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Cole’s Bad Tavern, Black Horse Inn, & Cole Cemetery

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Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

Known as Little Sodom in its day, Cole’s Bad Tavern and the Cole Cemetery nearby sit in serious danger today. The encroaching development could trigger their disappearance. Thanks to the present owners Jim and Mary Nuckols, and Jim being a Cole descendant, efforts have begun to help the two historic sites ensure preservation and escape extinction. Future preservation begins here, adding new research to what has been written before about the tavern, about the inn, and about the cemetery.

COLE’S BAD TAVERN, aka LITTLE SODOM

The two historic sites reside on land once settled by Richard James Cole and Anne Hubbard, the second great-grandparents of Frank and Jesse James.

spring house
The spring house today is all that is left of Cole’s Bad Tavern

Migrating first from Pennsylvania to Culpeper County, Virginia, the couple moved next into the Kentucky District of Virginia in 1787. The District was America’s westernmost frontier. Kentucky was not yet an independent Commonwealth. They followed the prior mass exodus from Virginia of the rebel Baptist preachers of the Traveling Church and their congregations. Between 1782 and 1784, the Traveling Church brought thousands of pioneers into the wilderness frontier. John M. James, believed to be the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James, was one of the Traveling Church exodus. He arrived in Kentucky five years prior to the Cole family.

Unlike the Traveling Church that led John M. James into Kentucky, Maj. John Hancock Lee (1742-1802) led Richard James and Anne Hubbard-Cole in their migration to their new home in the Cain-tuc. The Coles formerly executed a leasehold in Virginia with Maj. Lee’s father, Capt. Hancock Lee (1709-1765) who was married to Mary Willis. The leasehold was a farm of 150 acres on Horsepen Run in King George County. The term of the lease was for life. Whether the leasehold was abandoned by the Coles is unknown. More likely, Capt. Lee needed the Coles to settle part of his Kentucky survey and released the Coles from their leasehold obligations.

Lee's Big Spring survey map
Survey for Lee’s Big Spring and environs, showing Nugent Corners and the site of Lee’s Station and future site of the Black Horse Inn

Capt. Lee surveyed land in Kentucky beginning in 1773. His son, Maj. Lee, also surveyed in Kentucky with his cousin Willis Lee. Father and son surveyed in and around today’s Midway, Kentucky on behalf of the Ohio Company of Virginia. The Lee’s company was seeking to replicate a settlement colony, the kind William Penn did in founding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To claim Kentucky land, the Lees needed to establish permanent settlers on their new surveys.

On the Lee family’s settlement farmland outside today’s Midway, the Cole family established an ordinary. The pending arrival of future settlers virtually guaranteed the success of their enterprise. The location of the ordinary was ideal, cited equally distant from Frank’s Ford and the new settlement at Fort Lexington, today’s towns of Frankfort and Lexington. The road, which Richard James Cole surveyed for Maj. John Hancock Lee between the two localities bore his name for decades to come as Cole’s Road. Cole was responsible for the maintenance of the road and its supervision. In later time, the developing geography renamed the road as Leestown Pike.

A BAD REPUTATION

Based on its reputation for the clientele it served, Cole’s Tavern over time degenerated in name and reputation. The ordinary’s earliest name of Cole’s Tavern then became Cole’s Bad Tavern. In its final days, the travelers and the public called the place Little Sodom.

This covered bridge connected Little Sodom to the community of Sodom north of Route 421 on Fisher’s Mill Road at South Elkhorn Creek.

Cole’s Tavern was a popular center for political meetings.  As settlers populated the manufacturing town of Sodom nearby, the tavern also served as a community meeting place. Sodom village was located on Elkhorn Creek. Its businesses included flour and gristmills, hemp and cotton factories, a tannery, a shoe shop, a machine shop, and a storehouse.  Decades later, encroaching railroads passed by the community of Sodom. The village, its people, and enterprises disappeared.

THE BLACK HORSE INN

Foreign visitors, curious about the unusual American scene, were common on the Kentucky frontier. On his return trip from his tourist exploration in the last decade of the 1700s, Fortesquieu Cummings wrote about his experience at Cole’s Bad Tavern, contrasting it to the Lee’s Black Horse Inn.

“Quitting Frankfort, we took a different route which brought us, after riding ten miles mostly through woods, to Cole’s who keeps an inn on this road in opposition to Daly, on the other end. But any traveler, who has once contrasted Cole’s rough vulgarity and the badness of his table and accommodations, with the taste, order, plenty, and good attendance of his mulatto competitor, will never trouble Mr. Cole a second time; especially as there is no sensible difference in the length or goodness of the roads, and that by Daly’s is through a generally much better settled country.”

