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Tavern on the Little Beaver Creek

By Judy Foster

Milestones Vol 33 No. 2


Editor's Note--Although most of Enon Valley is in Lawrence County today, a small part of it still lies in Beaver County. We have previously published two stories by Robert Forsythe. This article imaginatively puts the Old Enon Tavern into historical perspective. It well describes what might have greeted travelers in many Inns throughout Beaver County at that time.

How it might have been...

The white frame tavern stood near the forks of the Little Beaver Creek. The road coming up from Darlington and Enon Station also split at that point--one branch going northwest to Petersburg, Ohio, and one going northeast to New Castle, PA. The rough and dusty (and often deeply rutted and muddy) thoroughfare was aptly dubbed "Hardscrabble" by the locals.

The tavern waited expectantly, with a bustling within its walls, making ready for the steady stream of travelers that would soon be coming on the afternoon stage through Old Enon. Good smells were coming from the small kitchen as utensils clattered while preparing the evening meal.

Outside the tavern, horses' neighs could be heard from the barn stalls, for they knew they must be prepared to be off on an adventure when the next stagecoach came to a stop. A ringing of metal could be heard from the blacksmith's anvil, as well as the steady "WHOOSH" of the bellows coming from the forge.

The tavern was a main changing station between New Castle and Beaver, so the tavern keeper and his family certainly had a vital occupation in the community, and they were held in high esteem within the little village of Old Enon. Every day, stagecoaches came directly from Newburg, about three miles north, often carrying mail from the outside world. What would come in the mail today? Would it be a lengthy epistle from Uncle Friedrich in the Old Country, or a heartfelt note from a soldier in afar-off place?

Soon a rumbling and clattering could be heard across the bridge, and a tin horn blew, as if announcing the second coming. Four finely-matched, spirited grays were pulling the stagecoach into town, with the driver calling commands from upon the high seat, "Gee there, Bess and Bob!" and "Whoa there, Abe and Annie!" And soon, the entire entourage halted in front of the tavern.

A young girl stood at the corner of the Tavern House, watching the passengers alight from the stagecoach. This was one of her favorite pastimes, observing the characters that came through each day: Young ladies coming from New Castle to visit maiden aunts in Beaver, old farmers returning from the County Seat, and railroad agents traveling down to inspect the line at Enon Station. Every day saw a different cast of characters to imagine and speculate about.

The tavern keeper's wife stood in the doorway, "Welcome folks! It's so good to see you, Matilda! My how you've grown!" and "The pump's out on the side to wash the dust off-Savilla will get you a towel when you 're finished, "and "Hope you brought your appetites with you, 'cause there's roast beef for supper!"

Soon everyone was settled into the cozy dining room, while conversation buzzed all around. The young girl watched with interest and listened as local news was exchanged. One of the farmers had brought The Lawrence Guardian published in New Castle, and the travelers as well as the locals hungrily devoured the news that it brought, along with the tasty roast beef dinner.

The young girl remembered when a few years ago, the first news of the Civil War reached Enon Valley, and she watched her brothers James, and later Joseph, march off with all the others to board the train at Enon Station. It had been the most exciting thing to happen in their little town, because all the boys from New Castle and Mt. Jackson had come through there too. Some proudly wore uniforms as if in a parade, and some had never come back.

Her mama had said that life wouldn't be the same after that, and as they waited day after day for each letter from "their boys" Savilla knew that she was right. The casualty lists came through Enon every so often, and each of their neighbors waited anxiously to find out if their loved ones had made it through yet another battle. But, there was still the tavern to care for and chores to do everyday to prepare for the travelers. It kept her mind off of wondering when her brothers and all the neighbor boys would be coming home. She hoped it would be soon.

Sometimes the travelers stayed the night, and sometimes they continued on their individual journeys, wherever the road took them. And because the horses were changed each time the stagecoach came through, the blacksmith was always on hand to apply new shoes when needed Although her mama needed her in the kitchen, sometimes Savilla stole away from her chores to visit the horses in the corral.

