Yates, long the home of Joe and Sarah Hutchison, was occupied by a simple frame building, used as a tavern, prior to Reaville's death in 1809. It was here that William Lawson bit off part of the left ear of Daniel Harvey on 26 December 1807, while they engaged in a fight.

William Diddle owned and operated a tavern in a building that encompassed the house long owned and occupied by the E.B. "Ebb" Morrison family, behind the old convenience store building, at the foot of Jamestown hill. Built in 1809, Diddle had a tavern license in 1809, 1810 and 1811, but another was operating it in 1812. The Eubank Spring House which was adjacent to this property was constructed of native stone about 1796, according to some sources. It was named for Joseph Eubank who purchased the lot in 1828. The Spring House has been named a Kentucky Landmark site, more recently removed to the Trabue-Russell House site.

David Doak operated a tavern in Columbia at the house of William Worley in 1804, and in the house formerly occupied by William Diddle in 1812, as mentioned above.

William Hurt operated a tavern in a house in Columbia in 1805. John Field also operated a tavern at his house in town in 1805, probably the same site where the second county court met in 1803. John Anderson operated one in his house in 1806 and Daniel Myers in his house in 1807.

Reuben Waggener built a house on the site of the present First National Bank drive-in branch on Burkesville Street about 1810 or 1811. He operated a tavern here, then sold in 1816 to the Pitman Brothers.

William Worley had built a two-story log house on the left corner of Jamestown Street and the Square, as one proceeds out Jamestown Street, by 1809 or 1810. He sold this tavern house in 1815 to Daniel Trabue who operated it for some years.

Probably the best known tavern of old Columbia, other than the Eagle, perhaps, was that to Daniel Trabue, pioneer. He had operated a store, grist mill and large plantation and was a good businessman in most respects. He moved to Columbia about 1814 and purchased William Worley's two-story log tavern, locted at the corner of now Jamestown and Reed Streets. He sold out in 1819 at a great loss, due to the financial panic of 1819, and bought three and one-half acres on the hill overlooking the Town Branch, on Jamestown Street. Here he constructed a stone and brick house that still stands, known to all as the Trabue-Russell House. Again, due to financial difficulties, Daniel lost this house to creditors in 1826.

John Beard, Sr. was operating a tavern on the site of the present jail prior to 1816 when he sold out to Wharton Lampton.

Lewis Lampton rented a brick house in Columbia in which he started a tavern in 1812. This was the tavern known as the Eagle Tavern, a large one for that day and time. From an old mortgage: "20 beds and bedsteads, 2 sideboards, 6 tables, 80 chairs..." Lampton lost the tavern to William Caldwell. Robert H. Burton operated it "in the Lewis Lampton house, formerly known as the Eagle Tavern" in 1825 through 1827 or so.

John Anderson operated his tavern in a small brick building on the corner of Burkesville Street and Jefferson Alley, on the right side as one proceeds out Burkesville Street, by 1820. He sold out to John and Alexander Miller in 1828. Later, this tavern was operated by Daniel Suddarth.

Francis Hewitt was granted permission on 7 November 1825 to operate a tavern in his house in the town of Columbia; license renewed in February 1826 and again in April 1827.

Robert Bailey applied to the Adair Court in December 1825 for a tavern license to be operated in his house in the town of Columbia, which was granted in February 1826.

Armistead R. Moreland was allowed to operate a tavern in his house in the town of Columbia for one year, February 1826.

Benjamin F. Waggener was granted permission to run a tavern in his house in Columbia until a sufficient number of justices could be present to issue tavern license, as per an order of the Court in August 1826. License was granted for one year in October 1826. This tavern was in a building on the lot currently occupied by the Courthouse Annex parking lot. This was later a hotel operated by James T. Page. He sold it to Luther Grissom and it later burned. This is also the site of the Conover Hotel that was the same building that burned a few years ago.

Robert Burton made bond to keep a tavern in the house formerly occupied by Lewis Lampton in the Town of Columbia, April 1827.

William F. Waggener made bond in April 1828 for license to keep a tavern in his own house in the Town of Columbia for 12 months.

Joseph Anderson made bond in April 1828 for license to keep a tavern in his own house in the Town of Columbia for 12 months. He made another request in April 1829.

George Wagley executed bond in October 1828 to a keep a tavern at his own house in the Town of Columbia for 12 months.

John Graham was granted license to operate a tavern in his house in Columbia in 1829 and again in 1831.

John Miller executed bond in October 1833 to keep a tavern at his own house in the town of Columbia for 12 months, and again in January 1835.