Hancock Lee's Tavern
Lee’s Tavern at Nugent Corners – Drawing depicting the original log structure and brick addition, constructed by Maj. Lee, with the toll gate separating Midway from Frankfort.

Cummings assessment of Cole’s business stood in stark contrast to Cummings’ prior experience in his former departure from the Dailey-Kennedy Stagecoach Inn, a few miles distant.

“After crossing the town branches of Wolf Fork, Steels Run and the South Branch of the Elkhorn River, to which the three former are auxiliaries, we arrived at the hamlet of three or four houses called Leesburg, twelve miles from Lexington. One of the houses had been the seat of the late Col. Lee and is still owned by his widow who rents it to a mulatto man named Dailey, who had converted it into an excellent inn. Nearby Dailey occupied much cultivated land as required to furnish supplies to his well-frequented stables with hay, corn & oats.

“There is also a good kitchen garden in which are vast quantities of culinary sweet herbs, besides useful vegetables and he has good stabling and other out offices – for all which he pays only forty pounds per annum. We experienced the benefit of his spacious icehouse. Where everything was good, particularly the coffee which was almost a la Francaise.

William Clark
Painting of William Clark by Charles Willson Peale

“Dailey having a good violin, on which he plays by ear with some taste, entertained us with music while we supped, in return for which we played for him afterward some duets, by the aid of another violin borrowed of young Mr. Lee, who resides in the neighborhood with his mother.”

In his Memorandum Book, William Clark noted his visit to the Black Horse Inn in 1806, following his return from exploring America’s westernmost frontier to the Pacific Ocean with the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery –  “…took the Frankfort Pike. The party spent the night of 29 October at William Dailey’s tavern at present Nugent’s Crossroads.”

COLE FAMILY ACQUIRES THE BLACK HORSE INN

Before Christmas on December 12 of 1811, Richard James Cole Jr. executed a lease to operate Little Sodom’s classy competitor, Lee’s Tavern.  William Dailey and John Kennedy had been operating the inn under the Lee’s name as well as their own. Cole and his wife Sally Yates assumed proprietorship of the place and its business. The excellent reputation carefully cultivated by Dailey and Kennedy now fell into the hands of the Cole family. The inn was rebranded as The Black Horse.

Black Horse Inn
Black Horse Inn where the mother of Frank & Jesse James, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, was born on the second floor, the first window from the left.

The earliest survey period of 1773 and1774 identifies the inn’s site as Hancock Taylor’s Station Camp. This was an initial destination for incoming migrants and the meeting camp for surveyors in the Kentucky District. In 1785, during the ownership of Willis Lee and his brother Capt. Hancock Lee, the station developed into a public inn. Two log rooms were constructed. Maj. John Hancock Lee added a two-story brick addition in 1799. At this point, the building was officially identified as the first stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains. Here, Maj. Lee died in 1802. John Hancock Lee Jr., who was born in the tavern, divested himself of his family’s business when he executed his lease of the premises to the Coles.

Black Horse Inn
The Black Horse Inn where Amos Cole was stabbed to death outside the right front door.

A son of Richard James Cole Jr., named James Cole, assumed the operation of The Black Horse with his wife Sarah Lindsay, a granddaughter of Anthony Lindsay Jr. who arrived in the Cain-tuc with his wife Rachel Dorsey in 1784, about the same time as John M. James entered the District. Lindsay promptly constructed Lindsay’s Station. On January 29 of 1825, Sally Lindsay Cole gave birth to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, the future mother of Frank and Jesse James. Zerelda was born in the upstairs brick addition that often converted into a swanky ballroom. when an entire wall was lifted, much like a garage door of today, to create the needed space.

Two years later on May 12, the reputation of the Black Horse Inn was irreparably stigmatized by the Cole family.  Young Zerelda’s uncle Amos Cole was stabbed and killed at the inn. Two men, named R. Taylor and Mr. Gallaspie, arrived at the inn in the evening. They were intent on creating trouble for the Coles. A knife fight ensued with Amos. The struggle spilled outside the front door. When Amos was mortally wounded, he was taken inside. Amos was laid before the fireplace of the upstairs room in the old log building. His blood stains remain embedded in the floor and unremovable to this day, indelibly marking his demise. It is the only evident memorial of Amos Cole.

Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James
Zerelda Elizabeth Cole 1825-1911

Following the death of her uncle, Zerelda and her brother Jesse Richard Cole were sent to live with their grandparents Richard James Cole Jr. and Sally Yates at Little Sodom. For the next ten years, young Zerelda was witness to every kind of high life and low life imaginable, from horse thieves and murderers to politicians and international diplomats.  When her grandparents died, Zerelda was sent to live with her uncle Judge James Madison Lindsay at his home in Stamping Ground.  When Judge Lindsay found her too much of a handful, he sent her to be disciplined by the Catholic nuns of St. Catherine’s Academy in Lexington. Zerelda escaped by marrying Rev. Robert Sallee James before the fireplace of Judge Lindsay’s parlor; but not before her Christmas wedding was delayed as a wedding guest caught ill, lingered for three days while everyone waited, and died in the room above the wedding couple’s heads.

