Reprinted From This Week’s
Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
CHERRY VALLEY – During home renovations, Barbara Hall and her husband, Gary Lozier, found where President Martin Van Buren likely sat when he visited the village in 1839.
Not a chair. A toilet seat.
“The whole back room was garbage,” she said of the former Story Tavern, now her refurbished home at 171 Main St. “As we were cleaning it out, we realized the outhouses were there.”
Following his election as president in 1837, Van Buren came through the village in September 1839 to meet with his constituents, following a similar reception in Cooperstown the day before.
“The Village had a reception at the Story Tavern and he certainly had some nice fare and something to drink,” she said. “Certainly, he used the outhouse.”
The original Story Tavern was built in 1790; an addition in the back was added in 1783. William Story, a miller near Tekaharawa Falls, opened his business in 1812, and with its proximity to the turnpike, was a popular place for visitors along the road to stay.
In addition to food and lodging, the building also served as the village court, auction and, according to Hall, a circus set up at the tavern, including a live tiger.
Hall and Lozier bought the house in 2010 from where they had been living in Ulster County. “I wanted an older, historic house,” she said. “When we found this one, it had been abandoned for years. I knew it had been a tavern when I bought it, but I didn’t know the whole history.”
The pine board seats two, each with a wooden seat cover. There were two outhouses at the back of the tavern, one on each side.
Though the two outhouses had to be torn down, Hall insisted the seats be saved. “They’re pine, and in good condition,” she said. “There’s a lot of history in those seats!”
She gave one to Dr. Paula Baker, a friend who teaches history at Ohio State University. “Martin Van Buren is one of her favorites,” she said. “She carried this wooden plank on the bus, and then across campus!”
The other one she kept, cleaned it – and the wooden covers – and placed it atop a Civil War era chest in the upstairs hallway.
But the seats weren’t the only thing she discovered in the outhouse. “The outhouse was often used a trash bin,” she said. “As we kept digging, we found a lot of stuff!”
Among the buried treasures were the front doorknob, a pocket watch, a wooden water spigot, several spoons, metal plaques from the American Radiator and Sperry Stove company, a spinning wheel piece, a Swiss Army knife and buttons from a British military uniform.
And while they were fixing the house, someone brought them a piece of history that they had found years earlier – a .38 revolver.
“There was a murder in the village, but they could never find the gun, so they could never charge anyone,” she said. “Years later, a man who was doing some landscaping found the gun under a rock on our lawn!”