Whether you’ve read The Smuggler’s Gambit and want to learn more about the world of Adam Fletcher, or you’re just interesting in finding out more about the novel before reading it, this new feature will serve as your personal tour guide to the locations from the story.
About colonial era taverns
These days the word tavern often refers to establishments that primarily serve alcohol along with a limited menu. In the colonial era, however, the tavern was much more than that.
Colonial American taverns did serve the favorite drinks of the day, but they also were eating establishments and often had guest rooms that could be rented out like an inn.
While 18th century Americans certainly did not eat out as much as we do these days, the menfolk did enjoy meeting in taverns, or public houses (“pubs”), as a means of socializing and hearing the latest news. Remember, not every small town had a newspaper, and it often took a day or more for word to travel from the nearest town with a printing press to the smaller villages. The local tavern was where people would gather to visit, share news, and discuss the events of the day, and sometimes even organize responses to some of those events.
In fact, the Green Dragon Tavern of Boston might be called one of the headquarters of the American Revolution. Paul Revere was a frequent patron, and the Sons of Liberty are reported to have met in a secret basement area of the tavern. The Boston Tea Party was said to have been planned there.
Taverns throughout the colonies were often used as places for town meetings and in some cases, even worship services.
Women of virtue in colonial America would not have been typical tavern patrons unless they were accompanying their husband, as it would have been considered unseemly. For the most part, the only women found in taverns in those days were either those who worked as barmaids, or those who were entertaining girls (prostitutes).
The Topsail Tavern
From Chapter Three of the novel:
The Topsail Tavern was packed, as it typically was on a Friday night. In colder months, diners were left to compete with tables closest to one of the hearths at each end of the establishment, but in the month of May the warmer weather outdoors began causing the air inside the place to feel thicker. Tables near windows were preferable because of the fresh breeze that would blow through.
Year round the air was layered with a bouquet of scents that included the more pungent briny odor of the old salts who came in to drink, the cloying perfumes of the women who occasionally came to sit with their sailors, the intoxicating fragrance of spilled rum and sweet tobacco smoke, and the yeasty aromas of strong ale and hot bread. Added to all of that was the melody of smells that emanated from whatever dishes were being brought out from the kitchen.
Adam Fletcher was born in one of the second story rooms at the tavern and lived there with his single mother until he ran afoul of the local authorities and got forced into an apprenticeship.
Tour the Topsail Tavern
When you enter the Topsail Tavern, you’ll come in from the north side of the building.
Straight ahead, you’ll see the bar with four barstools in front. To the right of the bar is an entry way with stairs that lead up to the second floor. To the immediate left of the bar is the door that leads back to the kitchen.
The main tavern dining area is also to the left when you walk in. There are rough hewn tables and chairs around the perimeter of the room. The center of the dining area has a huge double-sided fireplace with a chimney that also has fireplaces on the second floor. It provides a welcome source of heat during the cold and drafty winter months.
Before Adam left the Topsail Tavern to go work at the shipping company, he waited tables. When he was able to sit down to rest, though, his favorite seat was always the second barstool on the left. Valentine can frequently be found sitting on a barstool behind the bar looking over his ledger books and incoming shipment orders.
Mary stays busy waiting tables nearly all the time, especially now that Adam is no longer around to help out.
In case you were wondering which table Francis Smythe and his friends were sitting at when the incident happened, it was the one in the middle against the wall on the left side of the building.
More bonus articles with tours of locations from The Smuggler’s Gambit are forthcoming.
- Rasquelle Estate
- Magistrate’s Office
- Rogers Shipping Co.
- Rasquelle Shipping
- Martin Estate