Bidwell Lore – Widow Bingham’s Tavern, Part V

Welcome to week 94 of Bidwell Lore! This week we return to Anna Bingham’s story and learn about the many obstacles she encountered while trying to manage her late husband’s business.

On February 23, 1790, the following ad was published in the Western Star [1]: “All persons who have any demands on, or are indebted to the Estate of SILAS BINGHAM, late of Stockbridge, deceased – or to ANNA BINGHAM & BENJAMIN PEPOON – or the Estate of ANNA BINGHAM, are called to exhibit their accounts for settlement – those indebted are informed, that if they wish to prevent further trouble, they must either discharge their dues IMMEDIATELY, or renew their obligation to ANNA BINGHAM who has for SALE A Considerable quantity of Household Furniture of different sorts, together with A Large and General Assortment of GOODS Suitable for the present and approaching season, which will be sold on very low terms for CASH, WHEAT, RYE, INDIAN CORN, BAR-IRON, HOUSE ASHES, &C.” [2]
On March 22, 1791, this notice was placed in the Western Star: “The Proprietors of the SOUTH SCHOOL HOUSE in Stockbridge are desired to meet at the House of Mrs. Anna Bingham, on TUESDAY next, the 29th inst. At SIX o’Clock, PM. By order of the directors.” [3]
On April 17, 1792, there was this notice in the Western Star: “LEFT the service of the Subscriber, the 30th of March last, an indented Apprentice, by the name of Peter Briggs, Jun. This is to forbid all persons trusting, harboring, aiding or assisting him, as they would wish to avoid the penalty of the law. – The Subscriber expects any person harboring or employing said servant, to be accountable to her for every days employment out of her service. ANNA BINGHAM”. [4]
Then on October 16, 1792: “Twenty Dollars Reward. STOLEN from the subscriber, about the last of August, or first of September, a brown Horse, past three years old, fifteen hands high, natural pacer, a small star in his forehead. Said Horse is supposed to have been taken by one James Davidson, who resided in this county about four or five years, and has formerly lived with the subscriber as a hired man – Whoever will take up and return said Horse, and secure Davidson in Lenox jail, shall receive the above reward”. [5]

Black and white image in the Red Lion inn from the late 19th or early 20th century
An historic photo of The Red Lion Inn

If that was not enough to discourage anyone from continuing in the Tavern business, Anna finds herself once again in court. The September 1793 Court of General Sessions list of Innholders failed to show Anna Bingham as a license holder. In April 1794, from pages 501-2 of the Court of General Sessions, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Anna Bingham, it is noted:

“The Jurors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the body of the said County do on their oath present that Anna Bingham of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire Widow, at said Stockbridge on the fifteenth Day of Sept’r last past, and from that time until the first day of January current, did wickedly and unlawfully & with force and Arms presume to be a common Victualler, Innholder, Tavernor & seller of wine, brandy Rum & other strong liquors by retail & in less quantities than twenty eight Gallons, she not having been first duly licensed according to law, by the Justices of the Peace of the same County where the said Anna did during the Term aforesaid live (viz) the s’d County of Berkshire in general Sessions assembled, according to the regulations expressed in the Statute intitled – “An Act for the due regulation of licensed Houses,” in evil example to others in like manner to offend against the Peace authority & dignity of the Common wealth aforesaid, and the form & effect of the Statute in that behalf provided – Upon which Indictment the said Anna being arraigned  & put to plead how she will discharge herself therefrom, pleads & says she is Not Guilty After a full hearing of this Case the evidence therein having been produced, the same Case is committed to the Jury William Millen foreman & his fellows who have been duly sworn return their Verdict, that in this Case they find that the said Anna is Guilty – It is hereupon considered by the Court that the said Anna pay as a fine the sum of twenty pounds to be disposed of according to law: and the Costs of prosecution Taxed at five pounds eleven shillings & one penny – standing committed etc. : Committed to W. Satterlee D’y Sheriff—“

On May 5, 1795, the following ad was placed in the Western Star: “IN pursuance of an order of Court, will be sold at Publick Auction, on the tenth day of June next, at the HOUSE now occupied by IRA SEYMOUR as a Tavern, in STOCKBRIDGE, all of the real Estate of which ISAAC MRASH, late of Tyringham, Esquire, died seized, in the County of Berkshire, including the right of redemption of the House and Land occupied by said IRA. The sale will begin at Two o’Clock, PM. Silas Pepoon, Silas Whitney, adm”. [6] The tavern rested at the southwest corner of the Red Lion Intersection (28 Main Street) and was originally owned by William Goodrich who sold it to Isaac Marsh. Marsh allowed the Stockbridge Mohicans to buy on credit, most likely knowing they would not be able to pay it back. When he called in his debt the tribe deeded him the land in Vermont that was awarded to them for their service at the Battle of Bennington. That land is now the town of Marshfield, Vermont.