Bible of Zerelda Elizabeth Cole
Zerelda Cole’s Bible, from the Zee James Collection. Upper inscription: “St. Catherine’s, Lexington.” Lower inscription “Sarah Lindsay, James Cole, February 1827, Zerelda Elizabeth, Lexington, Kentucky

From what she witnessed and was exposed to in her childhood, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole learned how to deal with people of every status. Her experience stood her in good stead later in life when her son Jesse was assassinated and she held the Missouri Governor and political establishment accountable for her financial support. As her robust frame grew to six feet tall, she acquired a lifelong taste for bourbon. Mary Ellen Clemens, who once kept house for Zerelda testified to her boisterousness. “After a few drinks, she would yell, ‘I’m wild and wooly and hard to tame, but my name’s Zerelda just the same!'”

Jesse Richards Cole
Jesse Richard Cole 1826-1895, brother of Zerelda Cole.

Zerelda and her brother Jesse Richard Cole remained close all their lives. Zerelda named her third child in honor of her brother. Though a successful farmer and father to nine children, Jesse suffered intensely from depression.  On November 25, 1895, the Liberty Tribune in Missouri reported, “he went out to the chicken house. he put his watch and pocket book in his hat and set it in a hen’s nest, and with further deliberation made a pillow of some old sacks and laid down. Placing a revolver to his heart he pulled the trigger and sent his soul to eternity. “

COLE CEMETERY

The Cole family’s first need of a burial site in Kentucky occurred in 1795 when Ann Hubbard-Cole died on February 11. She and her husband, Richard James Cole Sr., had moved to the area of Midway, Kentucky in 1782. Richard died on November 21 of 1814 and was buried with Ann. It is known that other burials occurred with them on the farmland set aside as the Cole Cemetery. No documentation exists to account who is buried with Richard James and Anne Hubbard-Cole, although it is believed to be principally their descendants and their enslaved.

Cole Cemetery
Cole Cemetery at Five Springs Farm

A reasonable assumption is that at least one child of the couple is buried with them. Richard James Cole Jr. died on July 9 in 1839. Most certainly, he would have been buried with his parents and his wife Sally Yates who predeceased him on November 8 of 1836. Other siblings of Richard James Cole Jr. would have been buried by their in-law spouses in separate burial grounds located on their separate farms elsewhere.

The children of Richard James Cole Jr and Sally Yates most likely rest with their grandparents, too. William Yates Cole died in 1823 at the age of thirty-five. His is the earliest burial after his grandparents. Following his murder, Amos Cole was likely buried in Cole Cemetery.  His widow, Elizabeth Hynes Cole, a first cousin of the same surname, quickly remarried. Three months after the murder of Amos, his brother James Cole was thrown from a horse and died. At the height of a cholera epidemic when a mass exodus departed Kentucky for Missouri on religious missions and escape from the disease, Jesse Cole died on August 3, 1833, at the age of forty.  He left a widow, Fanny Rice, and a young child. Fanny also quickly remarried. All of these Cole family members likely rest in Cole Cemetery without markers. Due to customs of the time, the enslaved and servants of the Cole family were interred at Cole Cemetery, too.

Five Springs Farm
Five Springs Farm, owned by Jim & Mary Nuckols, Rte. 421 at the intersection of Fisher’s Mill Rd.

RELATED:

Historians Visit Cole Cemetery

More about Cole’s Bad Tavern

More about the Blackhorse Tavern

FREE DOWNLOAD:  The Descendants of John Cole Sr. – the Immigrant


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Tuesday July 27th, 2021
Stray Leaves

WHY DID STRAY LEAVES REMOVE THIS COMMENT FROM STRAY LEAVES' YOUTUBE CHANNEL?

