I hope I'm not boring anyone with this, now the third post related to the Conestoga Wagon Inn, also known as the Yarnall Tavern. It was truly a minor establishment with a short lifespan, important more for what came after it (the Brandywine Springs Hotel and then the amusement park) than for its own sake. But one of my first gateways into local history was Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, so things related to it have a special place for me. This whole investigation was originally just supposed to be a quick mention of the mysterious second tavern, covered in the last post, which I only became aware of (and its connection to the Conestoga Wagon) recently. Then Walt Chiquoine had to go and do some great work piecing together the early history of the Yarnall family in MCH and of property ownership in the area, so I had no choice but to do a separate post covering that and the founding of the first tavern. (Just go with me on the "no choice" thing, OK.)
Then, while putting the pieces together for that, a few things seemed like they just didn't fit. After consulting with Walt again, I decided that the conventional wisdom about the Conestoga Wagon was almost certainly not correct. I don't mean to harp on this again, but if you'll recall there was very little if anything ever written about Holton Yarnall's tavern that didn't have to do with its final years, the sale of the property in 1827, and the coming of the big, new hotel. Just about the only thing ever said about Yarnall's establishment was that it was a "Colonial Era tavern". As we saw, just going by Holton Yarnall's birth year (1774) should tell you that he didn't run a tavern in the Colonial Era. But there were other things, too....
I probably should preface this (and hedge my bet) by saying that this whole thesis could be upended by one solid account of the Conestoga Wagon being in operation prior to about 1810. However, I've not yet seen any such thing. Lots of circumstantial evidence and extrapolating the inn back in time, but no direct evidence that it was open then. To the contrary, we have several points that all seem to indicate that Yarnall's tavern didn't open until at least about 1810.
One clue comes from the sale ad seen below, published in the Delaware Gazette in late 1814. In the ad, Holton Yarnall describes the property and at the bottom it states, "The house is now occupied as a public inn." But the more pertinent part for us now is further up, where he writes, "There is on the premises a new stone house [emphasis mine], 33 feet square, 2 stories high, and well finished...". It's obvious that this new stone house he's refering to is the tavern. I know that "new" is a relative term (especially in advertisements), but I don't think Yarnall would say that if the house was 30, 50, or more years old. This seems to indicate that the house (and therefore the inn) had not been around for too long before 1814.