As Bess and Bob and Abe and Annie rested, she helped rub them down for the night. They would be needed soon enough, when the stage came in tomorrow. Sometimes she talked softly to them and asked about their adventures, but she never heard more than an answering whicker or snort. "Oh, well, "Savilla thought, giving the horses a final pat. "I'd best get inside and help Mama with the dishes. Maybe we'II hear from James and Joe tomorrow."

Because this is such an old property, "a footprint" from the very beginnings of Enon Valley, this article is a little longer than some of the others we have done previously. Every effort has been made, with what resources that have been available, to present a property search as correctly and thoroughly as possible.

The white frame house, now owned by Robert and Elsie Forsyth, has had many owners in its lifetime, as well as many purposes. It is uncertain when it was built, although we know that the town of "Old Enon," or the "Place of Many Waters" was laid out by Enoch Marvin in 1838, according to Durant's History of 1877. Mr. Marvin arranged to have the logs for building the town cut at the Sprott Mill, not far to the west up the Muddy Creek, one of the two streams that formed the Little Beaver at Old Enon.

In looking at maps of "Old Enon," one can see a change of ownership in many of the properties from 1850 to 1860 to 1870. This was a time of growth for Old Enon and its "daughter" Enon Station to the south, which sprang up when the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad came through in about 1850.

The original Warrantee was made to Benjamin Scull, who was believed to have been Enoch Marvin's secretary, in April 1792, and it was surveyed in 1795. It was patented on October 1, 1816 to Thomas Astley, a lawyer whose name appears on many patents in Little Beaver Township. It is referred to as "Faltenburg" in the Lawrence County Warrantee Atlas, although all of Little Beaver and Enon Valley was considered to be part of Beaver County until Lawrence County was formed in 1848.

This land had been part of an original three Warrants, each 400 acres, dated April 14, 1792, which included the lands of Benjamin Scull, William Smith, and Jacob Schreiner. John Dilworth had agreed to purchase Benjamin Scull's land from the Pennsylvania Population Company on December 6, 1795. He also bought an additional 14 3/4 acres from John Sprott to add to the lands near Old Enon. (This had been a portion of the land assigned to Sprott on January 16th, 1796 by the PA. Population Company).

On February 1, 1818, Thomas and Sarah Astley transferred the deed over to Nancy Dilworth and her family, being that John was deceased. John Dilworth had deeded 140 acres to John Chambers, Sr. on June 12th, 1805, and on May 21, 1819, Nancy Dilworth transferred that deed over to John Chambers, Jr. and his brother James.

Both John Dilworth and Chambers, Sr. were deceased at this point. And, on April 4th, 1832, John, Jr. and James Chambers signed over that 140 acres, known in future deeds as "The Old Chambers Farm," to Enoch Marvin. All three of these transactions were recorded in Beaver County Book 10, pp. 230-235, entered on April 11, 1832.

Enoch Marvin laid out Old Enon in the twilight years of his life, as he died in 1840, two years after he had laid out the land in plots. Eliza Marvin, of course, gained ownership of all her husband's holdings at his death, being that they had no living children. We have not found any further legal transfers until Eliza's death about 10 years later. Her will is found in the Lawrence County Courthouse, where she names her dear friends, John and Abijah Hull, Executors of her Will. Eliza directed all of her property to be sold for the best price possible.

Both Enoch and Eliza Marvin were laid to rest in the Little Beaver Cemetery, across the road from the Honey Creek Farm, which they had built and where they had spent so many years. It is nice to know that they felt a connection to the "Place of Many Waters" that they had worked so hard with their neighbors to establish.

The portion of land where the Forsyths now live was sold to Samuel and Charity Taylor on August 20, 1852. The Taylors owned it until August 8, 1856, when it was transferred to William C. Shurlock. On April 1, 1859, William C. and Rebecca Shurlock sold the property to Robert and Susannah Hughes. Robert Hughes died, and Susannah Hughes sold to John and Margaret Marshall on April 3, 1861.

