Daniel Gebhart Tavern History

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Miamisburg Historical Society

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History of the Gebhart Tavern 1811-1840

In 1805 families of Gebharts came from Berks County, Pennsylvania to make their homes in this area. They were all related even though distantly.

Daniel Gebhart, the son of Valentine Gebhart, built and opened his tavern. It was only a stone’s throw from the east bank of the Miami River in 1811.

Nearly every frontier settlement had a tavern. Taverns were really necessary. Travel was difficult and it was good business to open one’s home for a stop-over. Taverns quickly became social institutions, the center for conversation and news.

Taverns in 1811 were places to rest from arduous trips in wagon or on horseback through vine infested and dense foliage where there were no roads or bridges. You could also get news or letters if you lived in this wilderness. One could get a hot meal and sleep on the floor for a night’s rest. Taverns closed in the 1840’s due to the building of roads and hotels.

In pioneer days, the churches were gathering places for the settlers. But in 1811 there were no churches yet in Miamisburg for Miamisburg was not plotted until 1818. The only churches were out in the open country, such as Gebhart’s church east of the river and Stettler’s church west of the river. They were started in 1805 and 1806 respectively.

The Daniel Gebhart’s tavern site was ideal for business. The river could be forded at low water across from the tavern. boatmen poling up the river and pilots bringing flatboats down the river found it an east place to dock and visit the tavern. Farmers living on the land east of the tavern as well as travelers and new settlers who were traveling by wagon, foot, or horseback could join the others at the tavern for just a drink, or for a night’s lodging. This tavern prospered until the canal began to decline in importance.

In 1840 the tavern closed and became the first boarding house. Then later it became a two-family dwelling with rooms added.

After the sesquicentennial of the founding of Miamisburg in 1968, the Miamisburg Historical Society became interested in obtaining the tavern property for restoration purposes. The purchase was made in 1975 from Owen Fry, the owner.

Dr. R. C. Doan and Joe Pollock, with help, were pioneers in stripping the two-family residence down to the logs.

Restoration began in 1975 by the Stewarts of Franklin, Ohio (Architectural Reclamation, Inc.); supervised by Marlen Heist, the architect.

The tavern now belongs to the City of Miamisburg but it is managed by the Miamisburg Historical Society as a museum.


A Bicentennial Project

The restoration of the Gebhart Tavern is a project initiated by the Miamisburg community as a part of their Bicentennial observance in 1975. Funds raised by private subscription purchased the property at the northwest corner of Old Main and Lock streets. It was then donated to the City. Subsequent financing by the City through block grant programs has provided the means for the actual work of restoration and acquisition of several adjacent parcels for the site.

With the accumulation over the years of additions and many modifications, the exterior coverings of asphaltic "brick" siding over clapboards, and a fully plastered interior, this double residence gave no evidence of its original construction and use except for a few exposed logs in the east basement stairway. There was a central brick chimney venting several space heaters with no indication of stone fireplaces or chimneys.

Primarily through the dedicated efforts and labor of Dr. R. C. Doan and the late Joe Pollock the “improvements” were removed and the basic structure uncovered. The evidence of the original character and details of building were exposed; thereby, revealing a log structure unusual in several ways.

It apparently is one of three known log buildings in the Ohio Territory that was constructed in that period of time specifically as a commercial structure, in this case a tavern and hostelry. A conveniently located log house was usually converted and enlarged for such activities.

A number of features indicate that it probably was not built with local Pennsylvania-German labor, but Daniel Gebhart apparently brought in a construction crew originally from the east coast “Tidewater country” of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, where Scandinavian techniques were practiced. The most pronounced evidence is the use of dovetail corner interlocking of the hand hewed logs, rather than the Germanic “steeple cut” system. Excavation by an archaeological team has produced a clay pipe bowl which is a type that such itinerant carpenters of Swedish background were known to use.

The floors are so framed using “summer” beams spanning the width of the building, overcoming the limiting effect of the usual residence floor joist system that have bearing from outside wall to outside wall, and this has resulted in a structure almost twice as large as a typical log residence, without interior bearing walls. The direction of the floor joists also permitted straight-run stairs at the side of the building rather than the again usual residential winding stairs in a corner at the end of the structure. The “summer” beam supporting the attic floor joists is noteworthy as the largest member in the building, exceeding thirty feet in length. The entire first floor framing including its “summer” beam had been repeatedly subjected to flooding over the years resulting in extensive dry rotting. This has been fully replaced with authentic materials, including “new” flooring salvaged from a stage coach stop in Greene County.

There is a full depth cellar under the entire building, which again is not common in such early structure in this area, and is further indication of intention of full and intense use of the building structure above and the importance of the site. Laying up such extensive ledge stone foundations was a major effort not usually expended unless the use was well justified. An opening in the east wall for a barrel chute indicates that this basement was the storage area of the tavern's beer and whiskey supply.

At the time of its construction the method of heating such a tavern would have been with fireplaces, since stoves were unavailable in this frontier area, but evidence of such was not apparent until the framing of the floors was exposed indicating a chimney at each end of the building and fireplaces at both the first and second floors. The original stone apparently was entirely removed and used in the foundations of houses to the north. These chimneys were entirely inside the walls and intended for heating only, with cooking apparently being accomplished in an outbuilding to the west. The south chimney is fully restored. The the north chimney which also extends to the second floor is also fully restored.

