The Oliver White Tavern

Asa White House at 2 Brandy St.

by Hans DePold, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, February 2006)

Dr. Charles F. Sumner settled in Bolton in 1842 and said that until 1851, Bolton sometimes sustained as many as four taverns. The building of the railroad (in 1850 in Bolton) soon ended the age of the stagecoach, the Bolton taverns, and much of the importance of Bolton roads for interstate commerce. That is one of the reasons many of Bolton's historic sites and natural heritage have survived to today.

French maps from the Revolutionary War have the Oliver White Tavern marked on them at the location that is now 2 Brandy Street. The records indicate that Oliver White bought the land in 1741 and sold it with a house on it in 1743. The records indicate it became a tavern between 1753 and 1764. It was customary to refer to houses by their original owners. When businesses were sold it was also advantageous to keep their original name to keep the good will of the customers.

In early America taverns were not just respectable, they were a necessity. The Colonial Records of Connecticut, as early as 1644, ordered "one sufficient inhabitant" in each town to keep an ordinary (tavern), since "strangers were straitened" for want of entertainment. The Bolton taverns were for the convenience of travelers, the comfort of our townspeople, the interchange of news and opinions, the sale of refreshments and beverages, and for incidental sociability. In fact, the importance of the tavern to Bolton was far greater than to travelers. During the 1700s, when there were no office buildings, banks, or post offices, taverns served all those functions. It was in taverns that Bolton lumber and quarry stone were bought and sold, new companies were formed, militia was inducted, auctions were held, stagecoaches stopped, and mail distributed.

The taverns played an important role in the development of a colonial transportation network. Bolton was situated on the fastest route connecting Boston, Hartford, New York, and Philadelphia. The early Bolton taverns that served stagecoaches were located on the Boston Post Road and the Providence and Hartford Roads. Until 1795 all three of those roads converged on a single road that went past the Oliver White Tavern. Prior to the Revolution it was a major smuggling route far from the British tariff and tax collectors. During the Revolution it was the main route in New England used to deploy and supply the Continental and French armies. Connecticut was then the pantry of the colonies and soon became its armory as well.

Innkeepers reflected the high public status accorded their establishments. Publicans were commonly among a town's most prominent citizens and not infrequently were deacons of the church and town moderators. During the Revolutionary War the Oliver White Tavern located on East Street (now Brandy Street) was owned by Captain Joel White and it became a favorite inn of French and American officers.

A new pastor's ordination day was almost as great a day for the tavern as for the meetinghouse. The visiting ministers who came to assist at the religious service were usually entertained at the tavern. Often an especially good beer was brewed called "ordination beer," and in Connecticut an "ordination ball" was given at the tavern—this with the sanction of the parsons.

On September 5, 1774, the town records show that Captain Joel White was the town meeting moderator. At that meeting Bolton decided to send Captain Thomas Pitkin and Seth King to Hartford to discuss a possible boycott of British goods. That was the first step that led to American independence. During the Revolution Captain White lent 3,000 pounds to the State of Connecticut and to the United States. He was a Bolton Justice of the Peace, Town Treasurer, and a representative to the state legislature.

If they were good hosts, publicans did their best to make patrons comfortable. There was no putting on of airs, no exclusiveness. All travelers sat at the same table. You paid not for a whole room but for a place in a bed. Many of the rooms had two beds, and four strangers often slept in one room. After you were asleep the landlord often entered, candle in hand, with a stranger to share your bed till morning. The honor system worked then. It was said that anyone who objected to a stranger as a bedfellow was regarded as intolerable or unreasonably fastidious.

One woman traveling alone at that time wrote of a different tavern:

"Being very hungry I desired a Fricassee which the landlord undertaking managed so contrary to my notion of Cookery that I hastened to Bed superless. Being exceedingly weary down I laid my poor Carkes never more tired and found my Covering as scanty as my bed was hard. Anon I heard another Russelling noise in the room—called to know the matter—Little Miss said she was making a bed for the men; who when they were in Bed complain'd their Leggs lay out of it by reason of its shortness—my poor bones complained bitterly not being used to such Lodgings, and so did the man who was with us {me}; and poor I made but one Grone which was from the time I went to bed to the time I riss which was about three in the morning Setting up by the fire till light."

Captain Joel White's Family Tree

Captain Joel White was descended from Elder John White (1605-1684), who came from England in 1632 on the ship Lion and, after living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was admitted freeman in 1633 and townsman in 1635, removed to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636, as one of the original proprietors. He was frequently townsman there as well as at Hadley, Massachusetts, whither he moved in 1659. In 1671 he returned to Hartford and was ordained ruling elder of the Second Church in 1677. In 1622 he married Mary Levitt, the daughter of William and Margaret Levitt.

His son, Lieutenant Daniel White (1639 [1634] 1713), settled in Hatfield, Massachusetts. He married, November 1, 1661, Sarah, the daughter of John Crow (1606-1686), a proprietor of Hartford, and his wife, Elizabeth, the only daughter of Elder William Goodwin, an original proprietor of Hartford and a man of great influence.

The son of Lieutenant Daniel and Sarah (Crow) White was Captain Daniel White (1671-1726), who married, 2d Ann, the daughter of John Bissell of Windsor, Connecticut, and his wife, Isabel, the daughter of Major John Mason of Saybrook, Connecticut, the famous leader in the Pequot War. John Bissell was the son of John Bissell, one of the settlers of Windsor, whose family was of Huguenot origin.

The son of Captain Daniel and Ann (Bissell) White was Captain Joel White (1705-1789), who married four times: Ruth Dart, Ruth ?, Eunice ?, and Sarah ?.

His son, Captain Daniel White (1749-1816), married Sarah Hale, the daughter of Captain Jonathan Hale and his wife, Elizabeth Welles.