Beavers Tavern:
The Beginnings of Blairs, Virginia

By Henry H. Mitchell, 1989 (revised 2004 and 2005).

Beavers Tavern Marker

This state historical marker stands on U. S. 29 amidst commercial development at Blairs.


Along the east side of U. S. 29 at Blairs stands a Virginia Historical Marker commemorating the location of Beavers Tavern. The passerby may look carefully for “the house to the east” noted by the sign, and continue on with nothing but puzzlement; there is no building to the east fitting that description. A clue to the mystery of the missing building is found at the lower edge of the marker: the marker was placed there in 1929.

A bit of research confirms the suspicion that Beavers Tavern has disappeared since 1929, leaving the marker as a reminder of what once stood here.

According to historian Maud Carter Clement, around 1800 plantation owner Major William Beavers and his wife Elizabeth established a tavern at this location which became well-known for its comfort and hospitality, and for the gentility of its hosts — in contrast to the typical rather crude roadside accommodations typically available. Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, stopping over on his way to and from Washington, was one of the Beavers' most famous guests. Researcher Danny Ricketts believes that there is significant evidence that Beavers Tavern actually began operation in 1815 at Beavers property nearer the town of Danville (see Ricketts' Beavers Tavern webpage), and that the tavern was moved to the Blairs property ca. 1830.

Around 1830 Virginia's Gov. John Floyd decreed that the place of annual general muster for the 42nd Regiment of the Virginia Militia would be “at or near the tavern house of Mrs. Elizabeth Beavers,” as the officers of the 42nd had requested. Mrs. Clements recounts (apparently from the memory of Capt. Isaac Coles) several amusing incidents from the Beavers Tavern militia grounds. One involved a situation “…when the commanding officer marched his troops against a large out-building, and not knowing how to extricate them, gave the order to break ranks and make a fresh start.”


Beavers Tavern

Near the marker stood the John Blair home, probably on the site of the old Beavers Tavern. The Blair house was demolished in the late 1980's.


Apparently not long after the historical marker was placed there in 1929, the Beavers Tavern building was incorporated into a large bungalow by its then-owners John Christian Blair and his wife Etta Stevens, a Beavers granddaughter. Some local residents are of the opinion that the original building was damaged by fire, then reconstructed and expanded according to the current style. Some of the original Beavers Tavern foundation and timbers were reportedly visible beneath the Blair home until its removal.

Blair, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1920 until 1922, was honored by having the Blairs community named after him. He had lent the use of land for a school near the Baptist Church, and also had the railroad depot / post office (located some distance behind Bryant Brothers and Johnson store) built on his land.

Blair's home stood on the Beavers Tavern site until it was removed in the late 1980's by Dr. Lucy Savage Moore to make room for the Pittsylvania Professional Park. It is thought that the militia ground occupied space south of the present Blairs Baptist Church, near the location of the home of the Orrell family (from whom land – formerly part of the Beavers property – was purchased for the church). The Beavers Tavern stables once stood directly across the highway from the tavern site, on the west side of U. S. 29, in a grove of trees in the approximate location of the present Blairs Post Office.

As of 1989, the only structure remaining from the original Beavers plantation and tavern cluster was a log structure behind and to the left of the Professional Park. The log structure contained two separate compartments, side by side, with a central chimney. A fireplace opened on each side into a ground-floor room; a loft was above each room. It has been speculated that the rooms were for traveling guests. It is more likely that this was the last surviving original slave quarter. It was demolished in 1989.

Behind the location of the old log building remains an extensive cemetery with poorly marked graves. This is the Beavers family plot, containing the graves of several generations of family members, servants, and (according to local legend) travelers who died while staying at the Beavers Tavern. Family sources advise that a detailed map of the grave locations and identities was maintained and handed down in the family, but that in recent years that valuable document was apparently accidentally destroyed or lost.



Notes


Related Book

(Available from the sponsor.)

History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia

Clement: History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia



This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, Virginia.