What The Tavern Told Me

A quotation from the Latin of Francis Daniel Pastorius translated by John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem The Pennsylvania Pilgrim (1872)


Remember, and wherein we have done well Follow our footsteps, men of coming years! Where we have failed to do Aright, or wisely live, Be warned by us, the better way pursue, And, knowing we were human, even as you, Pity us and forgive!

Sometimes in the telling of a family story, a building or a place becomes a character in the narrative. If one is lucky, even after two hundred and seventy years, the physical structure remains. And if one is measured in their approach, they may feel the presence of the lives that have passed through its doors. This was my experience when I stood on the doorstep of the Green Tree Tavern, placed my hand on the front door, and peered in the windows at the now silent rooms.


Built by Daniel and Sarah Pastorius in 1748, the Green Tree Tavern sat next to the homestead of Daniel’s grandfather, Francis Daniel Pastorius, founder of Germantown. The building stands today at 6023 Germantown Avenue where the date and letters D.S.P. (the initials of my 5x great grandparents), are still visible on a stone under the eaves. In 1956 it was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and today is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for the Colonial Germantown Historic District.


Daniel Pastorius was born to Johann Samuel Pastorius, a Germantown weaver, and his wife Hannah Lucken. Hannah’s parents were among the first families to arrive in Germantown from Krefeld, Germany in 1683. As a young man Daniel became a saddler, making and repairing saddles and leather equipment for horses, a trade later adopted by his eldest son Abraham. According to Quaker custom, Daniel Pastorius and Sarah Shoemaker declared their intentions of marriage with each other before two monthly Meetings of Friends and finding no obstruction were then at ‘liberty to accomplish their said intention’. They married on 30 January 1742. Six years later the Green Tree Tavern was built.


In her book, The Evolution of Abolitionism in Germantown And Its Environs, Ena Veronica Lindner Swain identifies the role of taverns in the early 1700s as places where community business was conducted, and important discussions took place. The Green Tree Tavern housed the Library Company of Germantown which was chartered in 1745 and modelled after the Library Company of Philadelphia. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin, a known abolitionist, founded the Library Company of Philadelphia, an institution noted for its books by early abolitionist writers. “Historians have suggested that most of the members of the Library Company were abolitionists.” [1]


It would not be unusual to find similar anti-slavery publications circulating within the Germantown Library Company. They “purchased books and printing services from Franklin and Hall, including the printing of its instrument of partnership.” [2]


Following the death of Daniel Pastorius, the Green Tree Tavern continued to host the Germantown Library Company until 1758.


The writings of Ira V. Brown give a comprehensive view into slavery in early Pennsylvania. I read Pennsylvania’s Antislavery Pioneers, 1688-1776, but there is so much more. His article “Anti-Slavery Journey: Garrison and Douglass in Pennsylvania, 1847” was one of the most frequently requested on a recent JSTOR list. Brown wrote two monographs that are included in the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s Pennsylvania History Studies series: Pennsylvania Reformers from Penn to Pinchot (1966) and The Negro in Pennsylvania (1970). It wasn't until 1776 that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends became the first major religious body to require its members to cease and desist from slaveholding. To get a better understanding of slavery and the Quakers of Pennsylvania, I recommend reading Ira V. Brown.


Cornell University Library Daniel Pastorius House (Green Tree Tavern) ca.1865-ca.1895

I find family history research to be a solitary occupation, but recently I received a message from an experienced genealogist and newly discovered distant cousin living in Austin, Texas.[3] Tracey Holmes Marcelo generously offered insight into our shared family lineage through the “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935” for Daniel Pastorius.


It seems that for the Pastorius family, keeping a tavern was not without controversy. In 1751, Daniel received a complaint within the Society of Friends. Their offences were specified in several meeting minutes during June, July, and October and included management of their tavern (The Saddlers Arms, later called the Green Tree Inn) in which they allowed wager placing and playing of music, and their being unwilling to settle a lawsuit with another member in the Society. [4] The matter was not resolved. Daniel and Sarah were disowned by the Society.

Daniel Pastorius died 13 November 1754 leaving his wife and four children. Despite disputes with the Society of Friends, he was buried in the Germantown Preparatory Meeting of Friends Cemetery, Germantown. Sarah continued to manage the Green Tree Tavern marrying again in 1757. After giving birth to three more children, she lost her second husband, Daniel Mackenet, on 19 October 1761. From that day she became known as the Widow Mackenet.


A paper on The Female Social Structure of Philadelphia in 1775 by author Carole Shammas, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee states that “nearly ten percent of women headed their own households, and they were almost exclusively widows. If their husbands had been affluent and had left them generous portions in their will, then these women might fare well as household heads. For many women, however, widowhood meant poverty. About 20% of the pub licenses issued in the city went to women in this period and as poorer tavern owners sometimes neglected to obtain licenses and women tended to be the proprietresses of these establishments, we may assume the actual percentage was higher.” [5]


In 1768, Sarah Mackenet applied to the Germantown Township in the County of Philadelphia for a tavern license. The license was issued by the Proprietary Secretary’s office on August 15. [6]


Green Tree Tavern Historic Plaque dated 6 December 1909

Throughout its long life, the Green Tree Tavern was witness to significant historical events. In December of 1759, it was the site of the first meeting to establish a school for the children of Germantown. “The Committee met several more times at the Tavern to finalize plans for the funding and construction of the school, which eventually became Germantown Academy.” [7]


An abstract found in a deed book dated 1850 notes, “This property is famously known in olden time as the Green Tree Tavern. It was well known in the revolutionary struggle and also after the achievement of Independence as the resort of several very conspicuous Tories who resided in Germantown." [8]


Perhaps not surprising then that Abraham Pastorius, eldest son of Daniel and Sarah, joined the British forces when they entered Philadelphia in 1777. It is recorded that during the Battle of Germantown the attacking Americans under General Wayne reached as far as the Green Tree Tavern as they made their way towards the centre of the town.


