NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 19, 2013

The Wolfe and the Stamp Act riot

The famous Wolfe Tavern was first established in Newbury. Although the Wolfe’s reputation was built upon catering to the upper crust, the tavern’s proprietor, William Davenport, was also privy to the more colorful and seedy tavern patrons. A potpourri of bar brawlers, sketchy privateers and local tarts found their way into his taproom. But the buzz that brewed among the port tribe one night at Davenport’s would stamp out all other naughty night dramas, and the bar bill is still around to prove it.

The great Boniface, Capt. William Davenport, fought with Gen. James Wolfe, who died on the Plains of Abraham during the battle of Quebec. Davenport, a talented wood carver, used his craft to immortalize the distinguished military general by chiseling his likeness into a sign post. The wooden General Wolfe made his debut in 1762 when Davenport opened his doors for business. The sign continued to patrol the public house until the great fire in 1811, despite threats to all things British.

The Wolfe supplied plentiful libations, warm beds and fine victuals for locals and visitors. The tavern also hosted meetings for the Marine Society and St. Peter’s Lodge of Freemasons. Even General Washington enjoyed an overnight stint at the Wolfe. On Saturday evenings, men came to the tavern to discuss politics, theology and the state of the crops. They gathered in the capacious barroom at night, around the cheerful, blazing fire, to while away the time with mugs of flip and mulled cider (Currier History of Newbury).

The year was 1765; the issue was the Stamp Act, which created a hotbed of conflict in Massachusetts. The Brits were already in hot water and the locals were fed up. The act would drain money from the colony: “Our Commerce would Stagnate and our Laborers Starve” (Newburyport Town Records). The Sons of Liberty in Newburyport were bent on preventing allegiance to a law that was contrary to the British constitution, certain laws of God and the common rights of mankind (MA House of Representatives).

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