As you may know we researched Jeff Devlin's home. We were thrilled when he asked us to add our skills to a home on his show, Stone House Revival, on the DIY Network. We were also given the chance to be present on set when Jeff presented the history to the home owners. We had such a blast and are so greatly to Jeff and his team for the opportunity.
See Full Episode here: Stone House Revival, Season 3, Episode 14
The Washington Inn was the subject of our Stone House Revival project. It dates back to 1785 and served as a hotel, tavern, restaurant and a community gathering place. We were fortunate to have the assistance of the local Caernarvon Historical Society, thanks Yvonne! Preview more images at end of research, enjoy!
The Washington Inn - History
The story of the building at the corner of Main and Water Streets in Churchtown is entwined with the history of Bangor Church, it’s people and the iron ore industry.
The subject of our research has been known through the years as “The General Washington”. “The Washington House”, and “The Washington Inn”. It is not known if George Washington stayed in Churchtown, but legend has it that he “once tied his horse to a spruce tree in Churchtown” . It has also been noted 1 that the iron forges in the area supplied rifle hammers during the Revolutionary War. Main Street itself has also been called “The KIng’s Highway” (laid out in 1737-38), and “The High Road”. These name changes are found in the deeds through the 1800s and into current day.
The earliest settlers to the area were Welsh who had come west from a large Welsh settlement in Radnor, PA. Churchtown was built around the Bangor Church, which was first constructed of logs in 17333. This log church was located to the South of present day Main Street. The “King’s Highway”, or “horse-shoe road” which is Main Street today, was laid out in 1737 and 1738. The road left the log church on the south side, with the graveyard to the north. In 1738, Gabriel Davies was granted a patent from the Proprietors of Pennsylvania for just over 62 acres of land for the construction of the Bangor Church, this would be the more permanent replacement of the log church.
The first stone church was constructed with monies collected from the settlers in 17545. Gabriel Davies conveyed ownership of the church and it’s surrounding land to Lynford Lardner and John Davies, wardens of the Bangor Church, in 1755. The following excerpt describes this transaction6.
The church and the land surrounding it was conveyed in October 8, 1759 to Nathan Evans for 29 pounds, 2 shilling. Nathan and his wife Susanna, by deed 2 days later (October 10, 1759) transferred ownership to James Turbet and Nathan Evans, Jr., wardens of the church. The wardens divided the church land along the road into lots to be sold. Based on the excerpt7, the proceeds of the sale of these lots was apparently intended to assist in finishing the church, but Nathan Evans, Sr had intended the proceeds to support the minister of the church.
The wardens or trustees of the church divided the land and charged a land rent of 7 shillings, 6 pence per acre (later this rent is listed as $1) to be paid yearly on November 10th. The following excerpt gives a clear description of the beginnings of Churchtown, and the origin of its name.
A primary goal of research is to determine the year of construction and builder. The structure that would later be known as the Washington Inn was built on land that was parceled out by the wardens of the Bangor Church. It is difficult to trace the conveyances of these parcels, as some were deeded sales, while others were leased, and still others were deeded to owners who did not live on the property, but instead managed the businesses that were erected along Main Street. Several sources were consulted in an effort to discern who may have first owned the land and perhaps, built the structures.
According the Lancaster Trust for Historic Preservation, “the building at Main and Water Streets, known most recently as the Washington Inn, was built by William Jenkins in 1777, with an addition in 1812.”
Another source notes “the west end of the Washington Inn was built soon after the church warden sold the land to George Faulkner. The east end of the building was built around 1812” . The following described documentation supports both of these assertions.
George Faulkner (spelled Faukler) appears in a deed dated October 20, 1767 in which a “lott and piece of ground” in Caernarvon township is transferred from James Keimer, John Edwards and Edward Hughes, trustees appointed by the Minister Church Wardens and Vestry for leading the land of Bangor Church…for an in consideration of the rents and services herein after received to be paid and performed.” Faulkner receives 41/2 acres, 37 perches, called “Lott 2” on the North side of “the Great Road”, and 77 perches on the South side of the road, called “Lott 6”. These lots are described as being part of a larger tract of land conveyed to Lynford Lardner and John Davies in 1755, then to Nathan Evans on October 8, 1759. This is consistent with the information presented above.
George Faukler transferred his rights to the parcels to William Jenkins on September 23, 1769. Several pieces of documentation lend credence to the idea that William Jenkins was responsible for the construction of the building:
William Jenkins is enumerated in a 1773 Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration record on 6 acres of woodland, 3 pound rent paid, 2 horses and 1 cow. He paid 7 shillings in tax. This property is described in William’s will (see below), and is located to the west of the church.
