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Lore, Legends & Landmarks of Old Adams
by Stephen Kelley

Thursday, December 13, 1984

Three tenths of a mile north of the Union Church on the west side of old Zane's Trace stood one of the area's better known historical landmarks. Here was located the celebrated Leedom Tavern, a favorite among the wayside Inns that catered to travelers on the trace.

The Leedom Tavern was originally constructed by George Edgington who was among the first settlers in Sprigg Township. He was a brother to John and Asahel Edgington who were ambushed by Indians in Tiffin Township in 1793 (see Defender 2-5-81). Although George is reputed to have settled in Sprigg Township as early as 1795 or 96, it is quite possible he did not build his wayside inn until after Ebenezer Zane blazed his trace through this part of the country in 1797. The first recorded tavern license for Edgington was not granted until the year 1800.

The Edgington Tavern and inn was no small affair. In 1900 it was described as a large two-story, hewed log structure, now weatherboarded, and in a very good state of preservation. It is pleasantly situated among great spreading elms and locusts.

According to Leedom family tradition, this old inn played host to General Andrew Jackson as he traveled on Zane's Trace on his way to the nation's capital to be inaugurated as seventh president of the United States. Another prominent individual who was entertained at the tavern was the great American statesman, Thomas Hart Benton. Later serving as U.S. senator from Missouri, Benton frequently traveled Zane's Trace through Adams County with his good friend, Andrew Jackson, when the two men lived in Tennessee. Prior to steamboat travel on the Ohio River, Zane's Trace was part of the quickest overland route from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. Benton so impressed his hosts at the Edgington Tavern that several years later, Joseph Leedom, a grandson of the inn's first proprietor, platted and named a new village after the senator. Surveyed just north of the tavern, the village was named Bentonville.

By 1812 George Edgington was dead. Following his death, his son-in-law, William Leedom assumed the duties of inn-keeper at the Edgington Tavern. We will tell you more about his next week.

Shown is a view looking north towards Bentonville ca. 1908 along old Zane's Trace. The top of the Edgington Tavern is seen in the distant background. The occasion is Decoration Day with the marchers heading to the old cemetery beside the Union Church. Courtesy Verna Naylor of Bentonville.

Thursday, December 20, 1984

`Continuing from last week, William Leedom took over the operation of the Edgington Tavern sometime before 1812. After just a few years under his proprietorship the hostelry soon became known as the Leedom Tavern . This old wayside inn had been built and operated by Adams County pioneer, George Edgington. Leedom is a son-in-law of Edgington having married his daughter, Tacy Edgington, in 1795. William and Tacy were the parents of twelve children and have many descendants still living in Adams and surrounding counties.

In addition to keeping the Zane's Trace tavern, William Leedom conducted an extensive trading business on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. With his son, Aaron, he transported loads of bacon and flour in keep boats to Natchez and New Orleans where they were marketed to southern planters. The two men also dealt in horses and mules, driving large numbers of them overland to New Orleans.

Back home at the Leedom Tavern; William Leedom became well known for his hospitality. According to one source, he "fed well and charged moderately." To support this statement we quote from one of his quests, Dr. F. Cumming, who passed over Zane's Trace in the summer of 1807. In his journal he noted, "I the house of Squire Leedom, an intelligent and agreeable man, who keeps a tavern, and is a justice of the peace. I chose bread and butter, eggs and milk for breakfast, for which I tendered a quarter of a dollar, the customary price, but he would receive only the half of that sum, saying that even that amount was to much. Such instances of modest and just honestly rarely occur."

About 1830 William and Tacy's second oldest son, Elijah, assumed the duties of tavern keeper and continued to operate the inn for several years. Like most of the other wayside inns and taverns on the southern end of Zane's Trace, more than likely the Leedom Tavern closed sometime shortly before the Civil War. The last recorded tavern license for it is dated 1849. The growing popularity of trains and increased travel ont he river by steamboat spelled doom to the wayside inns in southern Ohio. And accordingly, the old stagecoach line on the trace had been discontinued as early as 1842.

However, the Leedom Tavern did experience a revival of sorts. At the turn of the century the old landmark tavern was again opened to the public under the banner of The Farmer's Inn. Its host and hostess were Henry B. and Caroline Gaffin. Caroline was the daughter of Elijah Leedom and therefore represented the fourth succeeding generation to own and operate the Leedom Tavern. Henry B. Gaffin was a son of pioneer William Gaffin who is the progenitor of the large clan of Gaffins in Adams County today.

The long history of the old tavern ended abruptly in the spring of 1911. At that time the big log structure caught fire and burned to the ground leaving behind only memories that are now part of the legends of Old Adams.

