A Civil War reunion at an early tavern. SUBMITTED

A Civil War reunion at an early tavern. SUBMITTED

Remember, the early taverns in Robertson County were not saloons. They were necessary places for the traveler to have a meal and spend the night. Ordinaries were similar and the term was used frequently in Robertson County Court records dating from 1796.

Archer Cheatham had bought the ordinary owned by Lucy Parker in 1801, but another Cheatham, John L. Cheatham, ran a tavern too. At that time, taverns were almost always made of logs or were frame. This tavern was a rarity, however. It was made of brick, and it was proudly named  the Brick Tavern.

It was built on the corner where the Agriculture Extension Office is now located – the northeast corner of May Street (Fifth Avenue) and Main. And from the time the Brick Tavern was built there until the Colonial Hotel was torn down in our lifetimes, there was always a tavern – a hotel – in that spot.

In 1823, the Brick Tavern was advertized as a “House of Entertainment.” The location was described as “directly opposite the stand formerly occupied by Archer Cheatham.”

John L. Cheatham and his family lived in the Brick Tavern until his death in 1833. When his children “came of age,” they sold it to Thomas M. Henry.

This is the Marion Henry who became well-known as the maker of cabinets and of coffins and the beginning of the Henry and Bell “dynasty,” so to speak.

Thomas M. Henry owned lots of property in Springfield and the Brick Tavern was part of that. He owned it from 1851-1853.

J.A. Payne was the next owner. Sarah Payne became the owner at the death of her husband.

An issue of the Springfield Speculator in 1860 told that D.D. Holman owned it next. He renamed it the Cheatham House.

In February, 1862, the Civil War had begun, Fort Donelson had fallen and Federal troops occupied Springfield. Their headquarters for the next three years happened to be the Cheatham house.

After the war, a Court case told that the hotel had been “materially damaged.” Fencing around the building had been destroyed, the stable had been destroyed, the “Tavern House” and outbuildings had been damaged.

The coming of the railroad in the late 1850’s had already changed things for the taverns and the inns. The word “ordinary” basically became obsolete.

Suddenly there were hotels where the traveler could stay, and there were saloons – another story.

The Cheatham House would continue under that name for several more years and several different owners. For all practical purposes, however, the day – and the value of – taverns, inns and ordinaries was gone.

In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.


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