From the earliest times the old taverns of Orange County were important factors in each local community and around each the social and political life of the people centered. Licenses for the sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquors date from the earliest recording period. Local travel in early times required a greater number of taverns than later periods, or since the introduction of railroads. It was in these hostelries that the people gathered at their political conventions and elected their representatives to county, state and national gatherings. To record the history of even the prominent and well-known taverns of early days would require many volumes, and only brief mention can be made of the most celebrated where important events of the past were enacted.
Perhaps the most celebrated of those old public houses still standing today, but. long since discontinued as a tavern, is what was for over one hundred years known as the old Yelverton Inn at Chester, which is now used as a residence, and is in an excellent state of preservation. The Yelverton Inn was owned by the Yelverton family for six generations in direct line; John (emigrant, before 1700,) John, Jr., Abijah, Anthony, John H. and Thomas. Since 1869 this property has been in the possession of the Durland family.
Early records state that Philip Rockby sold his undivided interest in the Wawayanda. Patent in 1704 to Daniel Cromline and two others. Again, Hendrick Teneyck, in 1704, sold his undivided interest in the same patent to Cromline, and ten years later Cromline sold two-thirds of his purchase to Messrs. Everett and Clews, retaining one-third, or 1,706 acres, English measure. This is the tract of land which is now the township of Chester, embracing the site on which Cromline made a settlement. In 1716 he erected the first dwelling which he called Greycourt. This building was located on the road from Chester to Craigville, not far from the Greycourt Cemetery, and was known as the Cromline House, or the Greycourt Inn. It was probably the main public building between New Windsor and New Jersey prior to 1765 when the Yelverton Inn was opened. In 1721 John Yelverton, of New Windsor, came to this section, and later purchased land and erected dwellings thereon. The original deed, recorded by his grandson and executor, Abijah Yelverton, conveys three parcels of land in Goshen to John Yelverton in trust for a “parsonage, minister’s house and a burying place; also to build a meeting house thereon or public edifice for the worship of God in a way and manner of those of the Presbyterian persuasion.” The meeting house mentioned has reference to the Goshen Presbyterian Church of 1720.
Around this old inn some of the most important events of Revolutionary days occurred. It was from this inn, while Abijah Yelverton was the innkeeper that the first delegate was sent to the Continental Congress a t Philadelphia. On Sept. 3, 1774, a meeting of the inhabitants of the precincts of Goshen and Cornwall were assembled in Chester and Henry Wisner, by a majority of votes, was sent to the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia to protest against unjust taxation. During the month of December, 1776, it was stirring times about the Yelverton Inn for the militia of Orange and Ulster counties gathered at the square in Chester on their way to join Generals Lee and Gates.
General Washington and many of the prominent officers of the Revolutionary army frequently stopped at this celebrated inn on their journeys from the Hudson River to New Jersey. General Washington was entertained there while on his way from Philadelphia. to join the main army at the Hudson River on July 27, 1782, which fact is recorded in his expense account filed at Washington.
In 1785 disputes over the boundaries of the Wawayanda and Cheesecock Patents arose because of the indefinite descriptions of those tracts of land. The Wawayanda patentees claimed that their line was on top of the Schunnemunk and Warwick Mountains. As late as 1754 the Minisink and Wawayanda patentees had a strife before the Colonial Council, and it can thus be seen that the bounds of those Patents were very indefinite. It became necessary to settle the boundaries, as the titles of many homes were at stake and a hearing was held at Chester from May to October, 1785. The record shows that the hearing was held in the barn of the Yelverton Inn, as it provided more space for the proceedings. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were the attorneys for the Wawayanda patentees, and during their stay at Chester were quartered at the Yelverton Inn.
In commemoration of the historic events enacted in and about this old Inn the Minisink Chapter of the D. A. R. of Goshen, has placed a bronze tablet on the building which was unveiled in June, 1927. It is inscribed as follows :
Built in 1765
used as a tavern for 67 years and occupied
by six generations of the Yelverton family
among distinguished guests
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
this tablet erected by
Daughters of the American Revolution
June 13, 1927
The old Morrison tavern in the Town of New Windsor, about two miles West of Little Britain Church, was in its day an important and famous tavern in Revolutionary times, but has long since disappeared.
Another well-known tavern of those early days was Rock Tavern and distillery, a short distance west of Morrison Tavern. There were also many well-known taverns in Montgomery, Walden, Goshen, Monroe, Washingtonville, and other places, but the days of their glory have passed and they are only a memory for the changes of time and the National Constitution have brought about many radical changes in our modes of living and habits, which those of other days never dreamed could be brought about.