Battle of Germantown, Cliveden, October 2008 photo: B. Schepers

The Green Tree Tavern survived to tell its own tale of a brush with greatness. William Gold of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania writes that George Washington may have visited the tavern for refreshment during the summer of 1793. In that year, while the yellow fever ravaged Philadelphia the offices of the National Government were removed to Germantown. Washington leased the ‘Morris House’ at 5442 Main Street during the month of November and again in the summer of 1794 from July to September. He was often seen walking up the Main Street and daily rode out on horseback or in his phaeton.


When the General Marquis de La Fayette, a hero of the American Revolution, visited Germantown in 1825, a dinner in his honour was planned at the Green Tree Tavern. It was decided at the last moment that the tavern would not accommodate the number of guests and the dinner was moved to Cliveden, the ancestral home of the Chew family. Back in 1777, Benjamin Chew had been placed in preventive detention, as a suspected Loyalist.


In its long life the Green Tree Tavern was known by many names – The Saddlers Arms, the Pastorius House, The Widow Mackinett’s, [9] and the Hornets’ Nest. In 1901 it became a private residence and in 1912 it was sold to the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. The tavern was moved to its current location in 1930 to allow for the building of a new chapel and education building.


Pastorius House (Green Tree Tavern) Historic American Bldgs Survey, Jack Boucher, Photographer 1972

It is satisfying to read about the Widow Mackenet’s fine cooking and the reputation of the Green Tree Tavern as a fashionable and well-kept hotel into the1800s. [10] But on closer examination, the Green Tree Tavern had a more painful truth to tell. One that I did not expect, and one that makes the writing of this story much more difficult.


The Tax and Exoneration Lists dated 1769 include an entry for Sarah Mackenet, widow and landowner, Germantown, Philadelphia. [11]

1769 Tax and Exoneration Lists 1762-1794, Series No. 4.61

Sarah Mackenet was a slaveowner. A line on a page changes everything. Today I willingly carry the banner against racism, inequality, and discrimination but my family story must stretch and shift to include a story of slaveholders.


Before finding this document, I believed that the 1688 ‘Protest Against Slavery’ upheld by Francis Daniel Pastorius was the shining example of generations of Pastorius family values. That belief is proven false in the person of my 5x great grandmother Sarah Pastorius Mackenet. It is an agonizing truth and one that cannot be erased from our family story.


That is what the tavern told me.



Endnote: Sarah died in 1795 and is buried between her husbands in the Germantown Preparatory Meeting of Friends Cemetery, Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.


Recommended reading:


Ena V. Lindner Swain, The Evolution of Abolitionism in Germantown and Its Environs - William Penn's "Holy Experiment": Planting the Seeds for Abolitionism (Philadelphia: Lulu Self Publishing, February 2017)


Ira V. Brown, “Pennsylvania’s Antislavery Pioneers, 1688-1776, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies,Vol. 55, No. 2 (April, 1988), pp. 59-77 (19 pages)

[1] Ena V. Lindner Swain, The Evolution of Abolitionism in Germantown and Its Environs - William Penn's "Holy Experiment": Planting the Seeds for Abolitionism (Philadelphia: Lulu Self Publishing, February 2017), 151.


[2] Margaret Barton Korty, Benjamin Franklin and Eighteenth-Century American Libraries (Independence Square, Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, December 1965), 22.


[3] Tracey Holmes Marcelo became interested in genealogy as a teenager when her great-aunt bequeathed a box of family photographs to her. She has been researching her ancestors--and the ancestors of others--ever since. "Telling their story" and preserving their memories are what interests her the most. Tracey lives in Austin,Texas where she works as a project manager.


[4] Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Men's Minutes, 1746-1756; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 4


[5] Carole Shammas, “The Female Social Structure of Philadelphia in 1775,” Celebration of Colonial Women, National Society of the Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, (30 April,1982), 72-75.


[6] Province of Pennsylvania records of financial accounts, 1761-1776 (Am .2014),Vol. 1


[7] William Gold, (2012). “The Green Tree Tavern — Serving The Historic Germantown Community since 1748” [Online]. Available: http://www.philaplace.org/story/1139/ [2020, August].


[8] Jane Campbell. “6019 (subsequently 6023) Germantown Avenue Green Tree Tavern, Daniel Pastorius House.” Philadelphia: Campbell Collection. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 1913.


[9] Variations of spelling for - Mackenet, Mackenett, Mackinett, Macknett


[10] Charles F. Jenkins, Guide Book To Historic Germantown, ( Germantown: Site and Relic Society, 1926), 94.


[11] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; Records of the Office of the Comptroller General, RG-4; Tax & Exoneration Lists, 1762-1794; Microfilm Roll: 332

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