The Revolutionary War 1775-1783
William Jenkins is found in a compilation of newspaper advertisement with a “store at Bangor Church, Caernarvon Township, Lancaster." This advertisement is dated March 19, 1776.
William Jenkins’ will , dated April 18, 1777 gives 15 more insight about his role in the history of the building:
“It is my will and I do order my lott of one acre of land whereon my mansion house stands in which I now live to the East side of the Church yard to be either sold or rented out by my executors to any good and careful tenant that shall not damage the house or any of the other buildings, garden or fences thereon, but if my executors shall see it most advantageous to sell said house and lott then I do order it to be sold and not be leased out”. William’s will names his wife, Elizabeth, and a son, George who was apparently under the age of 21 when the will was written. William’s brothers, David and Isaac Jenkins, were named as William’s executors. It is inferred by the date of the probate of the will that William died in 1777. If the “mansion house to the East side of the Church yard” is believed to be the future Washington Inn, it is clear the building was constructed between 1769, when Jenkins received property from Faulkner, and his death in 1777.
David and Isaac Jenkins sold four lots of property in their brother’s estate to Gerardus Clarkson, a physician on June 7, 177716. The lots described in this deed are as follows: 7 ¾ acres, 18 perches “No. 3”, and three lots of ½ acre each. This deed also mentions the name of Joseph Williamson, who received land from the same Wardens of the Bangor Church that conveyed land to George Faulkner. It cannot be clearly determined if the land upon which the structure was built was conveyed through George Faulkner or Joseph Williamson, and records of the division of the church land into lots along Main Street were not readily located. It is the author’s opinion that the information presented by the Lancaster Trust for Historic Preservation is the most accurate accounting of the origin of The Washington Inn (built by William Jenkins in the late 1700s).
The property changed hands a number of times in the years after Jenkins, and the sales included multiple parcels, usually ½ acre in size:
Gerardus and Mary Clarkson sold 5 lots of land, including the lands from Jenkins, to Jacob Hinkle on August 22, 1778.
Jacob Hinkle sold the 5 lots to James Old on June 15, 1779 for 350 pounds.16
James Old was the founder of Poole Forge, and was married to Margaretta Davies, the daughter of Gabriel Davies, the original warrantee of the Bangor church lands. James was a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature and was a well known Iron Master.
James Old sold 4 of the lots on May 30, 1783 to Henry Sherck (also Shirk) for 300 pounds.
Henry and Bonina Shirk sold 3 parcels to Jesse Laverty and Robert Jenkins, Iron Masters on April 11, 1804 for 800 pounds. Robert Jenkins released his ½ ownership of the properties on April 25, 1804.
Jesse Laverty sold a messuage (dwelling) and 2 half acre lots of land to Cyrus Jacobs on March 25, 1812 for $1600.
The iron forges at Pool, Windsor, and Spring Grove were built by the earliest settlers of Caernarvon Township in the 1700s. The area was found to contain one of the richest deposits of iron ore, and the forges sustained their owners and employees living in and around Churchtown for many generations. Cyrus Jacobs came to Churchtown from his native Perkiomen to work and found employ with James Old at Pool Forge. Cyrus astutely learned the iron business and the practice of law, and through his lifetime amassed a staggering fortune of land and property holdings, and business interests. By his 28th year, he had married Margaret, the daughter of his employer James Old, and had purchased over 200 acres along the Conestoga Creek. He built Spring Grove Forge and Mansion, and by the end of his life owned White Hall, Hampden, Spring Grove and Federal Hall.
Cyrus and his family were intertwined with a love affair that would impact a future US President. Cyrus Jacob’s son, Cyrus studied law in the Lancaster offices of a young James Buchanan, and his daughter, Eliza, would marry Buchanan’s law parter Molton Rogers. James Buchanan became enamored with a young woman named Ann Coleman. Ann was Cyrus Jacob, Jr’s cousin (Ann’s mother was the senior Cyrus Jacobs’ sister). James and Ann were engaged by the summer of 1819. James’ legal practice took him away from Ann through most of the fall of 1819, and gossip among the elite of Lancaster that James did not really love Ann, but loved her family’s fortunes instead began to wear on Ann. Through a series of misunderstandings, Ann became convinced that James was interested in another young woman, and she was so consumed by her heartbreak that she died after a fit of hysterics while visiting her sister in Philadelphia. James was distraught over the loss of Ann and vowed to never marry.
While the story of Ann Coleman and James Buchanan does not have a direct relationship with the Washington Inn, it provides a glimpse into the lives of the iron and legal aristocracy in Lancaster during a time when Cyrus Jacobs, Sr. owned the Washington Inn
Cyrus’ fortune at the time of his death in May 1830 included 9000 acres of land in Lancaster and Berks Counties, and an estate worth over $280,000, an incredible amount for the time. He and Margaret had 14 children, but most died young. Cyrus’ will is lengthy, as would be expected of an attorney with such a fortune to convey.
