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Higgins Tavern historical marker, 16834 Georgia Ave Olney, MD

Inscription: From Colonial times until the late 19th century, taverns occupied almost every crossroad and trading center. They were the center of life for rural communities. This is where mail was received, goods were traded, travelers slept, newspapers were read, and local news shared – as well as where hard liquor was imbibed.

Higgins Tavern was built in 1823, not long after the Georgetown-to-Brookeville Turnpike (present Georgia Avenue) was constructed. This tavern is unique because it was owned by women -- which was unusual since it was rare for women to visit taverns – Lucretia Beall from 1823 to 1867, and Margaret Higgins from 1867 until her death in 1905, although it is referred to in historical records by the names of the men with whom they lived, Thomas Higgins and Hilleary Orme Higgins respectively. Thomas Higgins was the son of Revolutionary War soldier James Higgins, who is buried at historic Higgins Cemetery in Rockville.

Lucretia Beall purchased the property in 1826, consisting of about 1/4 acre with improvements. The “improvements” may have included the log building, but it did not appear in records as a tavern until 1829 when Lucretia was assessed for “one-half acre improved lot with Tavern Stand.” In 1847 Thomas Higgins purchased 127.5 acres of land adjoining the tavern, and turned it over to Lucretia Beall. In a lawsuit against Higgins about that time, Lucretia said that Higgins was acting as agent in buying land for her, and although he had been living in the same house as she for the last 20 years, he was not responsible for any improvements to the property and she was not responsible for his debts.

In an 1851 professional directory Thomas Higgins is listed as a Hotel Keeper “near Mechanicsville” (present-day Olney). When Thomas Higgins died in 1856 Lucretia Beall sold 27.5 acres to Margaret Higgins, wife of Hilleary Orme Higgins, whose relationship to Thomas Higgins is unknown. The 1865 Martenet and Bond Map shows “H. O Higgins Hotel” on the site.

Higgins Tavern gained a bit of notoriety in October 1872 when a meeting of the Democratic party was held there, attended by Horace Greeley, Benjamin Brown, and Maryland Governor John Ritchie. Greely, founder and editor of the New York Tribune, was a candidate for president. He died on November 29, 1872 at the age of 61, after the general election, which he lost to Grant, but before the electoral college met. Brown, a former senator, governor of Missouri, and Greely’s vice-presidential candidate, returned to his law practice. Ritchie, a native of Frederick Town, lost his bid for re-election, but went on later to become a Judge in the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The original log structure had several additions over the years, the main one being the 2-story frame structure on the south side, added in the mid-19th century. In 1922 the property was sold to Oscar Martin. The Martin family had a very popular ice cream parlor on the premises, and operated Martin’s Dairy, processing milk brought in by local farmers for a half a century. The property was sold in 1956. From 1965 to 1998 the Silo Inn, a popular local restaurant, operated on the property in a building adjacent to the Tavern.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on February 20, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Alex Tucker
    • Camera: NIKON COOLPIX L20
    • Taken on 2011/02/05 01:43:14
    • Exposure: 0.010s (1/96)
    • Focal Length: 6.72mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.100
    • ISO Speed: ISO64
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash