Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
OLD TRAILS AND INNS IN NORTHEAST VAN BUREN COUNTY
Several hospices known as inns, hotels, and taverns once appeared on the landscape in the south part of Cedar and Union Townships that were built in conjunction with the old Stagecoach Line. They were along well-known routes of the 1830s and 1840s.
According to Ralph Arnold, Bratten’s Grove was the name of the community where Sections 31 and 32 intersect in Cedar Township. He says that the old stage line moved westward just north of Gus Leffler’s and Gary Askew’s homes, curved in front of Marjorie McLain’s house, crossed Little Cedar Creek and looped around Leonard Noll’s buildings. Here at Bratten’s Grove, the Nixon family operated an inn.
The route continued, turning northwest. Following the old Dragoon Trail, it crossed into Union Township just south of the Edgar Neiderhuth house. It followed close to the present county road in the northwest part of Section 36, passing the Fordyce Inn, owned by the Silvers family at the time of Ralph’s writing. The road then turned almost west, approaching Winchester from the east.
Near the crossing of one of the branches of Little Lick Creek just before entering Winchester, stood the infamous Phelps Brothers Tavern. In the northeast corner of Winchester, a very visible cut can still be seen where the old trail ran northward. The road reached the Birmingham-Stockport blacktop at Gross Corner. Calhouns operated the Washington Hotel where Joan Muhs lives.
The Dragoon Trail followed the present day blacktop, but the Burlington road ran slightly south, passing the trading post at Parkersville (sometimes called Parkersburg.) However, old timers never referred to it as the Burlington road, as named by the Army Corps. Instead, old timers almost always referred to the old trail as the Ft. Madison or Keokuk-Agency stagecoach road.
According to an article in the Fairfield Daily Ledger appearing on March 13, 1929 only a few signs of the interesting history of the Fordyce Inn remain, and they have probably vanished by now. From the cellar, the oak timbers which supported the west half of the house could still be seen. The floor boards had been cut from oak logs with tongues and grooves cut by hand and later planed. A big barn was still standing that had been erected in 1873. Its entire framework was of oak logs cut to measure when construction began. Neighbors were called in for a “barn raising” day and the entire structure was assembled with wooden pins in place of nails.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick