It was early spring in the heart of the Kentucky countryside and the year was 1779. A stone structure had just been finished near the crossroads of two dirt wagon trails. The structure was two stories with the first floor being entirely built from limestone while the second story was a mixture of lighter sandstone and wood. The first floor contained a great hearth and a large open area with two long wooden tables with parallel benches that could seat up to five diners at each side. A few smaller tables were also scattered about the open space. Adjacent to the wall with the large hearth was a wooden bar with a large keg of beer located at one end and a wall of shelved whiskey bottles of various types behind the bar. The bottles were all hand blown and the 10 to 15 bottles present were all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Each of them was filled with a local whiskey that was distilled by families skilled in the art of bourbon making. On the opposite wall from the cooking hearth, was the main entrance and a small cornered-off area with a few store supplies. The supplies were mostly simple, consisting of a few hemp bags of sugar and flour maybe some dried meat or hard bread.
The ceiling of the first floor was hand-cut hardwood of ash and elm. Large beams crisscrossed the roof and in the remaining corner, a wooden staircase ascended to the floor above. The second story was composed mostly of a storage area towards the front of the structure but the remaining section was divided into four small rooms that could sleep up to eight guests although rather tightly.
The stone building had been built by two hardy adventurers who had explored the new American West. By this time they had been worn by many years of travel and living as trappers. They had decided to try entrepreneurship in the quickly populating Kentucky, which was still a part of the Virginia colony. George Talbott and Jim Breecher had been friends many years and were now on a new venture together as owners of coach stop that was also a tavern, inn, and stable. The increasing traffic at these crossroads meant a continuous stream of customers. A small village had begun to develop nearby during the Inns two years of construction. The newly founded village had become called Salem by the residents.
A stage ferrying passengers from the town of Lexington to the East arrived once every couple of days depending on weather, road conditions, and the availability of passengers. The other road was a north/south road with the town of Louisville to the North on the banks of the Ohio River. A stage also arrived sporadically from there. The road to the south meandered for some 20 miles into the wilderness before turning into a trail with a few homesteads scattered along the way.
Patrons for the lodge typically came with the stages that came from Lexington or Louisville usually late afternoon or early evening. The stages would stay overnight then continue their travels the next day. George and Jim were always more than accommodating for the guests. The local cuisine of deer, rabbit, squirrel, and vegetables would be cooked for the guests depending on the season. Ale and whiskey would flow along with some live music from local villagers who would often visit when guests were staying. It was a good way for local folk to hear of news from the bigger towns and were often treated to dinner and drink by the guests. The favorite time would be when Jim and George once properly liquored up would sit in front of the large fire in the hearth and tell their stories of their adventures throughout Kentucky, back east, and further west.
The owners had traveled as far as the Mississippi and Ohio River confluence in their days as trappers and had got to know much about the Natives that inhabited those wild frontiers. They had also run into many trappers who had been much further west and north that talked of great grasslands that stretched across the landscape like some giant green sea that was filled with buffalo that were in such large number that when they all ran together it roared like thunder and shook the ground. Some took their stories with a grain of salt others had heard rumors and stories themselves of the vastness of the lands further west, but for the moment the time at the inn was for relaxing, enjoying good company, a meal, and good a night’s sleep.
One particular stormy evening during George and Jim’s storytelling time a stranger came through the front entrance. People in the room gave him little notice other than looking towards the opened door due to the wind, rain, and flashes of lightning that followed the stranger in. He was dressed in clothing of a highwayman; a long trench coat buttoned and drenched wet with only his boats visible below the coat. Large leather gauntlet-like gloves covered his hands. His face was hidden in shadow from a large-brimmed hat that covered his head with the front pulled down over his forehead covering his eyes while rainwater dripped off of it. Everyone turned back towards George who was in the midst of his story as the stranger stepped in closing the door behind him. He unbuttoned his coat and headed toward an empty chair at the bar. A nearby youth at the end of the long table gaped at the stranger’s waist as he walked by. He could see the handles of two large flintlock pistols sticking out of the sash that was around the stranger’s waist as well as the sheath of a large dagger protruding down his side hip. The stranger leaned into the bar next to a tall stool and ordered a bottle of whiskey from the barkeep, who brought down a bottle from behind him and pulled up a small glass from beneath the bar, wiping it out with a small cloth then setting them both in front of the stranger.
