Ansted's "Tyree Tavern"
(AKA "Halfway House")
In Ansted is located the Tyree Tavern. Famous as a tavern and stage coach stop, it is one of the most noted landmarks in Fayette County. It is situated on the side of the ancient James River and Kanawha Turnpike. This was first the home of Joseph Skaggs, son of Ansted's first settler. George Hunter lived there from 1827 'till 1834, at which time the property passed into the hands of William Tyree, who was High Sheriff of Fayette County from 1877 to 1881. After the death of Sheriff Tyree, his son Joseph Tyree occupied the place. This tavern is perhaps the best known of the celebrated places in Fayette County.
The old Half-way House was built in 1764. It was built by five young men, one being a colored boy named Richard. The two Tyree boys were from the island of "Tyre" west of Scotland. There were also two boys named Stuart, all being from Scotland.
The tavern was built entirely from walnut logs and located on a 15,000 acre land patent. (See Swann map of old land grants, which Mrs. Davis gave to Charles E. Mahan, Fayetteville, W. Va. Dr. Shirley Donnelly said, there is no other map of this kind to his knowledge anywhere.)
The young men travelled from Jamestown for a period of six months over the Comanche Indian Trail, and when finally arrived at this location they found a natural park, composed mostly of walnut trees. They also found a very rough cabin, where an Indian scout, named Seages, had built, as he had hurt his foot, and being late in the fall, was compelled to have shelter. Game was plentiful here, there being a salt lick near. The first night the young men shot a deer, and being tired and worn out, decided to rest a few days. After several days they went on down further to what is now known as Hawks Nest.
The weather turned much cooler, and having had enough travelling, they hastened back to the walnut grove and shelter. They at once cut trees and built the first cabin. They built four more cabins the next spring and then joined the five of them together.
When you consider the fact that their tools were limited, it is a marvel that they built so well, all floors being whipsawed. The young colored man was said to be quite a carpenter. How they made such large chimneys or raised such immense logs is hard to comprehend.
They may have had some extra help, because their first winter spent in the cabin was shared by an Indian squaw and her two children, as the boys hunting behind the cabin off the Indian trail found this squaw with a little boy (about three years old), both being very sick lying on the ground unconscious. The squaw had a papoose strapped to her back. Outside of being starved he was alright. The young men nursed them as carefully as possible, then early in the spring they awoke one morning to find their guests gone. They missed the children very much and it was luck for the boys, as the Indians went at all times and would chat with them and kill a lot of game. They gave them maize, pawpaws, etc.
Several years after living here some people settled on what is called Gaymonte Mounte, but they were scalped, captured, and their cabins burned down.
At this time there was no James River Turnpike, the Tavern being built in the forest. In 1810, Colonel William Tyree covered the Tavern with whipsawed yellow poplar as it mentions on the sign in front which says:
Regular stop on the James River and Kanawha
Turnpike. The original building, dating from
before the Revolution, was rebuilt by William
Tyree, 1810. During the winter of 1861-62, it
was headquarters for the Chicago Gray Dragoons.
At this time this was considered a very deluxe stagecoach stop. Many distinguished people stopped here. Then during the Civil War, the Chicago Gray Dragoons, a crack regiment from Chicago, used the Tavern as headquarters. Here, H. E. Danford centered the plot of his novel, The Trail of the Gray Dragoon, which was published in 1928. It is a beautiful love story of a Dragoon and a local girl who was a Southern sympathizer. A sign still hangs over the door which reads:
"1862 - Headquarters of the Chicago Gray Dragoons"
In the Half-way House are quite a few pictures, prints, old Gody magazines, and antique furnishings. There are also three staircases, two inside the house and one outside.
One wing of the Tavern, called the "Big Survey" of Drovers Cabin was struck by lightning before the Civil War, and later was torn down. This doesn't include the 14 rooms in the main wings.
The old place is an echo of the past and well preserved inside.
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