New Hampshire


  History of the Chase Tavern

The Tavern sits at the northern end of lot 75 in the second range of 100 acre lots (as originally granted by the proprietors of Unity in the 1760’s), looking out across the Town Common towards the site of the original town house (moved here from another location in town in 1829) and towards the old Baptist church (since 1877 the Town Hall). It is at the center of the town and faces the second rangeway, the principal east-west thoroughfare of the town, 100 yards from its intersection with the Second New Hampshire Turnpike.

The turnpike, chartered in 1799, was the principal focus of the town’s economic activity for the first half of the nineteenth century.   During this period, until the Sullivan Railroad reached Claremont in 1849, it carried a large part of the traffic from this part of New Hampshire and from Vermont, headed towards Hillsborough, Nashua, and eventually Boston. 

Branch turnpikes, from Lebanon, Cornish, and Charlestown, which joined the Second New Hampshire Turnpike in Lempster, bypassing Unity, and the Third, and Fourth turnpikes (from Walpole, Charlestown, and Lebanon, respectively) also provided alternative routes in the direction of Boston. 

But there was enough traffic through Unity to support a number of stores and other commercial establishments, as well as Chase’s Tavern. This turnpike era, coincided with the decades of prosperity resulting from the boom in sheep farming, saw Unity reach a population of about 1300 between 1820 and 1840. Without any significant water power, Unity was unable to participate fully in the industrial economy of the late nineteenth century. Its economy declined, and with it the population, reaching a low of 501 in 1930.

The present tavern building appears not to have been built until about 1800, the “dwelling house of Abner Chase” figures prominently in town records from the second town meeting in 1774 onwards. Almost every town meeting until about 1801, when a proper meeting house appears to have been built, was held at his house or in his barn. The house referred to in the early years may have been at or near the present tavern or perhaps across the road on one of the other lots that Abner owned. Proprietors’ meetings began to be held in Unity in 1792 and were also almost always held at Abner’s house.  

He was first issued a tavern license in 1791 and these were reissued annually until 1797.  In 1798 his son Francis received a license and licenses were reissued regularly to one or the other of them until at least 1837.  The tavern was clearly more than just a social center for the village and town. Francis Chase (almost always referred to as “Esquire”) was postmaster for many years, in the 1820’s and 1830’s and as late as 1850, the year he died. He was selectman from about 1801 to 1809 and town clerk in 1800 and again in the late 1840’s.   He was a director of the Unity Scientific and Military Academy from 1836 to 1842 and always listed first in the roster of officers, even though out of alphabetical order. In 1837 thirty-one Academy students are listed as rooming at his residence.

The militia muster field was located behind the tavern, down the road to Acworth, either on the 35 acre lot on which the Tavern sat or on the 85 acre south section of lot 75 sold to Daniel Huntoon in 1835. The tavern must have been a very busy place, especially when the Academy was in session or on muster days.

The Chase’s were definitely engaged in the tavern business for many years,  the building was built as a tavern, and land ownership records tie the Chases to this lot of land from 1780 to 1848. In an 1844 deed it is said to be “known by the name of the Chase Tavern Stand”  In 1838 it is described as “about 50 acres of land…with a dwelling house, barns, sawmill, etc.
The upper reaches of the Little Sugar River flow through the 35 acre lot and at the northwest corner there was a sawmill. In the 1840’s Francis Chase first leased and then sold the one acre tract at the mill site. The remains of the mill are still visible, but they are not on the present Tavern lot.

From this time forward the property no longer maintained its importance as a focus of community life. It was simply a large single-family dwelling and by the late 1920’s or early 1930’s had even been divided into separate apartments.

It went through a fairly rapid succession of owners, none of them apparently affluent enough to make any significant changes. Charles and Marjorie Coe, who owned the property from 1960 to1964, took a real interest in the historic features of the property. James Fusscas, owner from 1969 to 2001, made some fairly major changes and also undertook major repairs. Unfortunately, the property sat vacant and unheated during most of the 32-year period and suffered some serious damage, especially in the basement.