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A memory of a tavern

  • Stickney Tavern on Main Street in Concord. N.H. Historical Society



For the Monitor
Thursday, November 08, 2018

It was a cold morning back in October of 1794. The fog left a damp coating as it seeped into the low ravines. The forlorn sound of a distant tin horn could be heard just south of the small town of Concord. A harbinger of the Concord Coach as it approached the town with passengers destined for the Stickney Tavern.

Within minutes four beautiful white horses entered the South End at a full gallop with reinsman Tom Parson proudly seated on top of his coach. It was a position held in high esteem by most people for with this position Parson was respected as a man with responsibility.

Parson drove his team north each morning and south the next day to-and-from the city of Boston with not only his passengers but the United States mail, documents, parcels and sometimes payroll.

He slowed on Main Street in Concord coming to a steady speed up just past the Eagle Hotel to the Stickney Tavern on this particular trip. The tavern was located just west of Main Street on a slight knoll, a grand residence owned by the prominent Stickney family. He steered his team left onto the circular drive and came to a stop. Greeted by the doorman of the tavern for his tin horn notified the locals that the coach was coming.

The old tavern was a favorite for both travelers and locals with many a dance held. In 1818, there was a grand party for General Ripley from Maine, a soldier in the War of 1812 where the principal decoration was our National Flag suspended on a fishing pole.

Years later, in 1825, the Stickney Tavern hosted a dinner honoring the inauguration of President John Quincy Adams. The old hall was decked out brightly on many a night as the people of Concord would walk down to the cobblestone Main Street for a fine drink or fancy dinner.

There were great sheds and barns opening to the south with plenty of horses and cattle. In one barn could be found “Old Judge,” the horse, and in the yard, “Old White,” the family dog. Both man and beast welcomed and cared for by this fine establishment.

In addition to regular trips to and from Boston, there were many travelers from Vermont that were on their way to Boston, Salem and Newport with the produce their farms grew. They would bring their goods to the markets in the big cities for the best profit. All guests felt well-disposed when visiting the Stickney Inn.

The food was prepared by talented chefs in the kitchen that offered a four-foot brick hearth with iron crane and space to feed many. One Vermont traveler stated: “Stickney’s could make better beefsteak of red oak chips than other taverns that purported to serve beef”.

This grand tavern was located on the present-day site of the Merrimack County Courthouse. The semi-circular driveway started back near the Stewart Nelson parking lot and swept up to the front entry returning to Main Street just north of Court Street. This tavern was commonly referred to as the “Stage Tavern” serving for many years as the preferred stop of the Concord Coach, offering a fine establishment with shelter on a cold New Hampshire night.

The business ran consecutively from 1794 until 1838 when the swing of an axe brought down the colorful sign, boasting the image of the Indian with a Bow and Tomahawk along with the legend “J. Stickney 1794.”

It was the end of an era when the tavern closed, Concord was heading towards more turbulent years with the Civil War approaching within decades and having just bid farewell to many an old man in town that served in the Revolutionary War.

Parson would rise early and prepare to leave for Boston at 4 a.m. after a late night enjoying the Stickney Tavern. He would gather his gear and walk out to feed his fine white horses in the grand barn facing south. Harness the team and awaken the last tavern guest as he prepared to mount his Concord Coach, for he was indeed a proud man with a noble job.

The low fog had returned to Concord as his team trotted south back down Main Street over the dampened ground. He turned and took one last look at the tavern as he passed the State House. Picked up his tin horn and sounded it clearly and loudly, for the coach was leaving and young Parson had a job to do.

The next time you travel along Main Street try to think back to an earlier time when he traveled out with his team of gallant white horses and passengers secure, down Main Street past the State House. Perhaps you might just hear the sound some quiet morning, the sound of the tin horn among the fog and deserted little town of Concord.