"how comes then,that a slave from the james family,back to jesse james,funeral.who was devoted to jesse.was also by the side of j.frank dalton,who claimed to be jesse james?And also senator clark,really the founder of LA! and jesse and frank,photo evidence of high degree freemasons.Jesse was not killed by bob ford.after the alleged killing of jesse,years later,frank was known to have visited bob ford, who had a saloon near a gold rush route. The jesse body that was photographed,and later buried,that was not jesse.It was charlie bigelow,who had infiltrated the james gang,and was a pinkerton informer,because two older bigelows,sit in graves side by side,and both graves show exact same death date. no-body really knows, but the ages on the grave stones of the 2 bigelows could have been charlies uncle and his father. And maybe killed by the james gang. the DNA evidence in the 80s was doubtful.others were buried buried in the same area,they did not find jesse james body,or grave. all they found was a tooth! I suspect jesse james junior,is the son of charlie bigelow. I dont know who this man is but jesse held a position of power in the US,years after he is dead.And had a hand in the assasination of lincoln, and maybe later US presidents,jesse was not a banker, but paid cash for big railroads,and copper mines,as william c.clark.US senator,and was one of the richest and most powerful men, in the US.J frank dalton told a few months before he died, everything, Dont believe? J for jesse, frank for his brother. Dalton for his mothers maiden name. but jesse james mother was not named Dalton. it was j.frank daltons cryptic clue.his mothers maiden name was cole,but she was adopted by another family,dalton. and its really the same as when jesse was so they say killed.jesse laid his gun down on the table,and bob ford shot him in the head from behind,All his friends knew jesse was not dead.Because jesse always put his guns on when he woke up,all who knew him would know jesse is not dead. so it was someone with the name hines,who went to pay his taxes,and was investigated,and found to actualy be jesse evans, a member of the james gang. who finally told jesse and billy the kid were still alive. jesse i think 12 years older than billy. you can see a picture on line of j frank dalton( as an old man) with brushy bill roberts,who admitted to be billy the kid,had his own story as one of the rough riders,and he is listed in theodore roosevelts rough riders. there is a photo a year or two before dalton died,and you can see his friend billy, and his child hood friend a black slave from his family there too.older than jesse.could it just be a co-incidence,that jesse james mother was attacked and had her arm or hand blown off,in attempts to find jesse,and later in the 1940s,investigations were made into the william c.clarke family,and one of the family screamed because old grandmother clarke,by then dead.Also had the same arm missing? jesse faked his own death twice,as jesse and as william c.clarke. his daughter when he was william c.clarke,became a recluse.she had married a man,but when her father died(jesse), it his rumoured after his death as william c.clarke,he came back after some time and told his daughter the truth,he was jesse james. clarke a rich man who lived in high society,was jesse james.she could not accept it,divorced her husband,and became a recluse. the assasination of lincoln by john wilkes booth was a conspiracy of those who still were true to the south. jesse and frank involved. Lincoln was was shot,but seriously injured,too weak to move him so far,so he was taken to the closest boarding house. And to an empty but rented room. to die. the room was though already rented. the name on the room, was william clark. wilkes booth killed after escaping but not. a soldier was set up to be killed in his place. john wilkes booth was also a freemason. wilkes booth died in 1901,as he had become a drunk and a liability,who could expose the truth,As to who controlled america at that time. jesse arranged a meeting and shot john wilkes booth.to protect the brotherhood. "
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That's impossible to read for a whole bunch of reasons.

Grammar

Saturday July 24th, 2021
Stray Leaves

MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves' "Genealogy Search" database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins don't even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But here's an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins! ... See MoreSee Less

MOST PEOPLE DONT KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves Genealogy Search database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins dont even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But heres an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins!
Sunday July 18th, 2021
Stray Leaves

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Cole's host was not named Warden.Every day is a great day to come to the Warden’s House, but today we have balloons! 🎈⭐️ Tours every Thursday-Sunday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Come see us! ... See MoreSee Less

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Coles host was not named Warden.
Thursday July 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAIL OF TEARS AS CHICKASAW & CHOCTAW HISTORY . . .NOT AS U.S. HISTORY. First, we stray leaves must grasp the fact that the ancestral Anglo blood that flows in our veins from the time of our arrival in America in the early 1600s through the American Revolution is the same blood that directed the course of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations among the descendants of Benjamin James Sr. the lawyer and Indian trader and his children Benjamin James Jr. "of the Choctaw Nation" and his sister Susannah James who married James Holmes Colbert, a Chief of the Chickasaw Nation. This, too, is our story.

In this, our story, we see our enthusiastic defense for a growing nation in the War of 1812 betrayed and deceived by expulsion to the Trail of Tears. We see the separation of our Choctaw and Chickasaw families in the West and the surrounding turmoil that engulfed them. We learn how our distrust of the U.S. Government folded us into the Confederacy. Lastly, we perceive ourselves as men of fortitude and women of power. We possess an enduring ancestral skill to put intelligence in the service of leadership, education, and conflict resolution. Our story is a legacy for peace and progress.

Chickasaw.tv | Winter Fire | Episode 2: Arrival In Indian Territory
Amidst Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory, the crucial Fort Washita was constructed and leaders such as Cyrus Harris emerged.
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