Green Bush Tavern

The Oldest Tavern in Old Barrington Village

The Green Bush Tavern (owned by Nathanial Paine) is believed to have been the oldest of the taverns in Old Barrington Village--predating the nearby Bowen and Kinnicutt taverns.

In her book Stage-Coach and Tavern Days (1900) author A.M. Earle includes mention of a 'Green Bush Tavern in Barrington, Rhode Island, with a sign board painted with a green tree. The name, she explains, derives from an old English proverb which reads: 'Good wine needs no bush' referring to an old custom of hanging 'a green bush' on a pole or nailing it to the door of a tavern.

It is likely that by the time A.M. Earle wrote about Green Bush, all traces of the tavern and its painted sign were long gone, replaced by the (c. 1872) home of R. D Horton, a wealthy jewelry manufacturer. What does remains, however, are the colorful stories committed to writing by author and historian T.W. Bicknell.

In his 1898 book A History of Barrington, Rhode Island, Bicknell wrote: 'Probably not a household in Barrington and the near confines of Rehoboth failed to frequent and patronize Mr. Paine's (Green Bush Tavern), from which his chief profits sprang. A jolly crowd came together winter evenings to gossip, tell stories, sing songs, and drink their flip, toddy, punch, etc.' Such were the benefits of being the first and, at least for a little while, the only game in town.

Aside from being the only game in town, Bicknell goes on to describe the Green Bush Tavern as 'the' place to be. In reference to the Tavern's clientele, Bicknell tells the tale of William Andrews 'one of the local wags and poets who was pledged a glass of grog for an impromptu verse on Josiah Viall, the village blacksmith who was at the moment coming up the road…' Andrews chimed: 'Here comes old Vulcan - As bold as a lion - Has plenty of work - But no coal or iron.'

This simple tale gives us a closer look at life in Old Barrington Village and the characters who made it their home: Josiah Viall the local blacksmith who made a living with coal and iron, William Andrews who brought laughter to friends and neighbors with his quick wit, and Nathanial Paine the inn keeper who played host to all - supplying food, drink and a friendly place to gather, gossip, laugh and share community spirit.

Records show that in 1748, Nathaniel Paine was married to Mary Heath (daughter of Rev. Peleg Heath) at the at colonial meetinghouse in Barrington by the Rev. Solomon Townsend. However, Nathaniel Paine's name does not appear in the Barrington RI census record of 1774. Perhaps the Green Bush Tavern had ceased its operation by that time. But the marriage of tavern owner Nathaniel Paine to the reverend's daughter Mary Heath is further evidence of the close connection between colonial tavern and colonial meetinghouse.

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1 Winsor Drive, Barrington, RI 02806