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Torrence Tavern

Torrence Tavern. According to the History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio, Illustrated, published in 1882, the first associate judges appointed by the legislature for Butler Cunty -- James Dunn, John Greer and John Kitchel -- met at Hamilton May 10, 1803, and held their first Court of Quarter Session "at the house of John Torrence, who then kept a tavern in the house standing on the corner of Dayton and Water [later renamed Monument Avenue] streets, on lot No. 132. . . . It was built by John Torrence, and was the first frame building erected in the town of Hamilton outside of the garrison." The judges named John Reily clerk pro tem, and divided the county into five townships -- Fairfield, Liberty, Lemon, St. Clair and Ross. They also ordered elections to be held in the townships June 1, 1803, to elect a sheriff and coroner. The first regular term of the Court of Common Pleas started Tuesday, July 12, 1803, at Torrence Tavern. The court included Francis Dunlevy, president judge; James Dunn, John Greer and John Kitchel, associate judges; Daniel Symmes. prosecuting attorney; James Blackburn, sheriff; and John Reily, clerk. "It cannot be said just when John Torrence came to the Fort, but it was in 1798 that he purchased the two lots between Water and Front streets south of Dayton," wrote Alta Harvey Heiser in Hamilton in the Making. "Here he built and kept a tavern, and here it was the first term of court was held in 1803, when Ohio became a state. The two-story frame tavern stood for almost a century. Part of the ground it occupied became a part of the improved street." Mrs. Heiser said "John Torrence died in 1807. Emma, the widow, continued alone until 1809, when she married John Wingate, aformer officer in Gen. Wayne's army. The Wingate Tavern continued until 1816" when the family left Hamilton. Torrence, an army veteran, also operated a ferry until about 1805 or 1806.

It was known as the Upper Ferry, connecting Hamilton and Rossville. The ferry landing was at his tavern, at what later was the southeast corner of Dayton Street and Monument Avenue. (See Taverns, McClellan's Tavern and Butler County.)

Torrence Tavern also provided more than lodging in Hamilton. It was built by John Torrence -- also an army veteran -- who had purchased two lots in 1798 at the southeast corner of Dayton Street and Monument Avenue. (see entry for Torrence Tavern.) He built the tavern at the east landing for the Upper Ferry, which connected Hamilton and Rossville. Torrence also operated the ferry until about 1805 or 1806. When Ohio became a state in March 1803, the tavern was chosen as the meeting place for Butler County's first court. The History and Biographical Cyclopedia of Butler County, Ohio, published in 1882, included this description of the area's log taverns, their operations and their fees: "Something which is widely different from that found today was the multitude of innkeepers. Roadside taverns abounded everywhere. It was necessary for the traveler to stop overnight, and as he could only make from 10 to 20 miles per day," and he "was compelled to avail himself of their facilities. "In the smaller kind there was only a lower room and a loft, into which the traveler mounted by a ladder. Here were three or four beds, and if there were women in the party, there was a curtain to divide their part of the garret from the other part, in which the men slept. "In the larger there were two log-cabins, side by side, with, of course, additional accommodations. "The landlord in those days gave plentiful fare, but not what would now be considered as the best quality. It was pork and potatoes, with cornbread.

Chickens were afforded as often as possible, and always on gala-days; but beef and mutton were seldom seen, unless the former, salted, in wintertime. "There was game on the table when the landlord or his guests were fortunate enough to shoot any, or when he could make an exchange with a neighbor for some. "Expenses were low. The York shilling (12.5 cents) was at that time considerably used in this neighbor- hood, and meals were generally charged for at that rate, sleeping from six to 19 cents, and the same for horse feed. The bar had an abundance of whisky and rum, sold at three cents a drink. No beer or ale was used, nor were there any fancy drinks. Water and sugar were the only things ever put in the glass to modify the taste, except occasionally a little mint."


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