From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

The house pictured here is currently the home of Skip Mull, but it has an interesting history. Its story starts with Calvin Chaddock who was the 3rd Pastor of the North Rochester Church and also Principal of an Academy (an academy was much like today’s high schools and offered education beyond the simple math and reading taught in local schools) that he founded at the corner of Snipatuit Rd. and North Ave. At the same time around 1799, he built our pictured house across the street to serve as a boardinghouse for his students.

            By 1804, he claimed to have “a respectable number of students from different parts of the United States”. During that time, he focused a great deal of his attention on his prize student, Marcus Morton. Morton went on to become Governor of Massachusetts, winning by one vote.

            In 1805, Chaddock closed his academy in Rochester, moving to a new location where he became pastor of a local church, started another academy and focused on another exceptional student. He repeated these steps at least once more after moving to Ohio and then West Virginia.

            The boardinghouse was sold. The new owner rented rooms and operated a store until he sold it to Asa Coombs who opened it as a tavern. Known as Coombs Tavern, it was a popular stagecoach stop.

            Stories about the tavern state that liquor was sold there “openly and freely” even though Rochester was a dry town. It was said that many a farmer spent all his fortune on drink and ended in “beggary.”

            The liquor in question was said to be so watered down that if it wasn’t kept by the fire in cold weather, it would freeze. It’s interesting to note that stories about local watering holes in the 1800’s ended with a warning that many of those who imbibed ended up destitute and in alms houses. I wonder if these warnings were fueled by the burgeoning temperance movement of the times as well as attempts to ban “spirituous liquors.”

By Connie Eshbach

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