Tri-Counties Genealogy &
History by Joyce M. Tice
Historic Hotels of the Tri-Counties
Postcards & Photos
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Halfway House in Leolyn
, Lycoming County PA
Sullivan Street, Canton
|Hotel : Halfway House, Leolyn
|Township: Leolyn, LycomingCounty PA
|Postcard from Joyce's Collection
|Article by Eleanor Keagle submitted by Don
HALF WAY HOUSE
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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
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)