In the 1770s Worcester had at least 10 taverns. Taverns provided food, drink, and lodging. They were also gathering places where men discussed farming, local business, and politics, and formed the hubs of political and social networks. Some were centers of Patriot activity, while others catered to a predominantly Tory clientele. Most were licensed to operate all year round. Others, such as Timothy Bigelow’s home and forge, were licensed to serve only when the County Court was in session.
Located near Bigelow’s house and tavern was the Hancock Arms, opened in 1745 and operated by Luke Brown. Brown’s tavern (located on present-day Lincoln Street) was a Patriot establishment and headquarters of the American Political Society. In 1786 the Hancock Arms was a gathering place for participants in Shays’ Rebellion who sought to close the Worcester County Court.
Nearby on Lincoln Street was the Curtis Tavern, which operated from 1754 to 1774. The proprietor was a Tory but his sons were Patriots.
Farther south, on Main Street, was the King’s Arms Tavern operated by the widow Mary Stearns. Despite its royal name, the tavern catered to both Patriots and Tories.
Across Main Street from the King’s Arms was the Heywood Tavern, where the court officers waited on Sept. 6, 1774, while the militia closed the court.
William Jones kept a tavern on the road out of Worcester, on the present corner of Main and Southbridge Streets. Jones was known to be a Tory. In January 1775, Gen. Gage’s two officers who were scouting to see about the possibility of military action against Worcester stayed there.