Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Sickinger's Tavern

Semi-Weekly News (Mansfield): 20 May 1898, Vol. 14, No. 43


Submitted by Amy


Sickinger's tavern as the "Center House" was familiarly called, was for many years one of the best known and popular hostelries in Richland County.  It was situated on the old state road midway between Mansfield and Bellville and was frequently called the half-way house.

The hotel was conducted for more than 30 years by Mr. & Mrs. Jacob Sickinger, and was quite profitable in its day, but when a new page of the world's history was turned and railroad trains took the place of stage coaches and the Pennsylvania freight wagons, the erstwhile patronage of the Center House, like Othello's occupation, became a thing of the past.

Jacob Sickinger was a weaver by trade -- had been a silk-weaver in the old country -- and when he bought the land and located four and a half miles south of Mansfield in 1841, it was to follow the pursuit of his trade, but the conditions surrounding him changed his occupation from that of a weaver to that of a landlord.

The law of demand and supply governs the world.  Hungry passengers and teamsters passed that way who wanted food for themselves and feed for their horses, and the Sickingers were soon induced to open a public house.  Accordingly the sign of a tavern was put out, and stables and feed shed erected and accommodations provided for "man and beast" as it was idiomatically expressed.

The state road was then the great stage route through Mansfield between the river and lake and the Center House soon became an important suburban station on the line.  The state road was also the principal freight route between the north and the south and teams loaded with rain and other farm products were driven from the Ohio River and intermediate points to Huron and Sandusky and there exchanged for merchandise which was taken upon the return trips.  It was no uncommon occurrence for 25 of these teamsters to lodge at Sickinger's of a single night, and as there were four, and often six horse teams, an idea can be formed of that traffic and of the patronage it brought to the Center House.

The table was always set, as meals were served at all hours.  The lunch counter, with Mrs. Sickinger's home-brewed small beer and ginger-bread, was well patronized and its popularity was equaled only by her cooking, all of which assisted in drawing a paying trade to the house.

The Center House was opened to supply a want and served its day, fulfilled its purpose and as a hotel is now no more.  It belonged, not to the pioneer epoch, but to a later era -- to a period that spans the past with the present -- to which we can look back at what might be termed the drama of events, without taking the time to unveil the farce of particulars, and be thankful that we live in an age of inventions, improvement and advancement for superior to the stage-coach days of other years.

Jacob Sickinger was born in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1810, and at the age of 21 years joined the cavalry and, after serving five years in that branch of the army, he came to America in 1826 -- taking 88 days in crossing the ocean.  After spending a short time in New York and Philadelphia, he came to Ohio and located in Ashland County, where in 1838 he married Miss Eliza Benninghoff.  They went to housekeeping on the Myers place, two miles north of Mansfield, where they lived two years and then removed to the Seavers farm, two miles south of town.  In 1841 they bought a 20-acre lot four and a half miles south of Mansfield, which became the site of the Center House.  Mr. Sickinger prospered and in addition to erecting a large hotel building, invested his savings in real estate, at war prices, until he had 360 acres of as good land as one could wish to own.  But later in life reverses came to him, as they come to many, and he lived to see some of his land sold at $50 less per acre than he had paid for it, and this, too, to raise "bail money" to pay notes he had endorsed for others.  Added to this, his barn and its contents were consumed by fire, making a loss of over $3,000, which with the paper he had endorsed and had to pay, amounted in one year to $13,000.  This he might have withstood, had it not been for the shrinkage in values and depreciation in the price of real estate, but as it was he saved only a small homestead.  Jacob Sickinger died April 26, 1890, aged over 79 years.

Mr. and Mrs. Sickinger had two children -- a daughter and a son -- Mrs. Sottlemyer, of South Main Street, this city, and George F. Sickinger, who lives at home with his mother.  

After living at the Center House 57 years, Mrs. Sickinger recently sold the same and bought the Leppo farm, a half mile west of Washington village, to which she removed and where she is now pleasantly situated.  The house stands upon one of the highest elevations in the state, and commands good views of the country.  It is in a good locality, their neighbors being the Tobys, Mr. Clapper, Thomas Lutz, William Hammett, George Taylor, O. Ray, Hiram Baker, John M. Swigart and others. 

Mrs. Sickinger was born in Schuylkill County, Pa., October 18, 1818, and came with her parents, Mr. & Mrs. George Benninghoff, to Ohio, in 1836, and located in Ashland County.  She was confirmed in the Evangelical Church when she was 15 years old and her Christian character and goodness of heart are well known.  In all the years of her hotel life she never permitted a dance to be given nor a card played in her house.  She performed faithfully her duty as it was given her to understand it.  She possesses a personality with a potency for good that makes its impress upon her associates.

There seems to be something in the air of this high altitude that is conducive to the development of talent and character, especially of that intelligent, self-reliance and thrift for which the women of Richland County are so well noted.

While men may seek and seize opportunities, women, as a rule, can only accept and improve the appointments of their surroundings and, although Mrs. Sickinger never traveled, travelers came to the Center House and were entertained by her from whom she obtained a knowledge of the world and its affairs, such as but few old ladies, whose lives have been passed in the country, possess and enjoy.

-- A.J. Baughman

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