Black Horse Tavern in History and Our Community (11/19)


The Black Horse Tavern Farm was of more importance during the early days of the country than we may realize. The tavern/farm was built in 1740 by immigrants from Ireland. William McClellan came over and secured 400 acres in the Manor of Mask. McClellan was, according to legend, a tavern keeper in Ireland, so it makes sense that he would also be a tavern keeper in the Marsh Creek Settlement.

The Hagerstown Pike would be used by settlers travelling into the western frontiers of Maryland and Virginia, so the tavern would be a stopover for many weary travelers over the years. In 1812 as McClellan’s business was flourishing, he would build a stone home that would house his large family. The log house would be the tavern. The farm would have two wells on the property. One well was built in the new stone house. The other was the original well that is now concealed in the stone building near the barn. Sixty years later, having two wells on the property would help give refreshment to many Confederate soldiers that were being treated there after the battle.

The tavern would be a voting place, a social hub, and a place to stay for people that were enjoying a new sport called jousting. It didn’t pit knight versus knight on horses. It did however showcase men’s horsemanship. Rings would be placed off the ground and men on their horses would spear the rings with long poles. Many men would try this sport and the ones that stayed at the tavern would write their names on the stonework in front of the residence.

In 1845 the last McClellan would own the farm and sell it to Francis Bream from Idaville, Pa. Bream would keep the tavern going, because he had also been a tavern keeper before moving here. Everything for Bream would be business as usual until the end of June 1863. The tavern/farm would be General Kershaw’s Brigade field hospital from July 2 through Aug. 20. There would be 33 burials at the farm that would be disinterred in 1871 and 1872 and moved to southern cemeteries. The places are easy to find in the present day. Bream would have more than $7,000 damage from being used a field hospital. It would take years for the farm to be profitable again.

The tavern would cease to exist after the Tapeworm Railroad was introduced. The Black Horse Tavern/Farm would remain in Bream’s family until 1934. Robert Bream’s wife would take a loan out and used the farm as collateral. The farm would have four more owners until Billy Leonard would buy it in 1971. He still owns it to this day.

We hope to see you at the 7 p.m., Dec. 2, at the Cumberland Township Historical Society meeting at the Church of the Brethren, 1710 Biglerville Road, so you can learn from Mike Peffer why this farm is so important to Cumberland Township and Adams County History.

Michael Peffer is author of the book titled “Crossing The Threshold“ The Historic Black Horse Tavern.