|Polly Drummond's Tavern today|
The very short version of this post is that Polly Drummond, for a time, operated a small tavern on the hill that now bears her name. The dual challenge here is to A) find out more about who Polly Drummond was, and B) figure out why her name came to be attached to a hill that already had a name (the road, of course, was later named after the hill). For the first part, I think I've done a pretty good job of collecting more about Polly Drummond in one place than any other place I know of. I can pretty much follow her from cradle to grave, and I even have some more information about the tavern that made her "famous". As for the second part -- we can only speculate. Not surprisingly, though, I do have a few thoughts about it.
The first trick to learning anything about Polly Drummond is to know that when she was born, she was named neither "Polly" nor "Drummond". Mary Evans, however, was born in June 1789, probably in eastern Mill Creek Hundred, somewhere near Faulkland. Her parents were Theophilus and Esther (Barker) Evans. Theophilus (I'm sorry, but I just love that name) Evans happens to have been the brother of Oliver Evans, America's first great industrial inventor. At the time Mary was born, Theophilus, Oliver, and brother John all jointly owned a grist mill along the Red Clay, in which they had installed Oliver's new automated milling system. The site of this historic mill would later be the home to the Fell Spice Mill.
Mary (and in case you didn't know, "Polly" is a nickname for "Mary" -- actually it's a derivation of "Molly", another nickname for "Mary") probably grew up in eastern Mill Creek Hundred, and in August 1817 married James Drummond, with whom she had three children. Her children were Evan (1818-1843), Mary (1820-1890) and John Wesley (1825-1889). Mary and James had only just shy of nine years together, though, before James Drummond died in 1826, leaving Mary as a widow with three small children. The very first mention I've ever seen of Polly Drummond in the historical record comes from this time, just a few years after her husband's death. It comes from someone mentioned in the blog several years ago.
|Marriage Certificate of James Drummond and Mary "Polly" Evans|
A few months earlier, in March 1829, Fr. Kenny writes, "My next Grog shop, Molly Drummond's sent me a note to stop the amount of chalks against M[ary] Cremer by deducting 79/100 from her, M. C.'s wages". I think this has to do with money Mary Cremer, Fr. Kenny's housekeeper, owed to Polly. A "Grog shop" would be a tavern, and I wonder if it was incorrectly transcribed, or if he meant "My next door Grog shop". The next year, on April 2, 1830, he wrote, "Patrick Haw [his handyman and a heavy drinker] asked me for horse Paddy to go to Polly Drummond's store to pay debts and drink whiskey". When he says "store", I'm not sure if he means she also had a general store, but it seems obvious that prior to moving to western MCH, Polly Drummond did run a tavern somewhere near, and most likely on, Lancaster Pike near Coffee Run. It's not clear whether she owned it or just ran it, or whether it was originally James Drummond's or if Polly started it after his death. (However, the Drummond entry from the Orphans Court Extracts would seem to imply that James didn't own a tavern when he died.) In any case, this seems like an exciting find, since I've not seen this fact mentioned anywhere else by anyone.
Although there seems to be no other record of Polly Drummond's first tavern, we can assume she operated it for about 10 years, until she moved a few miles west in 1838. Her new tavern (or inn or hotel -- the terms were all but synonymous at the time) was located on what was then known as Meeting House Hill, named for the original White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, which was located just a few yards east of the hotel. This hotel had been built in 1834 by Robert Graham, likely the same Robert Graham who owned a house up near Corner Ketch. (There appears to be only one Robert Graham in MCH in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 Censuses.) It was located on the southwest corner of the north-south road from White Clay Creek Presbyterian to Corner Ketch, and the old east-west Coach Road that extended on to Milford Crossroads. The north-south road -- now called Polly Drummond Hill Road -- is still intact, although a 20th Century rerouting has moved the new road to the west of the tavern. The Old Coach Road has disappeared to the west, and was rerouted slightly south on the east. What was once a major crossroads is now near the end of two small dead-end streets.
|Polly Drummond's Tavern in 1953|
The hotel itself is still standing, although because of numerous renovations over the years it probably doesn't look much like it did in 1838, when Robert Graham sold it after only four years. With the recent completion of the first railroad line through the area, Graham may have foreseen the decline of the coach-stop tavern. The new owners (according to Francis Cooch in his Little Known History) were Polly Drummond, Rachel Evans, and Jane Evans. Rachel was Polly's sister. I can't find a Jane Evans, but Polly did have a sister named Ann who died in 1845. Cooch mentions that "Jane" is not on the later deeds, so it may have been her.
One interesting fact, already pointed out in a comment last year by Donna P., is that the sisters' purchase is probably a return of the Evans family to the area. The land on which the hotel stands was owned in the early 1700's by a Jonathan Evans. I can't find concrete proof of it, but it's likely that Jonathan Evans was Polly's great-grandfather. (Jonathan's son was Charles, whose son was Theophilus.) We can only assume that Polly was aware of this. Maybe that's why she moved to the area. Whatever the reason for her move, she remained here for 17 years. She finally sold the hotel in 1855 to Isaac Vansant, who lived in the John C. Vansant House located just west along the Old Coach Road. Cooch states that Vansant ran a store out Polly's old hotel, but for how long is unclear.
After selling her tavern to Vansant, Polly moved (I would guess directly) to Harford County, MD, just north of Baltimore. She appears there in the 1860 Census (she's always listed as Mary in the censuses), next door to her daughter Mary and son-in-law Hiram Ball, who had been living in Maryland for at least 16 years. Sister Rachel and brother Charles are also listed in Polly's household. Polly Drummond died September 21, 1867 (145 years ago to the day of the this post) in Maryland, and is buried there along with several other members of her family.
|Polly Drummond's headstone|
But I think the real reason that the tavern-keeper's name stayed on was just because of her personality. Although she didn't own the hill, I think for those 17 years she owned the hill. From what little personal information we have of her -- like Fr. Kenny's references and the fact that she took someone to court to get her horse back -- she seems to have been a forceful personality. I imagine she was also probably well-liked and well-thought-of in the community, too. Whatever the reason, almost 160 years after her departure from the area, everyone knows the name of Polly Drummond.