Thursday, December 27, 1984

As we continue our journey up Zane's Trace we enter the village of Bentonville. This is the largest settlement on the trace between Aberdeen and West Union. Today, this community stretches as far south as the Union Church but was originally platted north of the trace's junction with the Manchester-Bentonville Pike (Ohio 136).

Bentonville was founded and officially entered for record on October 10, 1839. According to one source, it was platted by the twenty one year old teacher and surveyor, Joseph R. Cockerill. This ambitious young man later changed professions and became a successful West Union attorney and, later, served as U. S. Congressman. However, his greatest achievement occurred during the War between the States. Following the outbreak of that bloody conflict, Cockerill was commissioned colonel of the 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and heroically led that regiment for three years (see Defender 6-11-81).

Bentonville's founder was Joseph Leedom, son of William Leedom who operated the old Leedom Tavern for many years. Joseph was a native of Adams County having been born in his grandfather George Edgington's log home in 1797. He was raised in the Leedom Tavern and learned the trade of inn-keeper. While still in his teens, his father put him in charge of another old tavern on Zane's Trace north os West Union. After conducting it successfully for a couple of years, Joseph then began operating the old January Tavern which stood southwest of West Union on Zane's Trace.

It seems that Joseph Leedom had itchy feet. After following the profession of inn-keeper for a few years he then became a Methodist minister serving as a circuit rider for five years. He then took up farming but continued to preach "as opportunity offered." Like his father before him he also traded on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and made several trips to New Orleans by river and overland.

Leedom was popular in Adams County and was elected to serve the county in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1838 to 1840. It was during this time that he had nineteen lots platted on the west side of old Zane's Trace just north of the Leedom Tavern. He named his new town after one of his boyhood heroes, congressman Thomas Hart Benton who had been entertained many times at the Leedom Tavern.

Bentonville proved successful from the beginning and four additions were made to the settlement within the next six years. One of the first to build in Bentonville was George W. Leedom, brother of Joseph, who erected a tavern on the main street in 1840.

Never one to let grass grow under his feet, Joseph Leedom sold out his Adams County holdings and moved to Carroll County, Missouri in 1847. After having married four times and fathering ten children in three states, Leedom died in Missouri in July of 1867.

Shown is the original plat of Bentonville as found in the Adams County Recorder's Office.

Thursday, January 3, 1985

As mentioned earlier, Bentonville was platted and founded in the Fall of 1839. The town lots were sold at a rapid rate which precipitated four additons to the fledgling manlet within the succeeding six years. Within a short time, Bentonville had become a hustling, bustling little village complete with a variety of small shops, stores and tradesmen.

By 1880 Bentonville boasted a population of four hundred served by two churches and a steam powered flour mill. Tradesmen included a cooper, blacksmith, cobler, gunsmith and druggist. At that time the town had the Palace Hotel, two dry goods stores, three groceries and four millinery shops. Employment was provided serveral residents by the village's two wagon makers, two harness shops and a chair manufacturer.

When the town was first founded, George Washington Leedom, brother to the village's founder, built and operated a tavern on the morthest corner of the main thoroughfare (known as Pike Street) and Leedom Street. It is belived this tavern was up and opened to the public as early as 1840. Another early Bentonville tavern was built and operated Richard N. Edgington. The earliest license recorded for his business is dated October 20, 1842.

In later years, George Leedom's old tavern was done away with and a steam flouring mill constructed on the site. This enterprise was known as the Eureka Mills and was operated for many years by the McColm Brothers. In 1881 they sold it to Marion Francis Crissman and Nathaniel Greene Foster. Crissman and Foster made Adams County history in 1883 when they strung the county's first telephone sires connecting their Bentonville mill to West Union and Manchester. This "telephonic connection" enabled the enterprising millers to have direct contact with the Western-Union telegraph office at Manchester which in turn would provide them with the latest grain market prices in Cinninnati.

Foster was a direct descendant of Adams County pioneer, Nathaniel Foster of Green Township whereas Crissman was a great grandson of Thomas Mifflin who served as aide-de-camp to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Crissman's first wife was Isabelle Caskey, daughter of Alexander Caskey of Wayne Township. After her death in 1873 he married Anna Dunbar, granddaughter of West Union pioneer carpenter, Hamilton Dunbar.

In 1891 Crissman bought Foster's interest in the Eureka Mills and continued operating it for several more years. The big structure burned in the late 1920's and was never rebuilt.

Pictured is a circa 1895 view of James Lindsay, Bentonville wagon maker, assembling wagon wheels in his shop. Courtesy Dr. Grace Sproull of West Union.

Thursday, January 10, 1985