Not all was doom and gloom at Bingham’s Tavern as you can see from this October 27, 1795, ad in the Western Star: “THE Subscriber respectfully informs the Publick that he shall open a DANCING SCHOOL, on MONDAY the second of November, at TWO o’Clock in afternoon, at Mrs. Bingham’s Assembly Room, in STOCKBRIDGE – The School will continue one Quarter – attendance will be given two days in each week, viz. on MONDAY and TUESDAY. The room and musick will be provided by the instructor, and the price of tution for each Scholar is only FOUR DOLLARS the Quarter. ASAPH STEBBINS”. [7]

18th century mezzotint of a tavern interior. There is a fireplace to the left with a man standing in front of it. Next to him is a table with 2 men seated and one man behind with a basket on his back. At the right is the bar where a woman is pouring a man a drink. There is a window in the middle and a basket of vegetables in the foreground on the lower right.
Not the Red Lion Inn, but an 18th century print of a typical tavern interior in the 18th century.
Carington Bowles (1724-1793), Settling the Affairs of the Nation, c. 1775, mezzotint. Printed by Richard Purcell.

The Western Star also shared the following on February 16, 1796: “THE Subscriber informs his friends and the Publick that he has moved from New-Ashford, and has opened a Tavern in the House formerly occupied by Mrs. Bingham, in STOCKBRIDGE, where he has excellent accommodations for those who please to call on him. Good attendance will be given. SAMUEL SPRAGUE” [8]
From the Western Star, February 27, 1797: The subscriber having the lawful authority to settle the accounts of Mrs. ANNA BINGHAM, requests all persons who have accounts open with her to exhibit them for adjustment on the second and third days of March next, at the house of IRA SEYMOUR, at which place he will attend from nine o’Clock in the morning until sun set, on each of said days. Original Entries will be will be required; it will therefore be necessary for those who come to settle to bring their books instead of copies of their accounts. DANIEL PEPOON.
After 1794, Anna no longer shows up in the Court of General Session records in the list of innholders.  Further, in the August of 1810 Court of General Sessions on page 117 “…we report s’d County road to be seven rods & 11 links [9] wide at the commencement of the survey, on the south line of the east & west County road running across Stockbridge plain & east line of the survey of the road herein reported to run from a stake in the ground in the south line of s’d Stockbridge east & west, County road near the northeast corner of Stephen Willard’s Tavern house or widow Bingham’s Tavern house so-called…” Main Street was once Plain Street and the County Road, and prior to the 1954 changes to South Street/Route 7, was Goodrich Street. The Willard family were probably the first innholders in Stockbridge at what is now 18 Goodrich Street. More important for our story is that at the Court of General Sessions for August of 1811, Stephen Willard shows up as the only person to receive an Innholder’s license. From 1795 to 1810, Enoch Willard held innholders licenses and in August of 1811, Stephen Willard acquired a license. It would appear that Willard was the actual licensed person in what was still Anna Bingham’s Tavern.
By 1812, Jonathan Hicks had taken possession of the Tavern. Page 73 from the Court of General Sessions September 1826, “That the present County road as now travelled between the new Court house in Lenox & Tavern house of Jonathan Hicks in Stockbridge is circuitous, & over hilly ground & in the winter is frequently so drifted with snow as to be entirely impassable…”
Further research into Anna Bingham’s story also shows us her connection to the Stockbridge Library. In 1793, Anna Bingham hosted the first annual meeting of the Stockbridge Library Society, one of the first libraries in Western Massachusetts. [10] In August of 1905, Richard Rogers Bowker, President of the Stockbridge Library Association, told members at the annual meeting of the association that in August they found a notebook “The Constitution of the Stockbridge Library Society,” dated December 15, 1789. The notebook gave little information other than the list of twenty-five Stockbridge residents who had each subscribed one share in a subscription library for Stockbridge, [11] Among those who purchased a share and were connected to the Bidwell family: Theodore Sedgwick, Tim Edwards, Isaac Bennett, Stephen West, Erastus Sergeant, Jahleel Woodbridge, Josiah Jones, Oliver Partridge, and Thomas Hunt. At a later date, Barnabas Bidwell purchased a share in the library.
In 1808, fines were determined by book size, with .17 cents due per week for an Octavo or larger and twelve cents for smaller volumes. The bylaws were also very specific as to what constituted damage to a book: “For each of the following offences (viz) for turning down a leaf, for turning over a leaf with a wet, greasy or dirty finger, for a drop of tallow, or a blot of ink; the Proprietor…shall forfeit & pay Eight cents-for tearing a leaf or cracking or bruising a cover seventeen cents – and as much more in each case as the Librarian shall adjudge.” [12]

Stay tuned next week when we finish Anna Bingham’s story. 

[1] The Western Star, Stockbridge, Mass. 1797-1806, the contributors’ names: Benjamin Rosseter, 1773-1815 and Herman Willard, 1775-1826. A weekly newspaper whose politics were Federalist. Started out as Andrew’s Western Star, 1794-1797. Lorning Andrews was the first postmaster in Stockbridge. Later it became the Berkshire Reporter, Pittsfield, Mass. 1807-1815.
[2] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[3] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[4] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[5] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[6] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[7] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[8] Houghton Library, Harvard University
[9] 11 Rods equals 181.5 feet. A link is 7.91339 inches, but rounded out to 8 inches. A chain is four rods or 66 feet and there are 100 links to a chain. 10 chains equal a furlong and 80 chains to a one statute mile. Main Street Stockbridge between Church Street and Elm Street is 132 feet wide.
[10] Harry Lydenberg, “The Berkshire Republican Library of Stockbridge, 1794-1818.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 50 (1941) 145, 156.
[11] Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives m72-6.23.
[12] Page 10, A History of the Stockbridge Library Association, With Special Notice Accorded to the Historical Collection, Barbara Allen, Spring 2000, Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives collection.