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About

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From the late 1600s to the 1880s, a ferry and tavern on the east bank of the Susquehanna River in Perryville, Maryland, supplied transportation, food, rest, and a sense of community. Today, Rodgers Tavern belongs to the Town of Perryville, now open as a museum to residents and visitors for their benefit and enjoyment.

Our Mission

Rodgers Tavern Museum preserves and shares the inimitable stories of all who lived, worked at, and visited this once vital link along one of the most important roadways in America’s early history through dynamic, engaging experiences that encourage exploration of our area's rich cultural and natural legacy.

Our Mission

Significance Statements

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum is one of the few surviving examples in Maryland of an 18th and 19th ferry site and tavern open to the public providing visitors with the opportunity to view the evolution of America's transportation history from 1695 to today.

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum provides an excellent opportunity for understanding and exploring the important role played by ferries and taverns in the development and growth of transportation networks within Maryland and how these networks connected Maryland to the larger Atlantic world.  Ferries and taverns in Maryland were a local connection to the larger Atlantic world within which Maryland operated and developed.

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum is significant for its association with the American Revolutionary War.  The Susquehanna Lower Ferry conveyed 4,000 French and 1,100 American troops across the river during the march to Yorktown, VA in 1781 and Rochambeau's subsequent return to Philadelphia, PA the following year.

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum is significant for its association with the War of 1812.  British raiding parties during the spring and summer of 1813 forced individuals to make difficult choices with domestic, economic, and social impacts for the property's owners, tavern and ferry keepers, travelers, and workers.

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum provides an excellent opportunity for recognizing and understanding the essential role African-Americans played in the operation of the Susquehanna Lower Ferry and Tavern.  The ways in which African-Americans used their interactions with travelers and local residents to learn about the wider world and the choices made with that knowledge are part of the fabric of local, state, and national history.

  • The Rodgers Tavern Museum provides an excellent opportunity to explore the integral role women played as proprietors, workers, and customers of taverns and ferries.

Significance Statemets

Brief History

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New Map of New England New York New Jarsey Pensilvania Maryland and Virginia, 1685 by Robert Morden, et al. Courtesy Colonial Williamsburg 

This location has had a ferry and tavern since at least 1695 when the Maryland Colonial legislature formalized its existence and importance by law. Jacob Young is the first recorded ferry and tavern keeper for the Cecil County side of the Susquehanna Lower Ferry.

Brief History
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Rodgers Tavern, built in the 1740s, is a two-story Georgian-style stone building.  In the 1700s, the Georgian architectural style was popular in the English colonies. It was named after the first four King Georges of England. This style had a symmetrical design with a door in the center and an equal number of openings on each floor of the building.

Rural taverns like this were once important gathering places where people could sustain friendships, exchange news, and talk about local, national, and international events that affected their lives.

The tavern was named after Scotsman John Rodgers and Elizabeth, his wife. Once essential, it and the nearby Susquehanna Lower Ferry were part of an overland transportation system spanning the eastern seaboard. Run by the Rodgers from 1779-1781 and 1791-1799, the tavern offered a place to eat, drink, and rest along the well-known Old Post Road or Philadelphia Road. The road was even used by General George Washington, who selected it as the route for the march of American and French forces to Yorktown, Virginia, in the summer of 1781 and their triumphant return a year later.

From Susquehanna to Bushtown. No 124, E  by Robert Erskine F.R.S. Geogr. A. U.S. and Assistants.  Part of the Route to York in Virginia.

Excerpt from Susquehanna to Bushtown. No 124, E  by Robert Erskine F.R.S. Geogr. A. U.S. and Assistants.  Part of the Route to York in Virginia, 1781. Courtesy, New York Historical Society Digital Collections.  Robert Erskine-Simeon DeWitt maps, 1778-1783.  United States. Continental Army. Surveying Dept.

During its operation, tavern and ferry keepers relied on a labor force that included free and enslaved individuals of varying ages. The building continued to serve as a tavern, hotel, and summer boarding house during and after the Civil War. By the late 19th century, the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington Railroad transformed the former tavern into duplex housing units. 


Although it ceased to be open to the public in the late 19th century, the tavern kept its well-regarded reputation to the present day due to its historical significance. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair, prompting the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities (now known as Preservation Maryland) to buy the property in 1957, saving it from being demolished. The Friends of Rodgers Tavern led the first renovation efforts in the 1960s. The Town of Perryville bought the property in 1993 and did more renovation work. Finally, in 2017, the building was reopened to the public as the Rodgers Tavern Museum.


The Rodgers Tavern Museum, once saved due to its connection to famous guests such as George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and early Supreme Court Justices, now aims to share the stories of all who lived, labored, or visited this significant stop on an important road in American history.

