An American Family History

The Crooked Billet

An early American tavern (or ordinary) was an important meeting place and they were strictly supervised. Innkeepers were respectable members of the community. Taverns offered food and drink. An inn also offered accommodation.

The Crooked Billet Tavern was a popular colonial tavern and landmark in the Manor of Moreland. There was also a Crooked Billet Tavern in Philadelphia.

It was on on the line between Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania on the Pennepack Creek and the Old York Road to Philadelphia which was built in 1711. A billet is a crooked stick. The town of Hatboro was originally called Crooked Billet or just Billet.

In 1705, John Dawson, a hatmaker, settled in what is now known as Hatboro. Part of his hat factory later became the Crooked Billet Tavern.

About 1726 the stone house was built.

Tradition has it that Dawson was the first proprietor of the Crooked Billet Tavern, but the true" state of affairs was probably stated precisely by Longstreth when he wrote that his ancestor "kept a house of private entertainment" there, implying that he took over-night, paying guests, but did not keep a public tavern.

Dwellings along the York Road were few and far between for several years after it was opened, and travelers were accustomed to apply for lodgings at the nearest house when night came on. The more popular hosts later opened their homes as taverns, but it seems unlikely that traffic along the road in the 1720s was heavy enough to have justified Dawson in paying the stiff fee required for a liquor license. (from the Bulletin of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, April 1943).

Nathaniel Loofbourrow was the first keeper. His widow, Margaret, married David Rees and continued to manage the Billet.

In 1747, Dr. John Crosley acquired the Crooked Billet.

At his death in 1769, he still owned his home lot, the Crooked Billet, 36 acres on the west side of York Road and 29 acres of the former Richard Marple estate. His will devised all this property to his son Charles, who had managed the Crooked Billet Tavern since 1763.

Charles Crosley immediately sold the home property to David Rees, Jr., leased the Crooked Billet to John Tomkins, and moved to the Northern Liberties.(from the Bulletin of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, April 1943).

The Pennsyvania Gazette
June 25, 1752

The Pennsyvania Gazette
September 21, 1752

 The Union Library of Hatboro was formed in August, 1755 by 38 men who met at the Crooked Billet Tavern. They each paid ten shillings a year to buy books. In August, 1756, the first shipment arrived from England.

lost horse
October 2, 1760
The Pennsyvania Gazette

October 8, 1761
The Pennsyvania Gazette

sale of tavern
August 13, 1767

John Tomkins, a brother of Jacob, obtained a liquor license for the first time in 1770, and it seems certain that he succeeded Charles Crosby in the management of the Crooked Billet. The available lists of tavern-keepers seem to indicate that he remained at this stand for a number of years,, but that Harvey's Tavern was not licensed again until after the Revolution. Tomkins later moved his establishment to his first wife's property at the southwest corner of York and County Line roads (lot #23), but the date of this change is uncertain. ...

The following evidence leads to this conclusion: (1) Abigail (Gilbert) Tomkins had leased her 25 acres to one Jacob Rush since Peter Gilbert's death, and he was still her tenant in 1776(2) Peter Warner, one of General Washington's couriers, was stationed at the Billet Tavern in the winter of 1776-77. On August 10, 1777, Washington entertained the Continental staff at a dinner in the Tavern, and his receipt for £20, the cost of the meal, was signed by John Tomkins.

May 1, 1778 a battle was fought near the tavern. General John Lacey was stationed at the Crooket Billet with militiamen. British troops surprised them.

stolen horse
December 15 1778

In 1782 Mordecia Thomas bought the Crooked Billet. He sold it in 1789 to James Simpson

American colonists continued to use British monetary units, namely the pound, shilling and pence for which £1 (or li) equalled 20s and 1s equalled 12d. In 1792 the dollar was established as the basic unit of currency.
The Manor of Moreland was composed of a tract of ten thousand acres, and was created, in 1682, by a grant from William Penn to Dr. Nicholas More. Most of the Manor was in Philadelphia County, but is now Moreland Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.




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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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