Some of the best history stories for BeeLines come from readers' and historian clients' requests for information about one of our local historic treasures. The history of that big brick house at 309 East Main Street in the Village of Westfield is certainly a fascinating story, dating back to at least 1829, and possibly even earlier.
Former historian Dorothy Hopkins Curtis, who wrote "Part I 1802-1952" of "A History of Westfield 1802-1997," in "Chapter XIV Early Taverns and Westfield Inns" on page 56, refers to Andrew Young's "History Chautauqua County, New York from its First Settlement to the Present Time with Numerous Biographical and Family Sketches" (1875) for information about Drovers' Rest.
"Drovers' Rest was another old tavern," Curtis wrote. "According to Young's History, Reuben Wright, Sr. bought a farm about a mile east of the village in 1829, and for many years one of his sons kept a public house there, known then as Drovers' Home. The building is the present (1952) home of Mrs. Carl Seymour. It was purchased by her father, Mr. Guild, in 1863 or 1865 but he never ran a tavern. Mrs. Seymour said she was told that the house was 147 years old in 1951, which if true, would have made it built in 1804. Also, since it is now a brick building, the brick must have been a later addition as there was no brick here that early. According to Mrs. Seymour, there was once a large half-circle sign saying: 'Drovers' Rest and Temperance House.'"
Photo courtesy of the Mateer Collection at the Patterson Library
The house at 309 East Main Street in Westfield was operated as the Farmers’ and Drovers’ Hotel by Allen Wright. Standing in the gateway is Aunt Annie Guile Mateer who was about eight years old when the picture was taken sometime around 1875. Behind her are Grandpa and Grandma Guile. The roadway in front is Route 20.
Research online for "Drovers' Inn Westfield NY" brought up a few references to the Drovers' Inn in Westfield, with many other sites that were not pertinent. One of the references was to Andrew Young's History. This turned out to be the full text of the two-volume set, and the information about Drovers' Home was found on pages 614-615, in the biographical section for Westfield. According to the original text, "Reuben Wright ... came to Westfield in 1814 and established the carding and cloth-dressing business on the west side of the (Big Chautauqua) creek, near the present (1875) site of Rorig's mill and brewery, which business he continued until 1829. He then bought a farm about a mile east from the village ... now owned by James O. Guile. A public house was for many years kept there by a son of Mr. (Allen) Wright, and was distinguished as the 'Drovers' Home.'"
In the Westfield Republican of March 15, 1990, former Westfield Historian, the late Billie Dibble, wrote a Dibble's Dabbles titled "Indian Trails, Stagecoach Stops, Were Part Of Westfield's Early History" in which she includes "Old Drover Inn" still standing at 309 East Main Street. She quotes from an earlier history series published in the newspaper in 1961-62, "Westfield Past and Present" by Maureen Ross, "The Guile House." Both the Dibble and Ross articles are illustrated with a photograph of the house at 309 East Main Street, thought to have been taken in 1875. According to Ross, Reuben Wright purchased the farm at 309 East Main, in 1829, from the Holland Land Company, soon after which he build the long brick house.
"Two years before his death in 1847, Wright deeded the house and farm to his son Allen Wright, who for about 10 years conducted the Farmers and Drovers Hotel in the homestead. In 1866 he sold it to Jonathan Watson who in 1867 sold it to James O. Guile, the grandfather of Wellington Guile Seymour," whose home it was in 1961when Ross wrote her article.
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at
email@example.com or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
The Ross article contains many interesting facts and anecdotes about the Guile House, including that there are about 30 rooms in the house, and that the basement contains 10 rooms, one of which is the old wine cellar from when the house was a tavern.
"In another room of the cellar is an eight foot bath tub made of cement which was constructed for the comfort of Allen Wright, the tavern keeper, who was more than six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds."
Dibble provides some additional descriptions. "It is difficult for us to picture in our minds the huge droves of cattle which at one time were transported on their hoofs through this area. Of course, the cattle and the drovers must stop for rest and refreshment along their route ... The Holland Land Company usually granted an inn-keeper a large lot for an inn in order to provide plenty of room for settlers moving to new homes for their cows, sheep and hogs, and drovers taking livestock to market..."