Discover

What do we know about the people and events that make up the history of the Susquehanna Lower Ferry and Tavern? In some cases, quite a bit.  In others, unfortunately, not very much.  New content will be added as research continues to uncover more information.  Read on to find out what the Rodgers Tavern Museum is discovering, beginning with: 

Who Owned the Tavern Property

The Rodgers Tavern Museum property currently consists of the building and 0.598 acre owned by the Town of Perryville but that was not always the case.  Numerous individuals owned the property from Maryland's early colonial days to the present and the size of the property changed over time as well.  Originally, the tavern and Susquehanna Lower Ferry were part of a much larger, 840 acre property called Perry Point. 

Discover
1728 Resurvey of Perry Point MSA S1194 783 2.tif

This map is a resurvey of Perry Point created in 1728 as part of an ownership lawsuit between members of the Perry Family. Though not marked on the map, a tavern and the ferry would have been located on either side of the Susquehanna River just below Palmer Island.

Philip Thomas of Anne Arundel County purchased the property a year later, in 1729. The tavern and ferry remained part of Perry Point until 1798 when Philip's grandson Richard Snowden Thomas sold 570 acres of Perry Point to John Holmes. The sale "excludes 4 acres of Perry Point including house now occupied by Mrs. Rodgers and adjoining out houses in her possession and to front on the river to include Ferry Landing and present Wharf and from then leading to and binding with the Road to Philadelphia." This 4-acre property would be referred to as the Tavern or Ferry Lot in future property transactions. It remained in the Thomas Family's ownership until 1804, when Richard Snowden Thomas sold the property to Samuel and Tench Ringgold.

In 1814, six individuals purchased the property. A few years later, ownership is divided into 1/5th interests. Property ownership became complex throughout the 19th century, with multiple sales and inheritances.

It was not until 1880 that the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore (PWB) Railroad Company finished consolidating ownership of the 4-acre tavern lot as part of their rail line expansion efforts in Perryville.

Plat 1880 JAD 1 Folio 224.tif

In 1954, the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities (SPMA) purchased a 0.598-acre portion of the original 4-acre property containing the tavern from the PWB's successor, the Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington Railroad Company. Finally, the Town of Perryville purchased the property from Preservation Maryland (formerly SPMA) in 1993.

Tavern & Ferry lots 1957 & 1798 M&B (1).tif
Who Worked at the Tavern and Lower Ferry

There were many men and women, free and enslaved, who either worked at or held licenses to the tavern and ferry over the centuries.  These lists are of individuals found in County and State archival records to date.  Research continues, and this list will be updated when new discoveries are made.

Tavern Keepers:

  • Jacob Young (1695 - ? )

  • William Stephenson (1770-1778)

  • John Rodgers (1779-1781, 1791-1794)

  • Alexander McCassey (1782)

  • John Thompson (1782-1778)

  • Elizabeth Rodgers (1795-1799)

  • Dr. Henry Hayward (1799-1800)

  • Enoch Welsh (1801, 1803)

  • Thomas Coffield (1805-1810)

  • Martha Coffield (1811-1812)

  • Letetia Mansfield (1811)

  • David White (1812-1813)

  • James Knight (1816-1817)

  • John W. Etherington (1818)

  • William Cofield (1819)

  • Samuel Wigton (1822)

  • William Pennington (1825-1826)

  • William Coale (1827)

  • Jonathan Gillespie (1829-1830)

  • William Coal (1831-1832)

  • Haslit Owens (1831-1832)

  • Isaac Benjamin (1832-1833)

Ferry Keepers:

  • Jacob Young (1695- ? )

  • John Rodgers (1781, 1791-1794)

  • Alexander McCassey (1782)

  • Samuel Thomas (1783-1784)

  • John Thompson (1785, 1787)

  • Richard Thomas (1786, 1789)

  • Elizabeth Rodgers (1795-1798)

  • Dr. Henry Hayward (1799-1800)

  • Daniel Sheredine and Littleton Gale  (1800)

  • Enoch Welsh (1801, 1803)

  • John Wood (1802)

  • Thomas Coffield (1805-1810)

  • Littleton Gale (1810, 1812)

  • Martha Coffield (1811)

  • David White (1812-1813)

  • John Leach (1814)

  • Joshua Richardson (1814)

  • James Knight (1816)

  • William Coffield (1819)

  • Samuel Wigton (1822)

  • William Pennington (1825-1826)

  • William Coal (1831-1832)

  • Isaac Benjamin (1833-1834)

Workers:

  • Milky (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Will (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Ben (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Isaac (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Bob (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Welton (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Grace (enslaved by John and Elizabeth Rodgers)

  • Ned (enslaved by Samuel Thomas)

  • Davy (enslaved by Samuel Thomas)

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