Monday, March 12, 2012

Mail Routes, Inns, Taverns and the Tale of a Runaway Stagecoach

The early settlements of Lake County were scattered but communication gradually improved as the roads and bridges were built.  Mail service began in 1803.  Routes from Warren north to Austinburg, and west to Unionville, Painesville and on to Cleveland both ways came to be.  A Mr. McIlvain walked the 180 mile route on foot each week.  McIlvain made the trip on horseback when Detroit was added to his sojourn.   In 1811 service was begun between Buffalo and Cleveland and Asher Bigelow was the mailman.  By 1818 stagecoaches became the new mail delivery modes and Painesville became a stop every Thursday and Friday.  Ashtabula was added as a regular stop just two years later.

Mail and passenger coach lines allowed for the growth of new businesses in the area.  Stabling, feed, and innkeepers became cottage industries.  Two of these old stops still remain in the county today.  In 1805 Ira Blanchard built a log cabin at the Unionville crossroads.  The present structure there was built in 1818.  Joseph Rider built a log cabin in Painesville in 1810.  He replaced it in 1818. Enlarged in 1822, Rider even cut a new road (Walnut) at his own expense to bring South Ridge Road traffic to his location.  Other area taverns reported in the annals of early county history are also well documented.  They included Lutz's Inn in Painesville, Captain Eaton's place on the corner of Johnny Cake Ridge and Chardon Road, as well as  Hezikiah King's tavern and the Franklin House nearby.  From 1815 to 1860 some other notable inns flourished.  These included Jesse Ladd's Tavern in Madison Township, and Lloyd's Tavern in Wickliffe.  Ladd's on South Ridge Road became a home.  Lloyd's was the first stop outside Cleveland and featured a brick exterior and handcarved wooden interior.  It too became a family home before being razed in 1949 to make room for stores opposite Wickliffe JHS.

A popular tale reported in the Painesville Republican told the story of a runaway stagecoach.  The tale was reported as this.  Frank Bryant, the well known driver of the day, was on his route with two lady passengers heading to Cleveland.  At the Rider Tavern a stop was made.  While inside taking the edge off of his thirst, the horses bolted.  Bryant came outside to find no coach at the doorway.  Heading off on horseback, the newspaper article reported Bryant chased his stagecoach at top speed.  It was not until Willoughby that he caught up to the coach when the horses stopped at the doorway of the Willoughby Tavern.  The lady passengers still inside were none the wiser.  The alleged tavern ( Daniel Christy's place on Pelton Street) existed until 1962.

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