Tavern Licenses / Innkeepers


  Licenses were issued to tavern or inn keepers from the earliest years that Old~ Bedford was a county. To give an idea of the number of taverns that were operated in Old~Bedford, the ones for which licenses were granted during the 1770s will be given here. As early as 1773, John Flick, David Geoffery, Christian Hershberger, John Markly and Philip Nolled were the owners of taverns in Elk Lick Township. In 1775 George Funk operated a tavern in Bedford town. Daniel Anderson operated a tavern in 1779 ‘on the road from Fort Cumberland to Archibold Evans’ mill on the Conococheague.’ In the same year Thomas Anderson and David Erwin held licenses to operate taverns in the town of Bedford. Francis Cluggage, John Perkeyson and Ludiwake Silbe operated taverns in Barre Township. In 1779 George MoLeqon and Samuel Todd operated taverns in Bedford Township. In 1779 Daniel Royer was listed as a tavern owner in Ayr Township.

  Although they do not provide much direct genealogical information, the tavern licenses provide indications of an ancestor’s standing in the community. The tavern keeper and his family had to be liked in the community, or the tavern would not be frequented. Also, since most of the community activities took place in the local tavern (such as elections and voter enumerations and enlistment signups for the local militia), the tavern keeper needed to be considered honest and upright in the eyes of his neighbors.

  The tavern license was applied for at the local county court house. The prospective innkeeper would begin the process by filing a petition for the license. The justices of the peace who sat as a Court of Quarter Sessions would make a determination of whether the person should be considered. Then the justices of the peace, in the name of the governor of the state of Pennsylvania, would either grant or deny the request.

  The author’s ancestor, Jacob Schmitt, Jr applied for, and was granted, a tavern license in the early 1810s. The text of that application follows: "To the honorable the Judges of the Court of General Quarter Seƒsions of the peace sitting at Nov. Seƒsions 1814 ~ The Petition of the Subscriber humbly sheweth that he hath provided himself with liquor and other neceƒsaries fitting for the entertainment of travellers and others at his house where he now dwells in Greenfield Township on the road from Newry to Johnstown wherefore he prays your Honours to be pleased to recommend him to his excellency the Governor for his License to keep a public house of entertainment for the Ensuing year, and you petitioner as in duty bound will pray &c." On the outside of the petition document, was written "Granted", implying that the judges approved Jacob’s request.

  Names of tavern keepers can be accumulated in a number of places. Tax assessment returns often provide the occupations of the residents; the notation of ‘tavern’ or ‘innkeeper’ will be found throughout the assessment returns. Tavern Licenses are maintained in the Vault #1 of the Bedford County Court House. They are kept in boxes and arranged by year of issue. There are also a couple books which have been published that include transcripts of the names found in the foregoing two sources.

Bedford County Taverns 1779-1797 (Partial Listing)
unpublished by Pioneer Historical Society of Bedford County

Tavern Keepers And Innkeepers
by James B. Whisker and Vaughn E. Whisker, 1983 (available from Closson Press)