Sprague's Tavern

Sprague's Tavern, now The Tavern on Main, was built in the early 1700's. It was originally a two-and-a -half story colonial dwelling built on a stone foundation. The founders started with a huge center fireplace (the upper portions, unfortunately, have been removed over the years) as a building block. Framed walls and floors extended from the fireplace using hand-hewn native chestnut and oak lumber in a post and beam construction. These beams and timbers are evident throughout the building as it stands today.

The Dorr Rebellion
The village of Chepachet was the site of the most controversial political upheavals in Rhode Island's history, and The Tavern on Main was right at the center of this activity.

In 1842, Chepachet resident Thomas Dorr, a well-respected lawyer, was duly elected Rhode Island governor by the people's party. The incumbent governor, Samuel King, refused to step down. Intent on conducting business, Governor Dorr called the Rhode Island general assembly to convene in Sprague's Tavern on July 4, 1842.

The mounting struggle for power prompted Governor King to order a general call to arms to quell "Dorr's rebellion." King's forces marched toward Chepachet to do battle with Dorr's troops who were entrenched atop Acote's Hill (now Acote's Cemetery located just 1/4 mile south on Route 44). Dorr, realizing he would be outnumbered and outgunned, wisely withdrew to the tavern before their arrival.

Hours later, when King and his troops arrived in the village, they marched up to the tavern. Thwarted by a locked door, they pointed their pistols at the windows of the tavern. When Dorr's men inside pointed their muskets in return, King's troops backed off. As the tavernkeeper, Jedediah Sprague, jumped out a window to defend his establishment, words were exchanged, tempers flared higher, and one of King's soldiers fired a shot through the keyhole of the locked door. Inside, George (or Horace) Bardeen was struck in the thigh.

Jedediah Sprague
The only other casualty of the Dorr Rebellion was the tavernkeeper's purse. Owner Jedediah Sprague, in order to save his patrons and his establishment, was forced to admit King's troops to the tavern. Much to Sprague's dismay, the troops remained there through the remainder of the summer of 1842. An 1844 volume discloses that during the course of that time King's troops consumed 37 gallons of brandy, 29 gallons of West India rum, 34 flasks of liquor, dozens of bottles of old madeira and sherry, 12 dozen bottles of champagne, and 2 dozen bottles of cider. They were also responsible for using up 820 bushels of oats, 17 tons of hay, 50 bushels of corn, 16 bushels of meal, and a quarter ton of straw. In all, they consumed 2,400 dinners and smoked 11,500 cigars. Jedediah Sprague never collected a penny on the bill.

The Stagecoach Line
TheTavern on Main was a main stop along the route traveled by a stagecoach line from Providence to nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts. For this reason, the tavern became known as The Stagecoach Restaurant. Travelers would dine in the evening and lodge overnight, continuing their journey the following day. Drivers exchanged weary horses for fresh ones in a barn located in the back of the building.

The tavern has changed hands many times during the ensuing decades and served many different purposes ... first a drab apartment building, then a billiard parlor, later a pub, and finally a restaurant -- as The Stagecoach Tavern and The Tavern on Main. With each change, the building has been renovated and upgraded.

The tavern has once again assumed its key position in the thriving village of Chepachet. Though stagecoaches no longer bring patrons to the door, the tradition of hospitality ... a friendly welcome and a hearty meal ... continues.


Historical research by Edna Whitaker Kent, Town Historian

 

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