Lord of the Rings fans will know immediately that the Inn of the Prancing Pony is an inn in Bree where Frodo Baggins, Sam, Pippin, and Merry first met Strider.
This sign isn’t from that Inn, but it’s the first thing I think of whenever I walk past it. This sign graces the front of the Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th Century Inn that is part of the Minute Man National Park. Situated on the Battle Road, a 5-mile path that traces the history of the skirmishes between the British troops and the Colonial Militia, the Hartwell Tavern is located very close to where Paul Revere was captured during his midnight ride, in the town of Lincoln, Mass. (where I happen to live). It was here at the time of the battle on April 19, 1775 and is what is called a “witness house.”
The Tavern is the site of many reenactments and even though it is fully restored, about 60-70 % of the “original” structure remains. The main structure, the foundation, most of the walls, and some of the flooring are original, circa 1732. In 1756, Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell lived in the house and started operating it as an Inn, which he continued to do until the 1780s.
But the Hartwell Tavern is more than just a place passed by the British on their way to Concord. Three of Ephraim and Elizabeth Hartwell’s sons fought at the North Bridge and on the Battle Road in the Lincoln Minute Man Company, led by Captain William Smith (I played him in several reenactments of the muster, riding down the hill into Lincoln center to rouse the Minute Men). And local history reports that
after Paul Revere was captured, Mary Flint Hartwell took the message that the regulars were marching on Concord to Captain Smith.
There is not enough written history to know whether or not this is true, but I like to think of Mary Hartwell riding this dirt road on the first step of rousing the Minute Men. Horses are no longer allowed on the Battle Road except during Patriot Day events, but sometimes the tremor of hoofbeats on the hard packed earth echoes from those long ago days.