Cyrus’ will contains a curious notation:
Transcribed: “to my granddaughter Ann H. Jacobs I will the White house tavern, and the land belonging to it about 56 acres and all the improvements, deeded to me by Jacob Planck’s assignees, and twenty thousand dollars in cash…” In the event the tavern at the center of our research was once called the White Horse or White House Tavern, a search for a connection to Jacob Plank (Planck) was conducted. Jacob Planck’s name is not found in any of the deeds or property transfers previously described, and it is not clear from the handwriting if the name is the White House Tavern or the White Horse Tavern. A review of the property records associated with Jacob Plank reveals that Jacob Plank purchased a messuage and tract of land amounting to 52 acres, 80 perches in Caernarvon from Philip Evans in 1820 for $3587.50. This tract is traced back from Philip Evans to Nathan Evans in 1782, and to Evan Evans of Earl Township prior. If this was indeed the White House Inn we are researching, the Evans’ ownership would have conflicted with the records we have already reviewed related to Jenkins. Additionally, the size of the lot, 52 acres, is inconsistent with the smaller lots conveyed by the Bangor Church Wardens and the size of the lots established on both sides of Main Street. It is not known by the authors if Cyrus Jacobs owned another tavern in a nearby location, and a link between this notation and the previously published history of the Washington Inn could not be made. It appears that Cyrus Jacobs owned more than one tavern location.
The next paragraph in Cyrus’ will does, however, support the next transfer:
Transcribed: “to my grand daughter Caroline E Jacobs, I will my three houses and lots in
Churchtown and all their improvements; and twenty thousand dollars in cash & the remaining half of the furniture of all kinds & sorts at White Hall; to her and her heirs and assigns forever” The subsequent property record indicates the “tavern house” was conveyed to Caroline Jacobs, who was the wife of Isaac Hazelhurst. This record describes the transfer of the tavern house and four tracts of land from Isaac and Caroline Hazelhurst to Jacob Albright on March 16, 1837 for $2500 . This is the first deed that 27 specifically describes a tavern house. The acreage associated with the tavern house lot is one acre and 30 perches of land. The description of the tavern house and acreage is consistent from this deed forward.
Jacob Albright petitioned for a liquor license for “The General Washington” in 1841. This petition indicates the request is for an “Old Stand”, indicating the tavern was licensed prior to Albright’s ownership. Albright’s petition states that “he has occupied the said house as a licensed Inn for ten or eleven years last part and that he is desirous of continuing the same”. This means that Jacob Albright was the proprietor of theInn since about 1830. This coincides with the time that Cyrus Jacobs owned the property.
Jacob Albright is found as a tavern keeper, age 53 in the 1850 Census.
His household includes Anna, his wife, and the following:
Jacob Albright died leaving his property in the hand of his administrator, Lot Rogers. Lot Rogers sold two adjoining parcels of land, totaling one acre, 30 perches and a “large two story stone tavern and stone house” on April 2, 1859 to John Myers.
The Underground Railroad and The Civil War 1863-1865
The topic of slavery is required discussion when commenting about the Civil War era. It is
noted by census records and wills that the owners of the Washington Inn were slave owners. It is also noted that the slaves associated with the owners were generally well treated. With this knowledge, it is interesting to note a story told by the owners of the Evans house on Main Street that “There supposedly was a tunnel outside from the Washington Inn, two doors away, to here. Apparently the slaves arrived at the Inn by wagon and then were brought to the room upstairs through that tunnel.” The owner has also noted “how low the doorway is between the dining room and kitchen. The reason the door is so low is because between the kitchen ceiling and the floor of the bedroom above is a three-foot high room with a trap door.”
John Myers petition for a tavern license in 186230 provides some insight about the
accommodations at the Inn, which he calls “The Washington House”. The Inn apparently had “four or more bed rooms, and eight or more beds”.
John Myers’ will dated June 17, 1867 stipulated “it is my will and I do desire, order and authorize my executors to dispose at public sale, for the best advantage of my estate, as soon as can be after my decease, my tavern and dwelling house, barn, shedding, and other buildings and two tracts or pieces of land…being the same tavern house now occupied by my son John Myers”. A copy of this will is included in the attachments to this narrative. John Myers’ executors, John Myers and William Sproecker, sold the property at public sale on October 3, 1867 to William Shirck on April 1, 1868 for $6400.
William H. Shirck “innkeeper” and Adelaide his wife sold the property containing one acre, 30 perches of land and two other tracts in Churchtown to Henry Swiegart for $6700 on April 1, 1869.
