Our Inn is named in honor of David Steele who built a Tavern in this area when he returned from fighting the British in the American Revolution. David Steele’s story and the history of our Inn are fascinating. As innkeepers, hearing stories like this and having the family of the founder of our town stay at our inn, are some of the reasons we enjoy this vocation. In fact, much of the following information is provided by the great, great, great, great grandchildren of David Steele, Harry Boyte & Anne Boyte (brother & sister). Harry and Anne visited with us in October!
The story of our county begins in the 1720’s when settlers began arriving in the area from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and eastern Virginia. The greatest numbers of early Augusta County settlers were from the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland, or were the Pennsylvania and Maryland-born children of these Ulster Scots or Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. David Steele was of Scots-Irish descent and part of this community. Many early settlers took up land on the 112,000-acre tract that the colonial government granted to William Beverley.
David Steele and his brother volunteered to fight in the local militia against the British in the Revolutionary War. When he was 22 years old, David Steele served as Wagon Master under General Nathaniel Green was severely wounded during the defeat at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse North Carolina. After receiving 16 saber slashes while a prisoner of war, David kept his wit about him and realized that the way to save his own life was to appear as if he had already lost it. He was brutally injured but it is said that “it is hard to kill an Irishman” and somehow David Steele made it back to his home in Virginia. When David arrived home, he had surgery to remove a portion of his skull and replace the missing section with a metal plate. This surgery was required due to his injuries while in North Carolina.
David and his wife, Mary, built Steeles Tavern – a resting place for travelers passing through the Shenandoah Valley. In addition to the tavern, David owned and operated gristmills in the area. The original Steeles Tavern served some well-known and well-traveled people of the day including the Marquis de Chastellux, the Marquis de Lafayette. The tavern was spoken well of by both of these famous men.
The area surrounding David Steeles’ 500 acres grew and prospered. The small town was first known as Midway, due to its location midway between Baltimore, MD and Knoxville, TN, as well as being midway between Staunton and Lexington VA. The town then became known as Steeles Tavern because David’s inn was so prominent in the community and that it was an important stagecoach stop for weary travelers.
The house we now occupy is not the same original Tavern built and kept by David Steele, but we do offer the same great hospitality to weary travelers and people trying to escape the rush of their everyday lives. Stay with us and see the letter presented to us from David Steeles’ family – feel the history of our area and enjoy the experience of today’s Steeles Tavern.