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Halfway House in Leolyn , Lycoming County PA

Sullivan Street, Canton

Hotel : Halfway House, Leolyn
Township: Leolyn, LycomingCounty PA
Year: 
Postcard from Joyce's Collection
Article by Eleanor Keagle submitted by Don Stanton
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HALF WAY HOUSE

LEOLYN

This famous tavern was built in 1826-27 by Eli McNett, Sr., and replaced a log house built on the site in 1768, which was destroyed by fire. Mr. McNett was born in Rome, Mass. in 1775, died in 1870 and is buried in the Leolyn cemetery nearby [Leolyn is in Lycoming County, near both Bradford and Tioga Counties]. Many of the residents of surrounding community are descendants of this rugged old New Englander.

The brick used in the construction were made by hand from clay taken nearby, and the bricks were burned there also. A Mr. Wise of Williamsport, superintended the construction. The frame timbers were hewn by hand with the old hewing or broad axe. The interior woodwork was all hand carved, and the front door took 22 days to make. The floors were made of hardwood.

The McNett family kept the tavern open to the public for many years, but recently it has changed hands several times. The property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Davenport, of screen and stage fame, and was beautifully restored by them. It was furnished throughout with rare antiques and opened as a tea room under the name of the Boars Head Inn. The name was changed later to The Tavern.

When Mr. Davenport moved to Hollywood following his wife’s death, the house became the target for sling shots and stones thrown by little boys, and the wind and the weather took a further toll, until little of the Davenport restoration remained.

In 1951 the property was sold to William Donald Shearer, and advertising executive from Corning and New York City. Mr. Shearer said he wished to glorify the house rather than the individual, and it was learned that he has spent the greater part of his life collecting antiques and heirlooms for which the old Georgian style house is to become a setting. He is the fourth generation of his family in this country, the first Shearer coming to Bristol, PA, Glasgow, Scotland. The family became interested in lumbering and his ancestors settled in Blackwells, Tioga County, near Morris, PA. Mr. Shearer’s great grandfather operated the first engine ever run on wooden rails between Williamsport and Ralston.

"I felt the old house needed a friend," explained Mr. Shearer of his reason for making the purchase. Looking at the broken windows and overgrown grounds, this appears to be true. He starts to restore the house as soon as possible. Very few nails were used in the original construction, and those were made by hand. In the attic many places have the original wooden pegs still holding the parts in place. One board at the doorway to the attic stairs remains of the old stable which housed the teams and stagecoaches of early days.

From historical research, Mr. Shearer says he is confident that Jeremiah Wilkenson, famous Quaker, stopped there and it is definitely known that John Bartram, Philadelphia botanist traveled this way and probably rested at that early tavern when following the trail through the valley first blazed by Conrad Weiser.

Eleanor P. Keagle (1896-1971)