Under blustery winds and brilliant sun, on Saturday, February 19, 2011, the great, good General Washington visited the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield, New Jersey. As you might expect, the Tavern was thronged with so many visitors to hear the general speak that half had to be kept down on the first floor touring in order to stay within the fire marshall's limits on guests in the Assembly Room on the second floor.
My favorite question asked of the general by a local boyscout was, "Did you ever shoot any of your own men." The general nimbly sidestepped this tricky question by talking about the confusion of battle and other officers who'd gotten caught in the crossfire.
The general wasn't the only dignitary at the Tavern, Governor Livingston was also there. The schedule for the events of 2011 was available and is posted to the left, while a photo of General Washington and Governor Livingston is at right.
Among the many momentous historical events that have taken place at the Indian King Tavern, it is where the New Jersey Assembly met to declare New Jersey no longer a British Colony, but an independent state. It is also where the New Jersey State Seal was adopted.
Taverns were far more important to town life than they are today. They were the places where people met to get the news from carters and watermen plying the dusty roads and rivers, and creeks of colonial New Jersey. Business was conducted at the taverns, real estate deals, sales of lumber, crops, and products were made, and celebrations were held there. Taverns were the heart of the colonial community life as churches were the soul.
The Indian King Tavern is a more deluxe and spacious version of the average colonial tavern. In New Jersey, they were larger than their Philadelphia cousins, which tended to be small, one room row house affairs. In New Jersey, several excellent taverns are still standing and can be visited, the Griffith Morgan House, the Burrough Dover House and Hancock House. Burrough Dover served the Big Timber Creek watermen, Griffith Morgan, the Pennsauken Creek traveler, and Hancock House, in Salem County, served the Alloway Creek vicinity. It was also the scene of a horrific massacre of sleeping local militia men by a Loyalist group under the command of the infamous Major Simcoe.
If you haven't visited the Indian King Tavern yet, take advantage of the posted open house dates and come on over. You won't be disappointed, although you are too late for General Washington's Birthday cake, which I can tell you was delicious!
Also of note, I found a book published in 1946 of Betty Cavanna's youth market novel Secret Passages which is set in colonial Haddonfield and features tunnels below buildings on Kings Highway that run to the Cooper River and which were built during the Revolution, but served later for Underground Railroad use. Historians will tell you this is untrue, history myth, not fact, and so I warn you with this disclaimer. Nonetheless, the old book is a great read and many people remember the Betty Cavanna books of their childhood, including Linda Hess, director of the Indian King Tavern, and Dorothy Stanaitis, a trustee of Rutgers, the State University, who nominated her for a Children's Literature Award.