Cheers to important taverns in our past


For the Monitor

Published: 06-16-2023 4:04 PM

There are some towns that are known for their fine scenery, others known for grand buildings or theaters scattered about. Some towns are known for their many banks while more might be known for their fine shops full of imports. During the first one hundred and fifty years as a small town, our Concord community was quite unique, for Concord was known for their abundance of taverns.

The original settlers of Concord, initially known as Pennycook and then Rumford, did not choose our current location in jest. There was much thought by those investors in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when they traveled the waters of the Merrimack River heading north from Haverhill, Massachusetts. The early settlers happened upon a bend in the river at Concord and stepped upon the sandy shores of the Merrimack River to explore time and again. They found plenty of fertile soil for planting, lots of trees for building and warmth from their fires and most importantly they discovered a strategic location very nicely settled in the middle of much activity. The river was key for water transportation to Boston and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. The river also provided water for consumption, eventual power for the mills and many salmon to feed the people. Portsmouth was just an hour away on a strong horse traveling the early highway to and from.

Concord was halfway between Boston and Canada allowing for a good stop when trading too.

When you have so very many people traveling back and forth the community grows, with this growth there is a need for provisions. The people continued to follow the common well-traveled roads of the early days resulting in more and more commerce and residents. With the abundance of people there was a need for food and shelter for the weary travelers. Taverns started to sprout up quickly in Concord, offering shelter for both the travelers and their horses, meals and a safe room to spend the night. The early mail stages used the taverns across New England as their scheduled stops for passengers and mail delivery, with the coaches being anticipated and met by many.

As the years passed each of the many taverns in Concord developed their own reputation and became known for the best of their abilities. The Washington Tavern was at the north end of Main Street and well known for their very hearty strong liquors. For many years those in search of robust spirits would visit the Washington Tavern. Butters Tavern stood for many years at the south end of Main Street near the railroad bridge. This tavern was extremely popular in the very old days with large meals being served and many gallons of New England rum consumed day or night. The rum served at the Butters Tavern was always made from quality ingredients from West India. Many military soldiers passing from Boston to Canada found refuge at the Butters Tavern during the colonial period, British soldiers during the very early days prior to the Revolutionary War and later Continental Soldiers serving under George Washington.

Across the road from the well-known Butters Tavern there was the tavern of John George, where his grandson and namesake kept the tavern sign displayed years after it closed. Another of the Revolutionary War period taverns in Concord was the Mother Osgood Tavern near the middle of Main Street. The Mother Osgood Tavern was well known by those hungry colonists and soldiers for their very hearty meals. Another staple of this tavern was their molasses which were made a short distance away at the Sampson Bullard Distillery.

There were no hotels in Concord until well after the year 1800. Every establishment catering to the early travelers were taverns or inns. The earliest hotels were eventually established along Main Street as the 1800’s evolved. The class of tourists flourished and guests began arriving by train at the depot. Early hotels such as the Phenix Hotel, the Columbian, the American House and the Eagle Coffee House arrived. The quality hotels would send carriages to the train depot to pick up passengers and deliver them to their reserved rooms at the Main Street Hotels.

As you travel Main Street the next time stop to admire the last two remaining early hotels where our ancestors did gather soon after the tavern closings. Both the Phenix Hotel and Eagle Hotel buildings still remain in well preserved fashion for those that admire our Main Street history.

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It was only a century and half ago that the grand Concord Coaches were rushing up Main Street behind a team of four to six horses. Destined for the old taverns and hotels the people did gather around as the passengers disembarked onto the cobbled Main Street. The people listened intently as mail was unloaded and strangers were welcomed to our little town.