The Swan Tavern and Jack Jouett's Ride, written by Teresa McVeigh, 16 May 2010
The Swan Tavern in Charlottesville, Virginia was owned by Capt. John Jouett, Sr. in 1781. He was a Captain in the Virginia State Militia, as was his son, Capt. John "Jack" Jouett, Jr., who later ran the tavern.
In June 1781 British General Cornwallis ordered the capture of Governor Thomas Jefferson and Virginia’s government who had fled Richmond and reconvened in Charlottesville. On the third of June Jack Jouett saw the approach of the British under Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarlton from the Cuckoo Tavern in Louisa County, Virginia. Jack captured a British dragoon and stripped him of his uniform. He rode forty miles through the night on back roads to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and other members of the General Assembly of the approach of British forces. All along the way he spread the alarm. On the morning of the fourth of June the stopped at Monticello to warn Jefferson's wife and family, only pausing for a glass of Jefferson's Maderia. In his old age he used to laugh and say he would "do it again for a glass of Mr. Jefferson's Maderia." Then he rode on the Charlottesville and warned the Assembly. Eluding capture, most legislators fled to safety in Staunton, Virginia. Tarleton’s men destroyed some court records and military stores, but spared the town from destruction.
One of the Delegates had the narrowest escape of all. General Stevens had been ill at the Swan Tavern. He and Jack Jouett started out on the road to Staunton. Captain Jack had on an officer's cap with a showy plume. General Stevens was shabbily dressed and road on leisurely and unconcerned when they were spied by the British. Jack led the British on a merry chase while the "old farmer" escaped into the woods.
After the War, Jack Jouett was awarded two pistols and and a sword by the Virginia Assembly in gratitude. He ran the Swan Tavern and he and his cronies would smoke pipes and tell tales around the fireplace or out on the large front porch on summer evenings. He moved to Kentucky in the Spring of 1782 and took up a military land grant there in what became Mercer County, Kentucky. Kentucky was then a county of Virginia and he served as elected representative to the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures for five terms. He died 1 Mar 1822 in Bath County, Kentucky.
At some later date, the running of the Tavern was taken on by John Jouett, Sr's nephew, Jesse Davenport, son of his sister Frances Jouett and James Martin Davenport. John Hammond Moore writes in "Albemarle, Jefferson's County" (page 97):
Those who went to Charlottesville on Court Day frequently gathered in taverns....A more convenient rendevous for many was Jesse Davenport's Swan Tavern on Court Square. It was so popular that early in January 1822 the harrassed owner published this sad notice in the Central Gazette:
It was the misfortune of the subscriber to have taken a stand, which from its conveniency to the Court House, and from its rooted habits, for houses have habits, too, was the open and convenient resort of the idle and noisy. He has long known that this was an annoyance to travellers and his friends, and he has attempted to remove it. But he has found that the crowd will gather, whilst the attraction remains, and to root out the evil forever, he has nailed up his Bar-Room. To his friends, to travellers, to the public, he promises in their ROOMS the best of liquors--he promises his ardent assiduity to please, and a calm and quiet house. To those who have patronized his Bar-Room exclusively, he returns his thanks for their punctuality of attendance, and kindly begs them to remember the hearth by which they so often reposed, is without a fire!
Jesse Davenport died 28 Sep 1822 and his family moved to Oglethorpe County, Georgia to take possession of land left to him in his mother's will.
Inscription: Site of old Swan Tavern where lived and died Jack Jouett, whose heroic ride saved Mr. Jefferson, the Governor, and the Virginia Assembly from capture by Tarleton June 1781.
Erected 1910 by the Monticello Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.
Location. 38° 1.892′ N, 78° 28.626′ W. Marker is in Charlottesville, Virginia. Marker is on Park Street north of Jefferson Street, on the right when traveling north.
[Note: This marker is incorrect. Jack Jouett later moved to Kentucky and died there.]
Site of the old Swan Tavern, Charlottesville, Virginia. This picture is taken from the Charlottesville city website:
This townhouse was later built on the site.
Teresa McVeigh 2010
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