Pulaski County Fact Book II
Chapter 5 Trade, Transportation, Taverns, and Hotels

The Cumberland River was the most important early route of trade and transportation to and from Somerset. Although the town was located six miles north of the river, that water way offered the best means of communication and egress to the outside world.

The first landing, for loading and unloading merchandise shipped by flatboats on the Cumberland River, was the James Montgomery landing. According to the County Court records, this Montgomery seems to have been an early promoter of Pulaski County. Order Book I records a ferry established in May 1800 by James Montgomery and the rates of said ferry to be as follows, to wit: For man and horse S/6 D1 and the transportation of other things to be according to law.

In 1807, James Montgomery had the first recorded warehouse on the Cumberland. Committees were appointed by the court to inspect the warehouses. In December, 1807, the court appointed Philip A. Sublette and Samuel Tate, esquires, to view the scales and try the weights at Montgomery’s warehouse on the north side of the Cumberland River and also view and report the state of said warehouse to the next term of court as directed by law.

In 1807, James Montgomery came before the court to have a town established on his lands on the north side of the Cumberland River. Notice of this motion was proven and it was therefore ordered that a town be established on his lands and called and known by the name of Montgomeryville, and that 20 acres of said lands be laid off into convenient lots and streets and be vested in Andrew Cowan, Frederic Williams, Isaac Hayes, John Prather and Tunstall Quarles, and that he enter into bond in the clerk’s office of Pulaski County, conditioned as the law directs, with Tunstall Quarles his security.

In the early days of Pulaski County there were many ferry boats across the Cumberland River. The first ferry was established by Samuel Newell in 1799. Other early ones were established by Samuel Edgman in 1799, George Smith in 1800, James and Thomas Montgomery in 1800, Israel Hart in 1804, Joseph Evans in 1804, Martin Turpin in 1804, Amos Barnes in 1808, and Whiteside and Coffey in 1808.

Later there were two important landings on the river where goods leaving Somerset and those bound for that town were loaded and unloaded. These two were Waitsboro and Point Isabel. The latter was later named Burnside in honor of the Union General Burnside who, legend reports, made his headquarters there after the battles of Dutton’s Hill and Fishing Creek. Some goods were carried to and from Somerset by wagon train to points as far away as Louisville and Lexington. Most of the goods were brought up the Cumberland River from Nashville, Tennessee. The wagon transportation was slow and very expensive and a trip to Louisville and return required more than two weeks at times.

Waitsboro was the first river port and the nearest to Somerset. This port was another of Cyrenius Wait’s enterprises, hence the name. The town of Waitsboro was incorporated March 2, 1844, and had prospects of becoming an important center of river commerce. Much valuable merchandise was handled at this little river port as is indicated by some of the bills of lading still in the possession of some of the descendants of Cyrenius Wait.

Between 1846 and 1900, the Cumberland River was used extensively by various steamboat companies whose boats made regularly scheduled trips up and down the river between Point Isabel at the junction of the South Fork and the Cumberland, and the little port of Waitsboro a few miles down river and Nashville and other points farther south. Prior to 1846, there seems to have been only an occasional boat on the river. The older inhabitants of Somerset say their parents tell of going to Waitsboro and Point Isabel to the boat docks and unload their cargo and load for the outward bound trip. Occasionally there would be a passenger leaving or returning from a trip down river. The returning passenger would have many interesting tales to relate about the things he had seen on his journey up and down the Cumberland.

Such steamboats as the Rose of Sharon, Mary Duke, Pride of the West and Isaac Garrot were plying the waters of the Cumberland in 1846, and continued to operate for several years. The Alida ran from 1847 to 1856; the Pilot in 1848; the Uncle Ben in 1849; the Edmonia and the Day in 1850; the Edmonia was still carrying goods in 1860; the America, Harry Hill,f Nashville, George Collier, E. Howard, and California brought goods up the river in 1853; Eclipse in 1854; and the William Henry, 1859.

These boats made annual trips with the spring freshets. Among the goods brought up the river would be found iron bars, chains, rope, iron pots, millstones, indigo, sugar, salt, soda, molasses, coffee, and books. On the return trip down the river the boats carried tobacco, bark, beans, flax seeds, lard, beef, dried apples, corn, and whiskey. The Wait papers stopped with the year 1860, but the Cumberland continued to be used as a route of trade and transportation with the outside world even after the coming of the railroad to Somerset. Pleasure trips and excursions were still advertised as late as 1930. The steamboat disappeared from the upper Cumberland entirely about 1932.

