March 06, 2013

Willson’s Tavern

Taverns were popular for both soldiers and civilians during the 19th century. Taverns acted as a meeting place for personal and business transactions. During wartime, these establishments could be turned into military outposts, headquarters and event a makeshift hospital. Willson’s Tavern, located near Table Rock beside Niagara Falls, filled this role during the War of 1812.

Willson’s Tavern, also know as Falls House, appeared on maps in 1795 and became a popular stopping place for many travelers. During the war, the widow Deborah Willson ran the tavern after her husband’s death in 1813 and dispensed not only food, drink and hospitality, but also information to both sides. The tavern was popular with both British and Americans because it was regarded as neutral territory by officers, and the fact that the widow Willson had two attractive daughters.
1812 tavern

On July 25, 1814, Lundy’s Lane became a battlefield with Willson’s Tavern serving as a hospital. As American reinforcements passed the tavern on their way to Lundy’s Lane their commander, Jacob Brown, noted that the tavern “was brilliantly lighted up for the accommodation of wounded men.” As the battle raged on Deborah Willson counted 60 wagonloads of wounded men pass by on their way to Chippawa. 

On Saturday, March 9th, you can experience an 18th century tavern at Fort Niagara. They will have food, beverages, live music and historical vignettes. Click here for more information.

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