I recently learned of a society founded in 1962 for those who can prove a Colonial tavern-keeping ancestor licensed by the local authority as a taverner, innkeeper or hosteler before July 4, 1776.
The Flagon and Trencher Society has approved more than 2,000 taverner descendants for membership.
Why would anyone want to trace a family member to this occupation? Many claim lawyers, doctors, farmers and planters, so why not a hardworking, civic-minded ancestor who provided ale and entertainment for the locals.
Owners held down other positions in their communities. Some served in the Revolutionary War, starting out in the militia and perhaps ending up as lieutenant colonels. After the war, many returned to continue working in their tavern until their deaths.
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The Colonial taverns also provided a place for people to gather, a meetinghouse to discuss community issues.
It was in the Green Dragon Tavern that the scheme for the Boston Tea Party was born. It was a public house and tavern on Union Street in Boston’s North End.
It was illegal to sell “strong drink” as the Green Dragon was presented in 1714.
After passing from one family member to another, the tavern was sold to the St. Andrews Lodge of Freemasons in 1766. The Freemasons used the first floor for their meeting rooms. The basement tavern was used by several secret groups and became known by historians as the “Headquarters of the Revolution.” The Sons of Liberty, Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Boston Caucus each met there.
Not only was the Boston Tea Party planned there, but Paul Revere was sent from there to Lexington on his famous ride.
In January 1788, a meeting of the mechanics and artisans of Boston passed a series of resolutions urging the importance of adopting the federal Constitution, which was pending at the time before a convention of delegates from across Massachusetts. The building was demolished in 1854.
A notable tavern closer to home was the Isaac Hunter Tavern near Raleigh.
It was the scene of horse races and frequented by political figures in the 1700s.
Isaac Hunter’s Tavern was apparently popular with the legislators of the time. No city or town existed on the site before it was chosen to house the capital. Raleigh is one of the few cities in the United States planned and built specifically to serve as a state capital.
The question of a new capital had troubled North Carolina politics since 1777.
Unable to decide the matter, the legislature referred it to the state’s Ratifying Convention of 1788.
The convention voted Aug. 2, 1788, to fix the seat of government within 10 miles of Isaac Hunter’s tavern in Wake County near the falls of the Neuse River, but to let the legislature determine the exact spot within that radius.
In 1792 land was purchased and the city of Raleigh was laid out in Wake County; by the end of 1794 a small brick statehouse was erected there.
In 1991, the legislature ratified a bill to honor those men who planned, prepared and persevered to find the site for the capitol building of North Carolina. It reads as follows:
“The General Assembly honors the memory of the members of the 1792 General Assembly, the nine Capital Commissioners, and Isaac Hunter on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the City of Raleigh as the capital of North Carolina.”
Who would have thought the tavern owner Isaac Hunter would receive such recognition 200 years later?
A replica of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern has been built in the center of Raleigh by two owners who handcrafted the building from the ground up. It is fashioned almost entirely from the reclaimed wood from an old Guilford County tobacco farm.
The Isaac Hunter Oak City Tavern is a gathering place for locals, and who knows what community issues might brew within those walls?
Contact Etta Reid, historian, researcher and educator, at firstname.lastname@example.org