The early roads leading into Somerset at the town’s birth were hardly more than mere trails. However, soon after the county had been formed and the county seat decided upon, roads became one of the primary interests of the citizens. On February 23, 1802, the County Court ordered that notification be sent to the County Court of Lincoln County that Pulaski County had opened a road from Somerset toward Danville to the county line and suggested that Lincoln County continue the road in a direction toward Danville. This road seems to have been important; for later there was to much traffic between the towns of Somerset and Stanford, county seat of Lincoln County. Travel and transportation between these towns was mostly by horseback, wagon, and stagecoach. In the years before the coming of the railroad to Somerset at five o’clock. In the morning and arriving in Stanford three o’clock in the afternoon. The following day the return trip to Somerset was made during the same hours. The distance between the two towns is about thirty-six miles, a fact that indicates that the stagecoach was not that slow as a means of travel, since the roads were not paved and were of impassable because of rains and snow. Even as late as 1875, some of the state roads were bad, judging from the following account in the Interior Journal of Stanford:

Larkin Edge says a man can’t drive a stage from this place to Somerset and be a Christian.

The mud is do deep and the road so long that a Christian man would lose all patience with

himself, his horses, and his coach before he got to Waynesburg. After he reached that

point, Job himself would get out of heart before he reached his destination. (Interior Journal

February 5, 1875)

Yet, three and six-tents miles an hour seems terribly slow in this day of speed and luxury. No information was available as to when this stagecoach line began operations, but it appears to have been several years prior to the War between the States.

Since roads and means of travel were such that it required several hours or days to make a journey of only a few miles, it was necessary that inns and taverns be available at convenient locations to lodge the travelers overnight. So it was that taverns were an early landmark in the county and in Somerset. Laws governing these taverns were among the first on the Kentucky statute books. According to a law enacted by the General Assembly in 1793, a person intending to keep a tavern had to secure a license from his County Court for a period of one year, giving bond guaranteeing his good conduct, and stating that he should display in his public room the table of tavern rates which were fixed by the County Court every two years.

Henry Francis was granted the first tavern license in Pulaski County, December 24, 1799. This tavern was located Southeast of the town and was operated by William Fox who secured his license November 23, 1807. He continued to operate this tavern until 1815. William J. Sallee was granted a license in 1809 to keep a tavern in his dwelling house in the town of Somerset, and acknowledged bond with John Chesney.

Between 1807 and 1820, operating a tavern was apparently a popular enterprise. In November, 1810, Vincent Garner secured a license to keep a tavern at his home in Somerset. Then in 1814, no less than three different men obtained licenses to keep taverns in their homes. These men were Joseph Girdler, who secured his license on June 21, 1814, John Newby, who was granted permission "to keep a tavern at his dwelling house in the Town of Somerset," and John Findley, who was authorized to keep a tavern in Somerset on November 21, 1814. (Order Book II, pp. 514, 516, 525.)

The first table of tavern rates prepared by the court, February 25, 1800, set the following rates:

L. S. D.

To Whiskey pur gallon 12

To Peach Brandy pur Do 15

To Rum pur Do 1 4

To Wine pur Do 1 4

To French Brandy 1 4

To Beer pur Do 3

To Dinner 1 6

To Supper 1 3

To Breakfast 1 3

To Lodging 6

To Corn or Oats pur galllon 8

To Hay or Fodder pur horse for 24 hours 1

Pasturage for same length of time 1

One of the first indications of this changeover from the use of English money to American denominations was revealed in the tavern rates set March 25, 1815. The following is a typical example of the table of rates one might have seen on the wall of a public room of a tavern about 1820:

For Breakfast $ . 25

For Dinner .25

For Supper .25

For Lodging .12

For Wine pr. Qt 1.50

For French Brandy pr. pt. .37

For Rum pr. Do .37

For Gin pr. Do .37

For Peach or Apple Brandy pr. Do .12

For Whiskey pr. Do .12

For Cider pr. Qt. .12

For Mault Beer pr. Do .12

For Cider Royal pr. Do .25

For Corn and Oats pr. Gal .12

For Hay or Fodder pr. Horse for 24 hrs. .25

Taverns registry apparently came to an end around 1880 for the following table of tavern rates of 1879 is one of the last to be recorded in the court records:

For Single-Diet $ .50

For Single lodging .50

For Board (including lodging) per day 2.00

For Board (including lodging) per week 7.00

For single feed for horse or mule .50

For feeding horse or mule per day 1.00

For feeding horse or mule per week 3.50

For Wines, Whiskies, Brandies and all other drinks per drink .10

Taverns as such were being replaced in Somerset as early as 1850 by more accommodating hostelries, which were often called "Houses," or what might be called hotels today.

