Kansas History and Heritage Project-Wyandotte County History

Wyandotte County History
"Six-Mile Tavern"
Topeka Daily Capitol, Feb. 7, 1909

"Six-Mile Tavern," one of the most famous hostelries in the West a half century ago, has been split in two, and while one half of it in being used as a residence the other half has been put to the ignoble purpose of granary and storage house, attached as an annex to the owner's stable.

Six-Mile Tavern was built a little way west of Quindaro, on the road between Wyandotte and Leavenworth, in 1853, when there was much travel along that load and the need for a suitable place to stay over night was urgent.

Throughout, from wine collar to arsenal and from bar room to sleeping apartments, the tavern was finished in polished, solid black walnut. Those were back when black walnut was plentiful, and it was much used for interior finishings, but Six Mile Tavern was finished even more lavishly and expensively than the best of the buildings in the country for many miles around. The finish boards and the doors were all attached with wooden pins, so neatly concealed as not to show the location of the pin, even to this day.

The tavern occupied what is now the site of the home of James K. P. Barker, at Welburn station, on the Kansas City-Leavenworth electric line. It was a stage tavern, and there the first change of horses was made on the fast express stage running from Jefferson City through Kansas City, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and to St. Joseph. It stood just six miles from the ferry which crossed the Kaw river at Wyandotte vilIage.

The inn was built by Theodore Bartle and for a time was known as Bartle�s tavern, but it could not escape the name of "Six Mile." It was a large two-story building with nine large rooms, a wine cellar, secret closets for arms and ammunition, known as the arsenal, and a bar room. All of these rooms mere finished in black walnut, highly polished. The doors, window casings, floors, stairways, closets, bar,cupboard and mantels over the roomy fireplaces were of walnut. And there is not a nail in the door or any of this interior work. It is all fastened together with wooden pegs and the work is so perfect that hardly a seam can he discovered to this day. When this wood work is polished it rivals mahogany and the lasting qualities�of the old house pay tribute to the skill of the workmen of that day.

But at least part of the old structure has fallen into complete disgrace. A few years ago James K. P. Parker, who owned and lived in the old home for more than thirty years, decided to build a new house and the front part of the old Six Mile tavern was moved north a few blocks on another section of land to continue in service as a home. The "L" part, in which were the old kitchen and dining room, where so many good things were cooked and served in the early days, was moved east 200 feet and now serves as a granary and storage place for old stoves and discarded furniture. It is attached to and made it part of a barn.

For a few years after its erection the Inn was conducted by Theodore Bartle as a high class hostelry, appealing only to the very best patronage. But the boom days were soon over and the competition between the steam boats plying the Missouri river and the fast express stage lines was so great that the tavern did not prove as profitable as the owner anticipated.

And this was not the only thing thing that interfered with its prosperity and caused its reputation to suffer. The Civil war came and with it the destructiveness and the dangers of border warfare. The Six Mile tavern, the pride of the stage roads in two states, became the rendezvous of the headquarters of the famous Red Legs, the band of marauders who took advantage of the exciting times along the border during the Civil war to rob travelers and plunder the homes and farms for miles around in both Missouri and Kansas. The secret closets in the inn were filled with ammunition, sabers�and muskets. Men were stationed for a time in the secret room at the head of the stairway which commanded a view of the front entrance, so as to shoot down the enemy if any attempt was made to capture the place or search it. Murders were committed in the neighborhood. During the war a man and his son were hanged to a tree which now stands across the road from the old tavern. After they were relieved of their belongings they made the mistake of threatening to return with a number of friends to demand restitution. Their captors were too powerful to have their authority thus questioned. and they declared the man and his son to be �rebels� and hanged them.

Just east of the tavern site still may be found the old rock well which for 60 years has quenched the thirst of the travelers along that road and still is serving the same good purpose. �Water for man and beast� was the sign hung from the top of the frame above the well for half a century. Here the stage horses and passengers were watered-such of the passengers as drank water.

Thomas Barker, one of the first white settlers in Wyandotte county, Kansas, and now a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, who probably knows more about the early history of eastern Kansas than any man living, tells many stories about the Red Legs and of their rendezvous at the Six Mile tavern. But Mr. Barker does not give credence to the many ghost stories told about the old tavern. �A family moved into the old Six Mile tavern soon after Theodore Bartle's death.� Mr. Barker said recently, telling about one of the ghost stories. �The man and his wife had heard some frightful stories about the ghosts and they were naturally very nervous. They did not have long to wait for a real ghost scare. A noise like something knocking and pounding was heard in one of the secret closets. The woman ran into another room, locked and bolted the door. while the brave husband with a light in one hand and a revolver in the other, ventured up to the door of the closet. He opened the door carefully. Instead of a visitor from the spirit world he discovered a flying squirrel trying to find a place of exit."

In one of the rooms of the old house is still the old bar, made of black walnut. On each end of the bar is a closet in which to store liquors and supplies. and over the front of the bar is a large arch handsomely polished and decorated with hand carving. In the kitchen and dining rooms a large cupboard is built into the partition which serves as a dividing wall between the two rooms. This cupboard has many doors opening into both rooms, so that the products of the kitchen could be passed back and forth. One of the curiosities of the old place is the arsenal. It is in the back room upstairs and is a closet extending entirely across one side of the room. In this are racks for hanging sabers and muskets. After James K. P. Barker purchased the place more than 30 years ago there were still several old sabers and muskets used by the Red Legs in the closet.

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