Henry M, and Kate H. Swiegart conveyed the property on January 31, 1874 to John Cox “innkeeper” for $6500. The Swiegarts are listed in this deed as being from Earl Township. John Cox owned the property for 20 years. This newspaper clipping dated November 10, 1894 is a rather straightforward notice of his death.
Ellen and Caroline Cox, executors of their father’s estate (copy of the will of John Cox is in the attachments of this narrative), sold “four certain messuages or tenements and tracts of land” in Churchtown by public sale to John E. Boehringer of Adamstown County on April 1, 1895 for $5300. The first property listed in this deed contains one acre, 30 perches, and a “large tavern and store house, barn and other buildings”.
The following excerpt provides significant detail about the origin of the Inn, as well as the
building that stands behind it . It can b 23 e surmised that the stone building behind the Inn was the original Bangor School House. The description of it’s location, set back from the main road and separated by a small road running north that was laid to access a spring, matches the building’s site on Water Street (appropriately named). Also, the referenced book was published in 1883, during the time when John Cox (spelled Coxe in the excerpt) owned the hotel. After Cyrus Jacobs made amends to the village for his treatment of the school house, the structure was used as a granary (storehouse for grain).
The Lancaster Historical Society holds guest ledgers from the time of John Boehringer’s ownership. These ledgers give the name of the tavern as the “Washington House”. John and Rebecca Boehringer sold the tavern and four tracts of land to Susan A. Hoffert on October 10, 1906 for $7500.
Postcard of The Washington House, Churchtown from 1910 showing siding and porch along the front.
Susan and Charles Hoffert sold the property (tavern and four tracts) to Levi Alderfer from East Earl Township on March 22, 1909 for $8500.
Levi Alderfer was apparently in poor health by 1912, when he advertised his sale of the hotel.
Levi Alderfer and his wife assigned ownership of the property “as a consequence of sundry losses and misfortunes” to Amos Burkholder on January 2, 1917. A public sale was held March 15, 1917. George Grove was the highest bidder at $5500 and took possession of the tavern, store house and three other tracts of land.
The Great Depression 1929…
April 19, 1917 deed between George and Minnie Grove and Lancaster Security Real Estate
Company conveyed ½ interest in the property. This half interest was released by Lancaster
Security Real Estate Company on September 8, 1921.
George and Minnie M Grove transferred the property to Minnie S. Davis for $1 on March 4,
1922. Minnie was known for her cooking, especially chicken and waffles.
It is likely that prohibition and the Great Depression lead to the decline of the Inn. These events, along with the increased use of the automobile, made lodging in places like the Washington Inn, less necessary.
The property was seized from Minnie Davis and sold by Sherriff’s sale in 1933. The tracts of land on both sides of Main Street that had been conveyed with the tavern house were apparently sold to different buyers, as deeds from 1933 forward only describe the tavern on one acre, 30 perches. Daniel Shuman, Sherriff, sold the property to C.R. Weaver.
C.R. and Myra Weaver sold the property on March 27, 1934 to James and Catherine Henninger for $7500. This deed describes a “messuage and large tavern, known as the Washington House."
World War II 1939-1945
The widow Catherine Henninger sold the property at public sale in 194544. Isaac and Nettie Todd were the highest bidders and purchased the property on June 23, 1945 for $7450. The building is described in this deed as “a three story hotel, building annex and other improvements known as the Washington Inn."
The property took on a new use in the 1940s, as a venue for auctions. These advertisements are from 1946.
Nettie Todd owned the property for twenty-three years. As a widow, she conveyed the property to Harry and Diana Short on February 22, 1968. The Short’s embarked on extensive renovations to the property, reducing it’s original 27 bedrooms to allow for more spacious rooms with adjoining bathrooms.
Harry and Diana, and Harry Short, widower sold to Joan and Joe Freeseman of New Holland borough for $70,000 on March 27, 1972.
The property was once again seized for Sherriff’s sale in 1972 and was conveyed by Sheriff Frederick B. Plowfield to Blue Ball National Bank for $2771.20.
Robert and Elizabeth LaBreton purchased the property on May 7, 1973 for $67,000.
Five years later, in 1978, Sheriff Frederick Plowfield, seized the property from the LaBreton’s and it was sold to D. Martin Zimmerman, Loren L. Zimmerman and Nelson Z. Martin on June 27. 1978 for $59,100.
The Zimmerman and Martin ownership lasted until October of 1978, when the property was sold to Robert Weaver and Kenneth Draude, partners trading as Weaver and Draude for $70,000.
Weaver and Draude sold the property to BCK Enterprises on May 1, 1980 for $154. The current owners purchased the old inn on June 25, 2008, and have embarked on a restoration project.
More images of the property historic to present day: Images property of Caernarvon Historical Society and History Attic Research, LLC (duplication is prohibited without permission)