The early successors to the taverns were the "Coffee Houses." One of the earliest of these was owned and operated by Richard Reynolds, who secured his license from the Pulaski County Court with the approval of the Somerset board of Trustees after paying the State tax of $25.00 and taking the "oath as directed by law" – March 9, 1869.

One of the first of these lodging establishments in Somerset was the Harris Hotel, located on the Public Square at the corner of Main and Mt. Vernon. It was quite popular due to its well-stocked bar and other conveniences. The court officers and out-of-town lawyers found lodgings there and the traveling public enjoyed its hospitality and entertainment. After the War between the States, the Harris House came into the possession of Benjamin Zachery and its name was changed to the Zachery House. Later it became the property of Judge Charles Zachery, a son of Benjamin Zachery. Judge Zachery transferred it to his son-in-law, M. E. Ingram. After this it became the property of Judge Sim Hicks, who later built a two-story brick building on the northeast corner of Main and Columbia Streets. This was known as the Hicks House. This hostelry advertised in 1876 as having a "good stable attached all the other accommodations usually found at first class hotels guaranteed." In time this hostelry became the possession of Hampton Brinkley, a prosperous farmer of the Dallas section of Pulaski County. Brinkley came to town to live and built another pretentious three-story frame hotel on this site, and ran the establishment for several years. In time this hotel changed hands again and was owned and operated by a man named Hart, who had formerly lived in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

The Sheppherd House also advertised as being located on the west side of Main Street below the Public Square. Its rates were: Single Meal -- $.40; Per Day -- $1.50; Man and Horse Per Day -- $2.50; Good Stable and Plenty of Provender.

While Somerset was still a young town, there was another hotel located on the southeast corner of the Public Square. This one was remembered by some of the older folks as the Cumberland Hotel. It was managed by Nellie and Elizabeth Griffin. No information was available regarding these two women. Some of the older townsmen say this was the Zachery House. This may have been possible since the narrow, short street leading from the southeast corner of the Square to Market Street is known as Zachery Way. It is also sometimes referred to as "Deadman’s Alley" or "Death Alley," because of the number of killings that are said to have occurred there.

Another and perhaps more historic hostelry was located on the northeast corner of the Public Square. It was a rambling two-story structure with porches on three sides, upstairs and down, and extended north on Main Street and east on Mt. Vernon Street. The upstairs was reached by an outside stairway. On the front, in large block lettering, was the name of this popular hotel – The National House – which was eventually torn down in 1884. Some of the older townspeople "expect it was over one hundred years old."

The Popplewell House was built in more recent years by an elderly couple, Jeff and Ellen Popplewell, who had come to Somerset from Russell County. After the death of the Popplewell’s it became the property of T.J. Candler. It was destroyed by fire in 1912.

About 1915, J.J. Adams purchased an old building at the south end of Main Street and he and his daughter, Mrs. Mattie Alexander, erected a three-story brick hotel that is still in operation. During its first years of existence it was known all over the upper South as a place where excellent meals were served. It has been called the Adams House, Alexander House, and at present the Kenwick Hotel.

The Candler House was for years on South Main Street. It burned in the 1950’s.

The Hotel Beecher was a community dream – a project which was begun by a group of progressive minded Somerset citizens. The completion of this seventy-three room, fire-proof, five-story hotel in April, 1930, illustrated the cooperative spirit that had long been characteristic of the town’s inhabitants. It was erected at a cost of $250,000 and was looked upon as representing a long step in progress from "Aunt Ellen Popplewell’s Hotel."

When the fabulous gold fields of Alaska and the silver mines of Nevada were attracting men to them in 1902, the Newton Brothers of Houstonville, Kentucky (one of whom was Sylvester), came to Somerset and bought an old landmark, the Brinkley House, upon whose site they erected the Newtonian Hotel. This building was purchased by the Citizens National Bank and has been torn down for the future site of a new Citizens bank.

Chapter Six

Last Update Thursday, 27-Dec-2012 13:39:17 EST

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