Boundary lines changed so often that it was difficult to decipher the deeds. However, the Chambers Farm continues to be mentioned (Keep in mind, that the original Chambers Farm contained 140 acres). There seems to be times when the actual owners weren't living in the house. An 1852 survey map made by Robert Dilworth shows William Alcorn on the property, which was believed to have been a tavern at some point in its history. And once again referring to Durant's History, John S. McCoy built the second store in the town of Old Enon, which was later occupied by William P. Alcorn.

Although this particular building is not specifically mentioned in the Durant History, it refers to John McCoy taking over the postmaster's position from Josiah McCaskey. And, being that McCoy also owned a store, it is probable that the post office was in the same building. In comparing the size of the Forsyth home with others of the same era, it suggests that it had other purposes besides being a single-family dwelling. W.P. Alcorn is found in 1860 operating a hotel in Enon Station-- had he possibly had a taste for the business in the smaller of the two villages?

In 1860, James Mountain and his family are found in this location, where Unity Road meets what is now State Route 351/551. He is listed as a farmer in this location, but it still could be possible that they operated some sort of a tavern, with all the traffic coming through Old Enon from New Castle. Those were hard times, and many industrious souls found extra ways to earn money for the family. His wife's name was Savilla, and his 14-year-old daughter shared the same name. There were other children in the family as well.

Two of the older sons served in the Civil War. James H., who was listed as a teacher in 1860, joined the 130 PA Infantry in Beaver County with many other Enon boys on September 1, 1862. He was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant on December 13, 1862, after surviving the Battle of Fredericksburg, where many of his friends from Enon fell. He was mustered out with the company on May 26, 1863, and lived the rest of his days in Enon Valley, until he died in September of 1901.

Joseph joined Company G of the 100th PA "Roundheads" on February 19, 1864. He died in a military hospital in Washington D.C. on July 11, 1864, from the effects of a wound in the thigh, received at Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA on May 12, 1864. Fortunately, his family was able to bring his body home: he rests beneath a stone obelisk with an American flag carved on it, in the family plot in the Little Beaver Cemetery.

The Alcorns and the Mountains are not found in any of the deeds investigated, but they may have rented the property from the owners. John Marshall shows up on the 1872 Lawrence County Atlas in that exact location, although he only owned it until March 19, 1875, when it was sold to Jacob Franz. And, since Mr. Franz does not appear in any of the Little Beaver Census Records, we may assume that the home was once again rented out. We wish we knew all the particulars of who did what in regards to the old home, but due to the passage of time, we may never know.

Today, the white frame, two-story house with the old-fashioned purple lantern in front, is occupied by Robert and Elsie Forsyth, who have lived there for 12 years. Mr. Forsyth's parents, Emil H. and Marie C. (Steinecke) Forsyth had inherited the place on February 23, 1944 from Theodore Steinecke H, Marie's father.

Mr. Steinecke was from Pittsburgh's South Side, and he had purchased the property from Jacob and Veronicka Franz in 1906, who had been their neighbors there. The family used it as a summer home until Mr. Steinecke's retirement in 1917. Mr. Forsyth has been recording many colorful family stories that have been passed down from the Steinecke's, which he is willing to share with anyone who asks. They are indeed enjoyable!

The home has seen many Seasons come and go, and has undergone many physical changes too. Up until the early 1900's, the home had another front door, which led to a small room on the left side of the house. In the early days, this may have been used as the post office with a public entrance separate from the house. This door is no longer visible, and the floor plan of the downstairs was changed to accommodate modern conveniences for the growing families that lived there.

Because of its unique character, this lovely home will continue to be a landmark of our town, with its purple lantern beckoning us to remember our rich heritage in the "Valley of Many Waters."