George continued his story after the brief disruption of the entrance. “As I was saying, so there were me and Jim in the thickets of the brush next to the river. We were looking in at the Indian camp and we could see ole Lieutenant Bosch tied up to a post in the center of the small encampment. Two warriors were around the Lieutenant. and he was hanging there in all despair with his red coat and uniform all ripped and soiled. His head was hanging low and you could tell the Indians had been putting a club or two to him. Me and Jim were assessing the situation from the brush, we just had on our field regulars see we were militiamen while Bosch was a regular for the British Army, this was during the war with the Frenchies. Anyways me and Jim see’s a way to skirt in a bit closer and maybe be able to take out the warriors quickly without creating too much havoc and alerting anyone else around. See we sneak in all quite like and get to within about 10 yards before the clearing and we’re in a position that the braves aren’t a
lookin our way. I look at Jim and point to my bayonet on my rifle and nod and he gives me a nod, understanding to go at em with just our blades. We burst out of the bush and let into the braves before they have time to react and they are down with our thrusts in moments.”
“Now we look at ole Bosch hanging there in a drabble and bleeding all about his face and he gives us a weak look through his blackened and puffy eyes. Just as we are about to free him, the post he is tied to burst into splinters above our heads, then we hear the report of a musket off to our sides from the tree line. We turn towards the direction of fire seeing three Frenchies just at the tree line. One of them kneeling had just shot and the other two were raising their muskets to their shoulders. We turned and started to flee, just as I noticed the parchment just sticking out of Bosch’s waistband. I grabbed the parchment and said to Bosh we’d return with reinforcements and took off following Jim for the trees and thickets. I heard the crack of two balls pass just by me and saw Jim take a skimming blow from one of them just in front of me.”
Jim sitting down near George stood up and pulled up his right pant leg and showed the audience in the dim light his gnarly-looking calf that was deeply scarred and missing a chunk of meat. The onlookers awed and the squeamish felt grotesque. George continued.
“Now I know many of ya are a thinkin we were yella leavin ole Bosch there that away, but ya gotta take into consideration that we were on a mission to recover that parchment with or without Bosch attached as it had some information of military importance. And them injuns couldn’t have cared less about it. They were most likely havin their fun beatin on Bosch and awaiting for the Frenchies to come.”
Just then a shout was heard from the bar. The dark stranger let out a loud “Wait!” and he pulled a pistol from his sash pointing it toward the direction of George and Jim and took a big step in their direction.
George and Jim had a spooked look on their faces as if they were seeing a ghost. George began uttering, “Bbb..b.bb.bbb.Bosch?”
“That’s right you lilly yellow cowards, you had that part right. It’s me. Lieutenant Bosch!” The now revealed stranger growled and he cocked the flintlock aiming directly at George. “I’ve waited a long time for this.” He continued steadily as he aimed.
Then two loud reports went off and gun smoke filled the room along with the smell of burning powder and the scream of Bosh and a yelp from George. The barkeep had pulled a pistol just in time from behind the bar and had fired just an instant before Bosch, nailing him square between the shoulder blades. Bosch’s shot went off just as the ball had struck him sending his shot a bit off and clipping George’s ear taking off an upper chunk of it.
A new story was added that evening and the audience got a real play of a lifetime. George and Jim operated the Inn for the next 15 years before each died of old age not too far apart. First Jim went. His leg had always been a problem since he had received that wound not to count all the other marks from his adventures and the amount of drink he had consumed through it all. George had mostly gone through the adventures minus any major injuries other than the piece of ear he got shot off that night. Folks would say that since Jim was gone George no longer had the gust for continuing on either and would prefer to join his friend on new expeditions in whatever the life beyond maybe. Whatever that may be, everyone hoped that they would be on some grand adventure again together.
Some 250 years later the stone-built inn and tavern are still standing in what is now the 21st-century city of Bardstown. The streets are now paved with asphalt, the small village of Salem grew into a larger town with a central courthouse located across the street from the inn. The courthouse is the center of the later 19th-century town square. The town square on which the now known Talbott tavern and inn is located. Electrical lights now illuminate the streets and buildings as well as Talbott Tavern. Patrons still visit much as they did over 200 years ago only now instead of horses and carriages people arrive in town by motor vehicle and tour the historic buildings and taste the myriad of bourbons that the city is now world renown for.
The great hearth still remains from where George and Jim once told stories and local musicians would play, and it still goes on to this day. It’s not George and Jim telling stories but area writers, historians, and whoever has skill will still do a reading or tell a history of the place now on a small stage in the corner near the hearth. Even occasional musicians may play a smooth tune for dinner guests. Many guests and some employees have even claimed a ghostly sighting around the dining area or in the upstairs rooms that have now been renovated for guests to get a taste of centuries past. Times have changed everywhere but in some places, you can still catch glimpses and a feel of years gone by when at the soul the place remains the same.