Bidwell Lore – Widow Bingham’s Tavern, Part III

Welcome to week 92 of Bidwell Lore! This week we continue our new series about Anna Bingham and her tavern.

At the end of last week’s article, we mentioned that at some point between 1795 and 1807 Anna Bingham had spent three thousand dollars to purchase from Silas Pepoon the same property she had acquired from her son in 1795, with 80 acres added.      
Silas Pepoon owned huge tracts of land in Berkshire County and his speculating finally caught up to him as he ended up losing most of his land as well as Bingham’s Inn, which was mortgaged, and was sold at a public auction to a Barnabas Adams and then acquired by Jonathan Hicks. [1] Hicks died intestate leaving: 1 dwelling house occupied as a Tavern with abt. 2 acres land and all the Out Buildings thereon subject to the widow’s right of dower. [2] The Probate Court was held at the time and location convenient for the judge: “The will of Abner Dewey, Sen. (#951, 5 Jan. 1779) was processed at a court of probate holden at Stockbridge at the house of Anna Bingham before Timothy Edwards, judge of said Court.” [3] Probate court was held in Stockbridge from 1778 to 1795, first under Timothy Edwards and then under Jahleel Woodbridge. Jahleel Woodbridge married Timothy Edwards’ sister Lucy and they lived at Laurel Cottage, a long-time Bidwell homestead.
Court of General Sessions records are virtually non-existent between late 1773 and early 1781. The only reference to Stockbridge was the entry from November of 1775 listing Benjamin Willard as an Innholder [4] and Timothy Edwards as a Retailer.[5]

The Elms, home of Barnabas Bidwell. Yellow, 3-story, center hall colonial home
27 Main Street in Stockbridge today. Former home of Timothy Edwards which he later sold to Barnabas Bidwell.

By April of 1781, Anne Bingham shows up in the list of licensed Innholders, and listed under her is one Isaac Marsh who acquired William Goodrich’s Inn and Tavern at what is now 28 Main Street. Capt. Isaac Marsh shows up in the August 1781 Court of General Session license list and William Goodrich is licensed as a Retailer. William Goodrich built his inn in 1773 and he received a license “for keeping a house of Publick Entertainment” 19 February 1773. The good Captain seemed to find soldiering more to his liking than innkeeping, and marched off with a company of Stockbridge Indians to the siege of Boston where they participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill. They later transferred to Benedict Arnold’s Quebec expedition, where Goodrich was captured by the British on 1 January 1776. He was then exchanged in 1777 and returned to Stockbridge. Goodrich was married to one of Timothy Woodbridge’s daughters, which makes him a sort of cousin-in-law and as such he is fodder for another Bidwell Lore series which we will begin in a few weeks.
It appears that Anna Bingham operated the tavern after her husband’s death until the summer of 1781, when she had to renew her Innholder’s license with the Court of General Sessions. [6] In August she made application and was rejected by the court. She then obtained a letter of support from the board of selectmen in September and petitioned the General Court in Boston. [7]
            “Your petitioners late Consort Mr. Bingham of Stockbridge Dyed the last winter. For some years before his Death he had made tavern keeping his whole business, that for his Accommodation And that of travellers he had laid out [a] great part of his Estate in a large and Elegant house, your petitioner was therefore left without Any other means to obtain a livelihood for herself And fatherless Children but tavern keeping. Inadvertently Supposing that she could obtain a license at the Court of General Sessions without Approbation from the Selectmen As the Situation of the law has been Such in the County of Berkshire for A number of years there have been no licenses granted. But Applied to sd Court at their last Setting. She was informed that they were fully impressed with A Sence of the necessity of A tavern in that place yet they could not license her before she obtained Approbation Agreeable to law. The matter was by this So much Delayed that She Could not procure an Approbation from the Selectmen til the Court was up, your petitioner therefore prays that this honorable Court would grant her a license.”

Black and White historic photo of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge Massachusetts. View is of the front of the inn, with trees in front.
An historic photo of The Red Lion Inn

The Senate rejected her petition and Anna appealed to the Selectmen for a second time. They certified to the Court that she was “a Person of Sober Life & Conversation, is Sutably Qualified & Provided for an Innkeeper in the Town of Stockbridge.” The senate reconsidered her case and empowered two Berkshire justices to issue her a license. Problem solved: or was it?

At the September 1782 Court of General Sessions, page 82, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Anna Bingham:
The Jurors for the Common wealth of Massachusetts for the body of said Berkshire on Their oath present that Anna Bingham of Stockbridge in said County Widow at said Stockbridge on the first day of January last past, with force and Arms unlawfully and wickedly did presume to keep a Tavern (now the Red Lion Inn), and did then and there sell Retail Rum, Wine & Brandy, being a species of Spirituous liquor unto one Caleb Wright and various other persons, without license first orderly had and obtained for the same, in evil example to others in like Case to offend & against peace, Authority & Dignity of the Common wealth of Massachusetts, and their Law in that case made and provided. Upon which presentment the said Anna being arraigned, and put to plead how she will discharge herself of the aforesaid Presentment, pleads and says, that She will not contend with the Common wealth  — Wherefore it is considered by the Court, and thereupon by the said Court adjudged and determined that said Anna Bingham pay the sum of six pounds as a fine to be disposed of according to law, and the Costs of this prosecution Taxed at two pounds four schillings and six pence, and that she stand committed untilperformance of the sentence.

Notwithstanding that setback, she was able to receive annual renewals of her license for the next eleven years. However, when Silas Bingham’s estate was probated the commissioners declared it insolvent.[8] Creditors claimed L702 against assets of L105. Just before Christmas of 1783 Anna’s sister, Lydia, died of smallpox at age nineteen and was laid to rest beside Silas. Her epitaph: “What was tho short they date / Virtue not rolling suns the mind matures.” [9]

Next week we will share some more details about a medical society that meets at Bingham’s Tavern throughout the 1780s.

[1] Hicks Tavern was the location for a court hearing involving Mum Bet, aka Elizabeth Freeman.
[2] Probate Court of Berkshire County case #4580.
[3] At that time Edwards lived at the northwest corner of the Red Lion intersection, now 27 Main Street, which he sold to Barnabas Bidwell in 1792. Edwards then moved to what is now 8 South Street. As we have mentioned in past Bidwell Lore, Edwards was a Bidwell cousin through Mary Gray Bidwell, wife of Barnabas Bidwell.
[4] Operated out of his house at what is now 18 Goodrich Street. The house looks the same as it did then.
[5] Edwards ran a store out of one half of his house at what is now 27 Main Street, and during the Revolutionary War, he was the major supplier for West Point. Barnabas Bidwell purchased the house in 1792.
[6] The court was an inferior court, which also acted like a county government.
[7] The General Court was made up of the House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor.
[8] Berkshire County Probate Court, Docket 1046.
[9] Matthew 23:14, Mark 12:40, and Luke 20:47. Miles, Lion. “Anna Bingham: From the Red Lion Inn to the Supreme Court.” The New England Quarterly 69, no. 2 (1996).