Early inhabitants were served by the first recorded tavern in 1648. The settlement had grown to such an extent that the General Court granted: “Francis Smith has leave of the court to draw wine in Reading for the refreshment of travelers and others, he paying the legal excise therefor.”
An innholder or taverner received his license from the General Court only if he complied with formidable laws and restrictions. Each tavern was compelled to provide stables in conjunction with the Inn, and that the innkeeper be responsible for his clients’ horse or cattle by providing food, shelter and care. “There was to be no drinking or tippling after nine o’clock in the night, under the penalty of twenty shillings.” “That no singing, fiddling, piping, or any other musiek, dancing, or reveling shall be suffered or exercised, in any tavern, or other publick licensed house, on penalty of ten shillings.” “That common drunkards be posted up at the houses of retailers of wine and liquors out of doors, and the law directs to publick licensed houses, with a prohibition to them of selling drink to any such.”
The inn or taverns were also a main center for the community’s civic affairs, town meetings and elections. The license required the recipient to “locate his tavern as near the meeting house as can bee”. The meeting house where church services occurred was generally unheated during the winter. The congregation arriving from outlaying farms after a long drive or walk in the extreme cold weather could go to the tavern before and after services. They could also replenish their foot-stoves with burning pine and hard wood knots from the fire of the inn.
There was a tavern located in the westerly part of the Parish, near Mill and Park Streets in the vicinity of Lobbs Pound Mill in the mid-1800’s. At that time the main road from Boston to the interior of the colony passed by the mill. Traffic also passed eastward toward Salem and westerly to Concord and Greenfield, Massachusetts. The tavern was near enough to the local training field to be a rallying point for the local militia. Eliezer Flint, son of George Flint and Jerusha Pope Flint, and grandson of Sergt. George Flint was the landlord for this tavern. Eliezer was born on March 12, 1731. He acquired the tavern about 1761 and conducted it along with an extensive farm containing two hundred acres until his death in 1808.
On the south side of the Ipswich River at the junction of Mill and Short Streets was a tavern operated by Jeremiah “Jerry” Nichols Junior, previously owned by his father. Jerry Nichols, Jr. mortgaged this tavern in 1818 to Mr. Edward Southwick.
Jerry then moved to the center of North Parish where he built a large tavern o n the west side of Haverhill Street opposite the Common. He didn’t prosper in this location and in 1824 sold the building and land to Colonel Flint, who opened and Academy.
Barnard’s Tavern became a well known station between Boston and Concord, New Hampshire, exchanging horses for the many stage coaches passing over the newly opened Andover and Medford Turnpike.
Jacob Barnard was a native of Peterborough, New Hampshire, born in 1789. He established a profitable tavern on Elm Street in the Dock Square area of Boston. From this tavern, many stages left and arrived daily from Concord and Hanover, New Hampshire.
Barnard recognized the need for a relay station, and built a two story wood frame building on the westerly side of Main Street, north of Park Street in this North Parish of Reading. He utilized this tavern as an accommodation for his passengers and stables for his coach horses. It has been published that as many as six and eight stage coaches were standing at one time in front of the tavern, and as many as thirty horses tethered in the stations daily.
Mr. Barnard’s Stage Line was one of the first to employ the Concord Stage Coach, introduced and built by a personal friend, Mr. Lewis Downing, of Concord, New Hampshire.
Barnard’s Tavern was a social center for the West Village and he and his wife, Grace held numerous functions. When Jacob died in 1830 his wife and son, Prentice, carried on the business for two more years.
They then sold the tavern, stables and sheds to Benjamin Page. However, with the decline in passenger service due to rail travel, he converted the tavern into his home. He occupied the building until it was destroyed by fire in 1867.
Historical Address and Poem; Delivered at the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the Old Town of Reading May 29, 1844. James Flint and Lilley Eaton
North Reading Review. Leo Murphy. 1964