Samuel Ahead 1815 Tavern Aurora Historic Society

John Kudley Jr.

The second family to settle in Aurora was Samuel Forward, Esq. and his wife Susannah and their seven children: Samuel Jr., Oliver, Chauncey, Rennsellaer, Dryden, Betsey and Julia. Another son, Walter, and his family settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after first coming to Aurora with the family. The forwards arrived from Granby, Connecticut, in 1803, just three years after Ebenezer and Lovee Sheldon started their homestead. Forward was born in Hartford, Connecticut on April 21, 1752 and died on May 3, 1821 at the age of 69. His tombstone is in the Aurora Cemetery.

The Forwards settled on an eight hundred acre homestead in the center of the village, which encompassed an area bounded by South Chillicothe Road (Route 43), Route 82 and the former “Bissell St” (Bissell Road) The country included the current city center, which is home to the Town Hall, Church in Aurora, the tavern from 1815 and shops to the south along Route 43 to the west, where the fire station, Aurora High School, the forest in Aurora, the service of the Town, Center and Landing are on either side of the West Pioneer Trail to Route 82. His son Samuel Jr. and wife Abigail moved to a cabin near Harmon Pond (Sunny Lake).

An 1874 print of downtown Aurora.  Forwards homestead, town hall and congregational church.

Upon arriving in Aurora, the family settled in a log cabin and set about building a homestead in the wilderness in a completely different setting from Connecticut. With very few white settlers in the area, fear of their relationships with the area’s Native Americans has always existed. In a letter to Israel Phelps of Granby, Connecticut, dated October 28, 1808, Forward describes this relationship, indicating that there was probably a greater risk of conflict with Native Americans at home than in Aurora. “As far as the Indians are concerned, we have had no interference with them here and have never perceived any more danger from them than I in Hartford, if we were to go to war with England, it could be that some people living back may be in danger are. but I see no danger here. “

Corner of West Pioneer Trail and South Chillicothe Road around 1910.

In addition to being one of Aurora’s largest landowners, Samuel was instrumental in forming the first small settlement governments. On December 14, 1807, the Aurora village was officially organized. Onward, Ebenezer Sheldon and Phineas Perkins were elected as trustees. Forward was also named the poorhouse’s “overseer” because of his “strong personable nature and old-fashioned community heart”. His son Oliver was the village’s first employee. In April 1808, Forward was also elected Justice of the Peace and later Associate Judge of Portage County Court.

Known and a highly respected citizen of Granby, Connecticut, he was instrumental in leading settlers west to Aurora. Forward’s commitment as one of the community’s leaders was demonstrated when his home was opened to the community on July 4, 1807 to celebrate the nation’s independence day and observe the “patriotic exercises of the day.” As Aurora’s population continued to grow, the community trustees made plans to meet the educational, spiritual, and government needs of the community. In 1816, Forward gave Lot No. 18 a town center, on which a blockhouse school was built, on which the town hall now stands. The land adjacent to the school was also dedicated to the construction of the congregational church and a town hall. The only condition Forward placed on his gift to the city was that he “can reserve his bench in the Presbyterian meeting house.”

Samuel Forward was also recognized as a leader in the ward, and at times called upon to investigate allegations made against members for their actions that were deemed “inconsistent with Christian character.” Forward and David Loomis once accused Ebenezer of Sheldon of “using ghosts too much”. On a separate indictment, Sheldon’s wife, Lovee, was charged with calling another member of the ward a “cheater”. Both Ebenezer and Lovee were called before the ward, where they acknowledged their mistakes and “expressed grief and promised to be vigilant in the future.” However, Forward may not have condemned drinking, but only drank too much, since he had already run a “public house” in 1810. In 1821 he officially applied to the county “to be able to run a house of public entertainment”.

The house from 1815 before its renovation in 1984.

The strikers have also distinguished themselves. Samuel Forward Jr. opens the first school in Aurora near the corner of East Pioneer Trail and Page Road. Three of Ebenezer’s Sheldon children were his first students along with Samuel’s two brothers and sister. Oliver Forward also taught at school. In 1804, Sally (Granger) Oliver’s wife gave birth to the first Aurora-born child, a boy named Cromwell. His eldest son Walter moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1806. In addition to his lawyer career, Walter was the editor of The Tree of Liberty newspaper. He served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and later became a member of the United States Congress. In the 1830s he played an important role in founding the Whig Party. From 1841 to 1843 he was US Secretary of the Treasury during the tenure of President John Tyler. During the Millard Fillmore presidency he was US Secretary of State in Denmark. After initially settling with the family in Aurora, Chauncey Forward moved to Somerset, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a lawyer. He also served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and later in the Pennsylvania Senate. From 1823 to 1831 he was the Pennsylvania Representative to the US House of Representatives.

Originally, Forward’s homestead consisted of a log cabin, barn, cattle and orchards. In July 1807, Robert Bissell, a local carpenter, was hired by Forward to finish the boarding and shingling of his barn. Bissell was hired again to build Forward’s “mansion” on the property. This makes it the oldest standing house in Aurora. The house was completed in June 1815. As early as 1810, Samuel Forward had a tavern on his property, where travelers could stop, eat and drink, look for accommodation and stabilize a horse.

The tavern was later run by Robert Bissell. After Forward’s death in 1821, ownership of his property passed to his eldest son, Walter, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Walter sold 100 acres to Moses Eggleston in 1826. As a land speculator, Eggleston began selling parts of the property along South Chillicothe. CR Harmon (Wayside Workshop) built his business next to the “1815 House” and his cheese warehouse (The Secret Garden), next to which Dr. Streater’s establishment (Mad Jack’s) and various other shops and homes were located.

The operation of the tavern after the death of Forward was continued under Robert Bissell, Moses Eggleston, Isaac Lacey, Doktor Birge, Artemus Stocking, William Baker, Nelson Eggleston and Noble Winteral and most recently again by Nelson Eggleston. Nelson had owned his own house on his father’s property at 270 S. Chillicothe and given it to the Presbyterian Minister’s wife, who served as the church’s parsonage. He took control of the 78 acres that turned the tavern into a home for his family. The central chimney was removed and replaced with two end chimneys, adding a balloon-framed wing to the west and a veranda along the entire front of the house. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a Victorian-style door have been added to the front.

In 1864 Nelson Eggleston sold the property to Calvin Harmon, who continued to use the building as a tavern under the direction of Winteral. As mentioned earlier, Nelson bought the property back in 1871. After his death, the tavern was left to his sons Addis and Robert on the condition that the grandchildren would inherit the property if the house were “in disrepair or badly managed”. Apparently, Nelson’s dubious concerns about his sons’ ability proved real as the house fell into disrepair and Robert went into debt and was unable to pay taxes on the property. The grandchildren sued for possession of the property and obtained property by court order.

The house / tavern was sold again in 1925 with major changes being made. Plumbing and heating were installed, the internal staircase was relocated and the western annex was converted into a garage and maids quarters. In 1985, the property was taken over by Robert and Ruth Tuttle, who sought to relocate the city to allow commercial use of the property. A major restoration and renovation of the building has been carried out to preserve the importance of this historic landmark. In 2015 Terri and John Updike bought the 1815 House and opened the 1815 Tavern on February 15, 2016, with a kitchen area to the west and a terrace for al fresco dining.

It’s hard to imagine what Samuel and Susannah Forward and their children imagined their homestead would look like in the wild. From a simple log cabin, barn, orchards, and cattle, the land they referred to as home is now a focal point of downtown Aurora.

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