Toast to the Tavern, inn histories by James Dallett

Following the January 9 issue of this column in which the quaint old “Toast to the Tavern” of a bygone era was quoted, your columnist received a letter from James Dallett, of Wayne, in which he gave some further information in regard to several of the old inns mentioned in the toast. Mr. Dallett, a member of a family which has made its home in and around Wayne since the 1870’s, is much interested in local history in all its aspects. He writes:

“There were many inns in the Radnor tract in Colonial days. The first petition for a license in Radnor which appears on record is dated May 28, 1717, and was presented by Edward Thomas, who informed the court of Chester County that his house was located ‘near ye church called St. David’s Church’ and that he was, because of proximity, ‘obliged to entertain many people come to worship at ye said church’. He was granted a license to sell ‘Beer, Sider, etc.’

Mr. Thomas’ house is, Mr. Dallet believes, “the property presently occupied by Frank C. Strohkarck on Valley Forge road just above the churchyard of Old St. David’s Church.”

This was probably not an inn in the true sense of the word. At least it does not seem to have had an official name. But there are several others that did a thriving business in this vicinity, which Mr. Dallett does designate by name. Among them are the “Sign of the Plow”, subsequently known as the “Plow and the Harrow”, and later as the “John Wilkes”; the “Unicorn”, later the “Farmers Inn”, and later still the “Decatur Inn” in honor of the national hero of that time, after which it went back to its original and best known name, “The Unicorn”. Others in this general neighborhood were the “Sorrel Horse Tavern” and the “Lamb Tavern”.

All of these inns are listed and described by Julius Sachse in his book, “Wayside Inns on the Lancaster Highway”, published in the late 1800’s. Mr. Sachse identifies the location of each one in relation to its proximity to the old milestones. Thus the Lamb Tavern “first inn on the turnpike in Chester County”, stood a short distance east of the 15th milestone, while the Spread Eagle, which was right on the border line of Chester County, stood “a few rods above the 14th milestone on the turnpike.”

In this connection It is interesting to note that the 13th milestone still stands at Wayne’s busiest intersection at the northwest corner of Wayne avenue and Lancaster highway, directly in front of the entrance to the Cobb and Lawless store. It is now protected by a strong iron grill erected by the Wayne Iron Works some years ago. This small white stone with its brief inscription, “13 m. to P”, has stood on this spot since shortly after 1796, the year in which the Philadelphia and Lancaster turnpike, the first stone highway in the United States, was completed.

Mr. Sachse’s book contains copies of the old “distance tables” published prior to the building of the turnpike. In these the starting point of measurement was from the courthouse, then located at Second and Market streets in Philadelphia. However, when the present milestones were put in place, the distance noted in them was from the Schuylkill River. “Consequently the location of the old landmarks appears to be two miles less than on the older distance tables.”

The route of the present Lancaster Highway differs slightly in places from that of the original first stone highway. This is shown by the location of the old Lamb Tavern, since in its modernized form it stands on the corner of Old Conestoga road and Valley Forge road in Devon. It is evident from this that at one time both Old Conestoga road and the turnpike were identical in certain sections. The beautiful old white stone residence, which stands close to the road at the present corner of Valley Forge and Old Conestoga roads, is described by Mr. Dallett as follows:

“The Lamb tavern mentioned in the old toast of the roads still stands in altered form at the corner of Conestoga and Valley Forge roads in Devon, and is now known as “Roughwood”. It was built in the middle of the 18th century and its situation on the edge of Valley Forge road (also known as Baptist road) made it a point of refreshment for farmers from near Valley Forge on their way to the Lancaster turnpike and thence to Philadelphia.

“This was the road which started at the fortification called Star Redoubt, west of the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge and moved southwestward towards Berwyn. The original line of the old road has disappeared, but in Washington’s time it crossed the parade ground, passed to the east of General Varruni’s headquarters, and at a curve at the farm of Senator Knox (now the Tindle property) southeast towards the Valley Baptist Church and continued on to what is now Devon. There is a tradition that there was a colonial burial ground near this road, in which graves of soldiers who died at Valley Forge so augmented earlier graves that one might walk hundreds of feet using the graves as stepping stones.

“After turning southwestward at the Knox-Tindle property, the road struck out in direct course past the Valley Baptist Church. Although diversions from the old line now exist, Franklin L. Burns, of Berwyn, a local archaeologist, has reported that it passed Valley Baptist Church, went straight up the hill towards Devon, skirted the northern edge of the G. G. Browning estate, the Cathcart Home, and the Charles Lea estate, until it crossed Conestoga road. Here it continued transversely over the present ‘Roughwood’ property, the old Lamb tavern standing immediately adjacent to the road, and crossed Old Lancaster pike in a straight line. Certain large ash trees standing in a row in the middle of the lanes at ‘Roughwood’ still mark the former course of the old road. The present course of the road necessitates a sharp turn to the left on Old Lancaster pike, which it follows 200 feet before turning southward again.

“During the Revolutionary War, American troops quartered at Valley Forge stopped at the Lamb
tavern, and Washington himself is said to have tarried at the bar for an hour or so! It was within the American picket lines. The Lamb later became a farmhouse and so remained until early in the 1870’s, when it was bought by Michael Dallett (1845-1902), a member of the firm of Dallett and Company, which operated the ‘Red D Line’ in Philadelphia and New York. This had been founded in the 1830’s by Michael’s father, John Dallett, and his uncle, Henry Carpenter Dallett, as the first regular clipper ship line running between Philadelphia and Venezuelan ports in the coffee trade.

“Michael had married, in 1869, Mark Kirkbride Peterson, daughter of Israel Peterson, mayor of Philadelphia. He bought the old Lamb as a summer place for his young bride, while other members of the Dallett family summered at Wayne. Michael Dallett named the house ‘Roughwood’ and beautified the 16 acres of ground. Mrs. Dallett was a niece of Joseph John Gurney, the English Quaker banker, and to ‘Roughwood’ came many prominent Engllsh and Venezuelan visitors as well as American ones.

“In 1890 the Dallett family modernized the old stone house into a more or less Georgian type mansion, retaining the marvelous old hand-carved stairway and interesting fireplaces. After this they spent more and more time at the ‘summer’ place in Devon. It later became the permanent home of Michael Dallett’s daughter, Frances, who became Mrs. Stephen Fuguet, and remained in the possesion of the Fuguet family until a few years ago. It is one of the showplace residences of this area today.”

(The late Frank Dallett, who lived for many years on Windermere avenue and Michael Dallett were double first cousins.)

(To be continued)