Thursday, January 15, 2015


Higginsville Tavern, courtesy Cortland County Historical Society.
The Cortland Democrat, Friday, May 15, 1942.

Higginsville Tavern Has Rare Maple Spring Dance Floor 132 Years Old.
   Modern youth following the jitterbug trend of dancing would probably meet with disaster on the old curly maple spring dance floor which was so popular in the last century at the former Higginsville tavern on the Marathon road a mile south of Blodgett Mills. The stately, dignified dances of those days were suitable for "tripping the light fantastic" on a spring dance floor because everyone kept the same tempo and did not indulge in such flights of fancy as do young dancers today.
   Detailed history of the famous Higginsville tavern is lacking and there are numerous gaps in the story. Uriel Higgins conducted it from 1831 until his death in 1851 when it passed to his widow, Catherine. The building is probably about 130 years old, according to the estimate of historians.
   "Rye" Higgins, as he was called, was quite a showman. He cut a stone 12 feet long by 1 foot thick and erected it directly in front of the tavern with a huge sign on top. The post is still there as a flower-bed border and the half-moon sign is in the attic of the tavern.
   The tavern was a half-way house on the stage route between Syracuse and Binghamton. Horses were changed first in Tully and again at Higginsville. On the northbound trip they changed at Whitney Point and at the Higginsville tavern. The stages arrived at noon and the inn was always a lively place when lunch was served.
Fantastic Prices Listed
   Account books kept by Higgins were recently given to the [Cortland County] Historical Society by Dr. Lloyd S. Ingalls, executor of the estate of Frank L. Mills of Cortland who died last February. Prices of liquor were so low that in this day of high taxes and prices, they seem fantastic. One Syrus [sic] Hopkins paid only 9 cents for 3 drinks of whisky in 1861. Five quarts of imported rum cost 60 cents. A drum of St. Crois Rum was $40.88; a cask of Malaga wine, $15.50 and a barrel of brandy $35.63.
   The old account books carry information printed on their covers. An advertisement by the printer, A. B. Knox of Cortland village reads:
   "Account books of every description, made wholesale and retail. Paper ruled to any pattern, for music, etc. Job binding which will be done as well and on as good terms as in any printery of county."
   Urial Higgins had a trained bear chained to his 12 foot sign-post. The animal could drink much whiskey.
   On return to the tavern from a trip, master and bear would become playful and many times the horse, wagon, bear and Higgins toppled over the bank into a gully.
   The tavern was very popular among the gay young blades of Cortland in the last two decades of the 19th century. They would organize sleigh and hay wagon rides and wind up the evening in dancing on the spring floor. Today the tavern is owned by DePuy W. Freer of Blodgett Mills and the famous dance floor is still in excellent condition with a spring of 4 inches.
   Mrs. Elsie Freer, widow of the late Charles S. Freer, said the tavern has been in her family since 1875 and her husband lived there from the time he was 4 years old. She says the last time the floor was used was about 8 years ago when a Halloween party was given. A recent inspection showed the floor in fine condition. Watts S. Freer, father of Charles owned the tavern prior to 1875.
   Mrs. Freer said the Freer family never conducted a bar but used the ball room on the second floor for many dances in the 66 years of their ownership. State regulations requiring fire escapes from the second floor prevent dances from now being held there. [courtesy Cortland Democrat.]

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