The tavern experienced continuing improvements. The dining room occupying the north half of the first floor was plastered, apparently very early, using straw matting as a base rather than wood lath. This is a system practiced in north central Europe, but rarely in this country. Fortunately a section of original materials remain above the northwest exterior door.

Restoration efforts have been extensive. Severe deterioration had taken place over the years due to leaking window sills and chimney flashings. Of the twenty-one window and door openings in the log walls, nine were not original and were filled in. More than one third of the exterior walls were rebuilt and replaced with hand-hewed materials from several other dismantled log houses and barns. As a result of this extensive repair, most of the original chinking and clay daubing, the infill between the logs, has been replaced with a cement based daubing including the use of hogs hair binder.

The hand dug stone lined well is more than forty-five feet deep, reaching below the river water level. Most wells were filled with trash over the years but here a concrete porch floor sealed it off after it ceased usage, and it was found completely free of debris. The adjacent brick lined “bee hive” cistern was also found clean, protected by the same slab.

The nearby brick smoke house was originally located on the Gebhart “Land Grant” farm at the south-west corner of Miamisburg-Centerville Road and Springboro Pike. As commercial development occurred there it was dismantled and rebuilt here as a gift to the community by Mrs. Harriet Gebhart Hieronymus and sons. The sun-dried brick were hand-crafted.



More information about the Tavern

Daniel Gebhart originally owned the land where the tavern is located, the building west of the tavern, and the land that extends west to the river’s edge.

Each tavern had its own barn or stable, set away from the tavern to lessen the odor of manure piled near the stable. Horses, wagons, pigs and chickens were housed in the stable or barn.

Daniel’s barn was next to the levee and is still standing. It is presently used as a residence. The city does not own the stable or residence. *This information is debatable. It is unlikely that the stable would have been located in that position. That is the direction in which the wind blows toward the tavern. It would have blown the manure smell toward the tavern.*

Behind the Tavern was a cook house. This is where food was prepared and carried into the tavern where it was kept warm until it was served to the customers. This cook house washed away in the 1913 flood. Today another smoke house of a later style, owned by the city, stands behind the tavern.

The well top is west of the tavern. It was a dug well with a round stone top. The well, 45 feet deep, was beyond the water level of the river in the olden days. Today it contains no water. In olden times water was dipped from it by rope and bucket for drinking, washing clothes, bathing, and cooking. It might have been a cold job to draw water from it in the winter months.

More information about the smoke house
A smokehouse is located west of the tavern. However, this building was moved to the Tavern site from anther Gebhart Home at the intersection of SR725 and SR741. The smokehouse was moved there for preservation purposes. The bricks were made in the fields in the early 1820’s.

The unique thing about this is that friendly Miami Indians, no longer in tribes, helped to make the bricks.

Smokehouses were necessary for the preservation of meat during the warm weather.

Hooks for hanging hams, bacon, and shoulders can be seen in the smokehouse. The fire was on a dirt floor.

The holes in the back of the wall of the smokehouse made a draft to make the fire smoke well.

The sausage stuffer is in the smokehouse as well as the original chopping block where meat was chopped.





Important Social Institutions

Inns and taverns in colonial America and the Early Republic were important social institutions. After a lengthy religious service in the meeting-house, people might repair to a nearby tavern to warm and refresh themselves. At the tavern, weary travelers might find respite in food and drink. For the residents of a village or neighborhood, the tavern could become a center for conversation and conviviality. Inevitably, then the tavern appeared early in the settlement of nearly every frontier community.

In the frontier settlement that became Miamisburg, the Gebhart Tavern opened its doors in 1811, nearly a decade before the community was platted, churches organized, and a schoolhouse built. The proprietor, Daniel Gebhart, had come to the settlement in 1805 with his father Valentine. At that time it was usually called Hole's Station, a name originating from a stockade built in 1797 by Zachariah Hole on the west bank of the Great Miami River near the mouth of Bear Creek.

The movement of population, mostly Pennsylvania-Germans, was slow in the first decade of the nineteenth century; but Daniel Gebhart obviously believed that a tavern in the area would find patrons - or that patrons would find it. Located within a stone's throw of the Miami it soon became a scene of good cheer. Especially during spring freshets, boatmen piloting flatboats down the Miami turned their boats near the tavern and took refuge there for the night; returning after dismantling their boats at New Orleans, they would visit the tavern. Joining them would be newcomers poling up the river. Settlers west of the river could ford it at low water and reach the tavern. From scattered farms to the east, farmers - often Germans - would come to Gebhart's for schnapps. So popular was the tavern that the community around it became known as Gebhart's.

With the growth of Miamisburg after its platting in 1818 and the coming of the Miami Canal in 1829, the tavern continued to prosper despite coming into the hands of new proprietors. But various elements, among them the decline of the canal, forced the tavern to close its doors sometime in mid-century. It then became a boarding house, never again to recover the vitality.












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