JOSEPH DUNCAN AND HIS TAVERN
The land the Duncan Tavern sits on was purchased by Joseph Duncan in the mid-1790s. It is not known for certain whether he bought the land intending to start a tavern, if he built the building himself or if any or all of the building was already there. Contemporary accounts that we have located mention other taverns in the town of Paris, but never Duncan's by name until it is advertised for sale in 1803, after Joseph's death. At that time, it is referred to as The Goddess of Liberty and the announcement indicates that it had been run by Ann Duncan after the death of her husband, probably in late 1802 or early 1803. His estate was inventoried in 1803 and some of it was settled in 1805. The last parcels were not settled until 1815. Ann continued to run the tavern until 1803, when she rented the tavern to John Porter.
Ann remarried in 1809--her new husband was Capt. Benjamin Moore. We know nothing of Moore's origins. Moore died early in 1810 before the couple's son, Duncan Moore, was born.
It is known that Joseph Duncan witnessed many legal documents and that his brother-in-law, James McLaughlin, was an attorney. The tavern may or may not have been used as an adjunct courthouse during the time the Duncan Family owned it. And it is not clear how long they actually lived in the building.
Joseph Duncan and Ann Marie McLaughlin had six children, including a son, Joseph Duncan, Jr., who went on to become the sixth governor of Illinois in 1834. Gov. Duncan's biography states that he was born in the building in 1794. We believe he was born in Paris, but it is unclear where the family was living at the time. His biography also states, incorrectly, that his father died in 1809.
THE REST OF THE TAVERN’S HISTORY
After Joseph Duncan’s estate had been probated, this branch of the Duncan family sold most of their property, including the Tavern, and moved westward. The building went through a number of owners and operators until it was bought by William Burr in 1834. The Burr family lived in the Tavern and at various times operated it as an inn or boarding house. The Burr’s sold the site to Maggie Davis who expanded the building. After being sold and resold, the old stone building finally was bought and operated by Charles and/or Minnie Monson until being condemned by the City of Paris in 1940.
It was at this time that the Tavern was saved from demolition by Julia Spencer Ardery and the Kentucky Society Daughters of the American Revolution. From 1940 to the current date, the members of the KSDAR have maintained and preserved the Duncan Tavern Historic Center through private donations and sponsorships.
This is just a brief synopsis of the events surrounding this historic building. Research is ongoing, with new developments and information being discovered regularly. Please visit to get the most up-to-date information regarding the site and to see new exhibits and interpretations of the Duncan Tavern story.
An ad from the December 12, 1803, Kentucky Gazette, offers the tavern for sale after Joseph's death.
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The Goddess of Liberty
It is possible that this 1796 engraving, Liberty, by Edward Savage could have inspired the name of the tavern? It was wildly popular in the post-Revolutionary era. It is known that Thomas Jefferson had a copy in his parlor at Monticello.
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Updated May 16, 2019
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