Rue Wheat applied for a tavern license in December 1833, but it was not granted due to lack of a majority of justices being present.

Lawson Montgomery was permitted to keep a tavern in the Town of Columbia for one year, April 1834.

Josiah Harris received license to operate a tavern in the Creel Building, the corner building of the Square and Campbellsville Street, in 1832.

Jesse Fitzpatrick was granted license in February 1835 to keep a tavern in his house in Columbia for one year.

John J. Caldwell was granted license to operate a tavern at his house, known as Caldwell's Corner, in Columbia, in July 1838 and October 1839.

Col. Edmond B. Cheatham made application for tavern license in August 1838.

Daniel Trabue, Jr. was granted a license to operate a tavern at his own house in Columbia, on the Burkesville Road, three miles from town, in January 1839.

John Murrell was granted license to operate a tavern in the old tavern house standing on the northeast corner of the Public Square, in February 1839. His license was renewed in February 1840, January 1841, October 1842, October 1843, and he was still operating a tavern in 1850.

Thomas J. Smith operated a tavern at the corner tavern house, purchased by him of J.J. Caldwell, in Columbia in December 1841; license was renewed in December 1842 and January 1844.

James Frazer was granted license in July 1842 to operate a tavern at his residence, near the town of Columbia, for one year. In October 1843 license was granted to Kitty Ann Frazer to keep a tavern for a year.

James Bramlette White was granted a tavern license in July 1843 for his dwelling house in Columbia for one year in July 1843. "Bram" White was a physician who later lived in and died at Danville, KY.

Joseph Burton was a Columbia tavern keeper in 1850.

William Hardwick was a tavern keeper in 1850, town or site not known.

William E. Baker was a hotel keeper in Columbia in 1863. He sold out to Israel C. Winfrey.

Ewing, Lyon and Company operated a hotel and livery stable in Columbia in 1866.

S.H. Murrell operated a hotel in Columbia in 1866.

Israel C. Winfrey and family lived in the building on the corner of the Public Square and Campbellsville Street, the oldest existing building on the Square. Winfrey operated The Winfrey Hotel for several years following the Civil War. This is where cholera broke out in Columbia in 1873 that claimed numerous lives, including Mr. Winfrey and several of his children.

In 1898 John N. Conover built a fine brick hotel on the northwest corner of the Public Square. It was the finest and most modern building in Columbia for many years. Built on the site of a previously burned hotel, Mr. Conover's hotel contained twenty-eight rooms and fronted on Greensburg Street and the Square. Managed by Mr. and Mrs. George Coffey and Mrs. Kate Smith, there was a gala opening on 7 December 1898. The hotel was known by several names, as many persons operated it over the years. First it was the Conover Hotel; later known as the Marcum Hotel, it was operated for several years at the turn of the century by Marshall H. Marcum. He had previously operated an undertaking business in Columbia, and served as county court clerk as a Democrat for two terms. Mr. Marcum died in April of 1904 and his wife, Mrs. M.E. Marcum, continued in the hotel business for some time. Mr. Conover sold the hotel building to J.B. Barbee in October 1904 for $10,000. Mrs. Marcum continued to operate the hotel for a time. She later ran a boarding house in Columbia. Gus Jeffries owned the hotel, called the Jeffries Hotel, in the 1920's. It was then owned by J.C. Miller, called the Miller Hotel, and received a face-lift during his tenure. The William Hughes family took over the hotel in 1937 and it became the New Adair Hotel. Gordon Clark became manager in 1948. Owen Rowe took over the hotel in the 1950s and he and son Hack operated it for some years. Hack Rowe was owner and operator when it burned in November 1977. In this terrible fire, five people lost their lives. For more complete details on this structure and the business operated on this site, I direct the reader to Jim's excellent book, The Conover Hotel.

Junius Hancock operated the Hancock Hotel, on Burkesville Street, in 1910. This had been the home of various Columbians, including Thomas E. Bramlette at the time he was elected Governor. Later, Mr. and Mrs. L.T. Neat ran the hotel, until August 1927 when they gave up the business. Mrs. Sallie Hancock then ran a rooming house in the building.

The Columbia Hotel was located on the Square in 1910, operated by J. P. Jasper.

Robert Hudson operated the Hudson Hotel on Campbellsville Street in 1910.

Every community had boarding houses at some point. Columbia was no exception. Several well-known boarding houses operated in town or in the environs in the past two centuries and they are, unfortunately, too numerous to cover here.

Cane Valley -

Charles Massie operated a hotel or tavern at Cane Valley in 1866. There were probably others, but few records exist.

