The idea for a haunted roadside inn in my Fury Falls Inn series developed over several months of pondering. If you’re a fan of my books, one fact I hope you’ve discovered is that for my historicals—actually, for all of my writing—I strive to make sure the story’s details are authentic and at least plausible if not exactly found in the history books. With that in mind, I had to know whether an inn could have existed where I wanted in northeast Alabama in 1821, the time period of the series.
The first consideration I’ve already discussed: whether enough people were traveling into the area who would need accommodations or lodgings for a brief period of time. I had to know where the roads were in Madison County before I could choose the right location. Then I was curious about what types of hostelries existed in the Huntsville area. Which leads me to today’s topic: the Bell Tavern.
While I haven’t been able to find out much about the original tavern as far as its appearance, I do know it was owned by Walter Otey who arrived in Huntsville in the early 1800s. His wife, Mary Walton Otey, must have helped in the Bell Tavern when she wasn’t busy raising their nine children. Most likely even the children helped out with the daily chores associated with keeping the place clean, preparing and serving meals, keeping fires burning for warmth, etc.
Mention is made regarding the many people who traveled to Huntsville who would stay at the Bell Tavern. Since it was located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square, I imagine during the formative years of the state that delegates and lawyers among others must have enjoyed the hospitality offered at the tavern. Although the deliberations were held in the Constitution Hall, those who had traveled into town might have stayed at the Tavern.
Walter Otey died in 1823, which left the tavern to his wife to manage. I imagine, though the record I’ve uncovered doesn’t provide details, she would likely have been glad to find a buyer for the business. There is reference to the property having “endured many changes in ownership” before Alexander Johnson took possession of it in 1855. Mr. Johnson suffered from some very bad luck because a “major fire” reduced the Tavern to having only “a few rooms for guests” for some period of time before being torn down and replaced with a “modern hotel” on the site. Thus The Huntsville Hotel was built, which will be the topic of next week’s article.
So, look for potential visits by my characters in the series to the Bell Tavern since it was still in existence at the time of my stories. I’m still in the planning stages of some of those and don’t know yet whether they’ll stop in for a pint or not. Or perhaps copy some of the hospitality for use at the Fury Falls Inn. Anything is possible at this point…
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Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.
But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.
When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…