Allison-Antrim Museum

Pawling's Tavern

by William P. Conrad


Henry Pawling came into the Cumberland Valley in the 1740s when he purchased lands in southern Antrim Township. His holdings lay in the path of what was to become the King's Highway, a primitive route designed by colonial authorities to connect the Susquehanna and Potomac: rivers. He had come from the rural area near Philadelphia in what is now Montgomery County. After erecting his log home he married Mary Hicks, daughter of a neighbor, Nicholas Hicks. Their first child, a son, was named for the father and their only other child, a daughter, was given the name, Eleanor.


Pawling farmed his grant and eventually used his dwelling as a tavern to accommodate the traders with their pack trains engaged in the profitable Indian trade with the tribes of western Pennsylvania. A mill was also built along the stream which ran through the property, but the tavern was the principal business.


The pack trains coming down the Valley from posts along the Susquehanna River and Carlisle or those returning from western Pennsylvania would stop at Pawlings. Here they could rest their animals before resuming their 'journey. As many as several hundred horses could be seen at a time as they pastured in the grass and wooded lands adjacent to the tavern, located south of present day Greencastle.


After a rest of from three to seven days the trains were reloaded to continue westward or to their eastern places of business. Those who were bound for the west would follow the stream at the tavern to the creek. From there they would use a path along the bank of the West Conococheague which led to Black's Trading Post in what is now the Mercersburg area. From here they would continue into the mountain country to the west. This route, like others, connected the interior settlements of Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, and western Maryland, by way of the Potomac River, to the port of Alexandria, Virginia.


Records of Cumberland Valley's early years tell of the retreating army of Col. Thomas Dunbar resting at Pawling's following the defeat of Braddock's forces in July of 1755. During the wars with the French and Indians it was called the "limit of safety on the western frontier."


After the death of his father in 1761, Henry Pawling Jr. continued to operate the business. The earlier log building was replaced by one constructed of rough cast stone. By this time a wagon road extended from Carlisle to the Potomac River, but cargoes destined for the western trade were transferred to pack trains carrying merchandise to Fort Pitt and posts along the way. The James Smith affair of 1765 started at Pawlings when protests were made to the representatives of the Boyton, Wharton, and Morgan firm about the cargo being sent for trade with the western tribes. Smith represented the feelings of the frontier people as they protested against shipping such goods as whiskey, hatchets, knives, firearms, and gun powder to trade with the very tribes who had ravaged their homes for nearly a decade before the defeat of Pontiac and his allies.


During the Revolution the tavern continued as a stopping place for the pack , trains carrying military supplies to Fort Pitt. One account tells of an artillery company, commanded by Captain Isaac Craig, hauling gun carriages and horse shoes to the western fort coming to Pawlings May 27, 1780. By June 29 the march was completed. The elapse of one month, from the time Craig left the tavern. until he reached his destination, indicates the speed with which these trains traveled.


Henry Pawling Jr. married a "lady from Virginia." There were no children and the records indicate that he died in 1794. Apparently the property reverted to ‑ his sister, Eleanor, the wife of Dr. Robert Johnston. At her death, in 1818, a 200‑acre farm on which the tavern stood was willed to her niece, Rebecca Prather, who had made her home with Mrs. Johnston after her husband's death.


Rebecca had married her cousin, John Morgan Pawling, in 1811, and they made their home with Eleanor until she died. Rebecca's husband, a nephew of the first Henry Pawling, had lived in Montgomery County. They and their family moved back to eastern Pennsylvania, but returned in 1827 to occupy the property inherited from Eleanor. From this time until his death in 1838, John Morgan Pawling operated the hostelry and mill. He is said to have been a hard drinking man of prodigious strength, being able to lift a barrel of flour from the floor by his teeth.


Seven children were born to Rebecca and John ‑ four daughters and three sons. The youngest child, Thomas, born in 1824, continued to live at the home place helping his mother conduct the business and farm their land. He married Malinda Benedict of Quincy Township and their family of eight children grew up here.


By then the family was supported mainly by farming and the mill operation. The coming of turnpikes, canals, and railroads connecting western Pennsylvania with the eastern markets left little commercial trade for the ancient hostelry. Eventually, Thomas built a new one in Greencastle which he called the Antrim House. However, the home place continued as part of the Pawling holdings. A map of Antrim Township shows it to be owned by the family as late as 1868.


Today there remains little evidence of where the hostelry or mill stood. Older residents tell of seeing its foundation stones in the field where the Milnor Road meets the highway to Williamsport, Md.


However, as if reminding us of the past, one can still see horses in the field where their forebearers once grazed and waited to carry their burdens to the next destination.



Allison-Antrim Museum, Inc

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