- Story Ideas
- Send Corrections
A local columnist wrote a historical review of the importance of Route 222, the Kingís highway as it was called in 1776, where Colonial dignitaries traveled to New England and New York City by way of the major Great Valley corridor locals called the Reading to Easton Highway, including George Washington.
While researching local history for Dr. Arthur D. Graeff President of the PA German Society, teaching at Kutztown State College I was privileged to assist him with his investigation of the Continental Congress which was meeting in Lancaster City or York during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777. In those early years when John C. Adams was a Continental delegate for Massachusetts, their New England contingent traveled our famous Reading to Easton Road to return home from the Continental Congress meetings. When by chance their party stopped to eat and sleep over night at Kempís Colonial Tavern.
A very busy hostelry serving Conestoga wagoners on this Kingís Highway, Mr. Adams wrote in his diary Kempís Tavern was so crowded their traveling party had to be put up in a nearby neighborís farm house. John Adamsís recorded that they had to drive South of Kempís woods a huge stand of virgin trees like none other. He also remarked about our native food and PA Dutch hospitality.
John C. Adams 1735 to 1826 was elected second President of the United States in 1796. Both he and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826. But Johnís son, John Quincy, became the 6th President of the Nation in 1825, celebrating a hard working agrarian Republic, still carrying its commerce on traditional Conestoga wagons.
As a young American history scholar I was a patron of Luther Kempís Tavern at the edge of town, where I would share local news with PA Dutch natives. However I enjoyed eating dinner in the room on the North side of the barroom which was heated with a Georgian styled corner fireplace with early American fireplace mantle. Entering the front door of this Colonial tavern there was a long staircase with an equally long candle mantle for guests to pick up candles to light their way to go to their rooms in years past. Luther Kemp the modern bartender was a jovial Dutchman who treated everyone with a smile. The old barn had still been standing across the street, and a spring fed stream exited from the cellar. I could imagine that in 1777 when John Adams stopped here there were a dozen or so Conestoga wagons parked here with their six horse teams tied in the back meadow, and wagoners drinking beer at the bar.
Dr. Graeff and I surmised that Kempís Woods with virgin timbers may have stood where the Kutztown Park now stands, and that Mr. Adamsí Patriots bivouacked in one of the Bieber homes north of the village of Bowers.
Registered on the Historic Index of important American buildings, Kempís Tavern dates from about 1740 when it was begun by the Levan Family. But in the earlier Colonial years Daniel Levan whose hostelry was best known as early as 1753. The later 1795 wing of the tavern with fashionable corner fire places built by George and Susana Levan Kemp on the east side made this tavern a major traveling destination, in the East Penn Valley.
Richard Shaner is the director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.