Filed Under Barrington

Bowen Tavern

Also known as the Bicknell or Remington Tavern

On July 23rd 1770, Henry Bowen was granted license to 'keep a publick House of Entertainment'. From that day, until he sold it to Joshua Bicknell and Enoch Remington in 1783, Bowen kept a tavern, inn, and country store just north of Old Barrington Village's colonial meetinghouse. The new Bowen Tavern was in front of a home at 474 County Road. Henry Bowen was a meticulous bookkeeper and the records he kept give us a glimpse into life in both Old Barrington Village and Colonial New England.

During the 18th Century, a stage coach travelling between Newport and Boston would take two days to make the trek and--conveniently--pass directly by Bowen's establishment. And so, when Mr. John Tripp and his wife made the journey on May 10th, 1776 they stayed the night as Bowen's guests. In the morning they were presented with an itemized bill showing 11 separate entries. Among these items were: 1 gill Brandy at 5 ½ pence; ½ mug Cyder at 1 ½ pence; 1 bowl Toddy at 9 pence; and 'lodging you and wife' at 6 pence. It is interesting to note that the cost for a bowl of 'toddy' (a warm alcoholic drink, usually rum or whiskey, mixed with sugar) was 1.5 times the cost of lodging.

While lodging at Bowen's, it is likely the Tripps would have rubbed elbows with a who's who of locals, whose patronage has likewise been memorialized in Bowen's ledgers.

The Rev. Solomon Townsend, minister at the meetinghouse 1743-1796, lived next door to the Tavern and appears to have been fond of rum. Interestingly, Bowen's ledgers show that when he wasn't there in person, his housekeeper Elizabeth would be sent to fetch a couple quarts for the Reverend.

Josiah Viall, the local Blacksmith, who is credited for both shoeing Bowen's horses, as well as mending his 'flip iron,' 'generally took his pay in liquor' with his favorite being 'Jamaica Spirits.'

Perhaps the most colorful of Bowen's patrons was the shoemaker Samuel Allen, who lived just across the road. As a prominent figure in town, Allen was a member of both the Town Council and State Legislature. He was also a delegate to the Continental Congress who voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1790. Like other prominent figures in Rhode Island during this period, Samuel Allen was also a slave owner.

Of note in the Tavern's records, Allen was party to some mysterious incident for which Bowen charged him a total of 5 shillings and 7 pence for 'breaking my arm chair', 'breaking…my window' and 'splitting…a panel door.' One can only wonder what that was about!

Images

Old Barrington Village Plat Map
Old Barrington Village Plat Map The legend included in this 1771 plat map of Old Barrington Village--drawn just as Barrington, MA reincorporated as Barrington, RI--lists several of the "who's who" mentioned in this tour. These include: Henry Bowen (#9) proprietor of the Bowen Tavern; Joshua Bicknell (#14) land owner who gifted land to the Town for the relocated meetinghouse; Reverend Solomon Townsend (#1) meetinghouse minister and frequent tavern patron; as well as two other frequent tavern patrons: the Blacksmith Josiah Vial (#11) and the noted Statesman Samuel Allen (#10). Date: 1771
Bowen's Tavern (a.k.a. Remington Tavern)
Bowen's Tavern (a.k.a. Remington Tavern) This undated photo is of the Bowen Tavern - shortly before it was destroyed by a fire around 1873. At the time of the photo, the Tavern was property of the Remington family. The man sitting on the front porch is believed to be Joseph Stanton, the Remington family's gardener. Date: 1870
County Road by the Parsonage
County Road by the Parsonage This 1860 County Road image shows the parsonage to the left where the Reverend Solomon Townsend lived-just north of and adjacent to the lot where the Bowen Tavern operated. To the right are later residents of the parsonage enjoying a leisurely afternoon along the banks of the Hundred Acre Cove. The unpaved road was the major turnpike connecting Old Barrington Village to Providence to the north and Newport to the south. Date: 1860
Samuel Allen Headstone
Samuel Allen Headstone This headstone, located in Prince's Hill Cemetery, marks the resting place of the "Doct. Samuel Allen" who died on the 14th of July, 1810 at 64 years of age. A prominent figure in Town, Allen was a member of both the Town Council and State Legislature. Allen was also a frequent patron on Bowen's Tavern, living just across the road. Date: 2019
Flip Iron
Flip Iron The long steel rod shown in this picture is called a "flip iron" or a "loggerhead." In colonial times, this rod would have been plunged into a mug after being heated in fireplace. The mug, being filled with ale or hard cider mixed with rum or whiskey, would foam into a warm frothy brew called a "flip." This method appears to have been frequent and popular enough at Bowen's Tavern that Bowen once paid the local blacksmith to repair his apparently worn-out iron. Date: 1915

Location

474 County Road, Barrington, RI 02806

Metadata

Stephen Venuti, “Bowen Tavern,” Rhode Tour, accessed February 24, 2024, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/361.