Gradyville -

Wilmore Hotel at Gradyville was operated for many years including the turn of the last century by Mr. W.M. Wilmore. It appears the hotel may have closed for business in the early part of 1912 as the last advertisement for it in the Adair County News appeared in the issue for 3 January 1912. However, it was mentioned by name in the Gradyville newsletter of 14 March 1922. This hotel had a long history.


Adam Miller was granted a license in April 1840 to operate a tavern in the town of Millersville.


Andrew E. Mercer obtained tavern license to operate in his house at "Townsendsville" and to retail spirits by the small in July 1855.

Napoleon B. Dohoney and Alexander B. Nelson were granted license to operate a tavern at Milltown in April 1861.

Andrew E. Mercer was granted license to operate a tavern in his house at Milltown in March 1864. He operated a hotel in 1866 and had a retail license to sell liquor.

Nell and Turk operated a hotel at Milltown in 1866.

Neatsville -

Warner W. Williams was granted license to operate a tavern in his own house in Neatsville, in 1839.

Osborn Portman and James Fitzpatrick were granted a tavern license to operate in their own house in Neatsville, in December 1839. Osborn Portman and James C. Newcomb were granted a license in July 1842 to operate a tavern in Neatsville.

James E. Fitzpatrick was granted tavern license to operate at Neatsville, in February 1841.

William Hardwick was granted a tavern license in February 1846 to operate for one year. He requested renewal in February 1847, which was granted in April and again in May 1848.

William Renfro was granted a tavern license in July 1855 to operate in his house at Neetsville for one year and to retail ardent spirits "by the small."

David R. Campbell granted permission by the Adair Court in December 1855 to keep a tavern in Neatsville and sell spirituous liquors.

D.S. Parker and J.T. Drake were permitted to operate in the house formerly occupied by Robert L. Reynolds at Neatsville, as of October 1861.

C.C. Dunn was given permission to operate a tavern in May 1862 in the house known as the J.T. Damron House, at Neatsville.

J.H. Dunham was granted license in February 1864 to operate a tavern at the Damron House at Neatsville for one year. He was granted license in February 1865 to operate a tavern at the Drake House at Neatsville for one year.

George W. Damron was granted license in February 1865 to operate a tavern at the Damron House at Neatsville for one year.

Dohoney's Mill -

Christopher C. Squires was licensed to operate a tavern in his house at Dohoney's Mill for one year, January 1865.

Tavern Rates Fixed, Amended, By The Adair County Court

- September 1802
- Warm dinner, with 2 courses 1 shilling & 6 pence
- Cold dinner, with 2 courses 1 shilling
- Breakfast or Supper, with tea or coffee 1 shilling & 6 pence
- Lodging, one night, clean sheets 6 pence
- Rum or French Brandy, per quart 3 shillings
- Whisky, per quart 1 shilling, 6 pence
- Cider, per quart 1 shilling
- Beer, per quart 9 pence
- Wine, per quart 7 shillings & 6 pence
- Corn or oats, per gallon 6 pence
- Pasturage per night 6 pence
Jan 1835. Nov. 1838. Jan 1840
- Man and horse, per day, $1.00 $100
- Single diet (meal) 25 cents, 25 cents same
- Stablage and hay, per night 37 cents 50 cents same
- Horse feed, corn or oats 25 cents 25 cents same
- Whisky, one-half pint 12 cents 12 cents same (domestic)
- Wine, one-half pint 50 cents 37 cents same (imported)
- Brandy, one-half pint 25 cents
- Lodging 12 cents 12 cents 50 cents
October 1877
- Wine Per Drink 10 cents
- Liquors per drink 10 cents
- Night's lodging 25 cents
- One diet [meal] 40 cents
- One horse fed 40 cents
- Pasturage per week 50 cents
- Adair County Court Orders
- Adair County Deeds
- Adair County Census, 1850-1880
- Adair County Tax Lists, varioius
- Adair County News, various dates
- Columbia Spectator, various dates
- Green County Court Orders
- Green County Deeds

- Baker, Herschel Clay, Judge, Sketches of Adair County
- Berley, Nancy Montgomery, notes of
- Burdette, Ruth Paull, notes of
- Conover Hotel, The, by Jim
- Cundiff, Allie Garnett, interviews
- Flowers, Randy Hood, interviews & notes of
- Morrison, Louis Connell, inverviews
- Turner, Grace Darnell, interviews
Compiled by Mike Watson

This story was posted on 2013-03-10 07:23:48
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