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Though the sound of the horses’ hooves and stagecoach wheels turning have faded long ago into our heritage and history, the stories and memories handed down through the ages have preserved at least a glimpse into those days.
It’s thanks to people like the late Clifford Nickels, who remembered the stagecoaches and the routes they traveled, and to the late Gene Watson, who treasured our local heritage and the area’s part in history enough to research and attempt to preserve not only the memories, but also the actual landmarks still visible, such as the ruts along Sandy Run’s north bank near Griffith’s Cemetery.
Watson had shared some local history along the old road, now known as U.S. Route 40. He said that from 1832 until 1860, a post office and store was located across from the Twin Pumps stagecoach store, about three quarters of a mile west of Brownstown, in Otego Township.
The post office/store site is now marked at the historical crossroads by the Griffith Cemetery sign.
The tradition of providing food and relaxation to travelers and local folks have continued on the old Cumberland Road, as various cafes and restaurants (and inns in earlier days) have served along the road and Brownstown.
This, the third and final chapter in this series, focuses on The Hitchin’ Post, decorated and operated by Danielle Willms.
The Hitchin’ Post
Located on the north side of the road, it’s hard to miss. An almost-life-sized horse stands near the front door, and a huge cowboy boot, wagon wheels, and western cowboy objects and equipment add to the colorful exterior. And as one enters the door, the décor continues.
The recently renovated building is bright and cheerful, homey and interesting, comfortable and clean.
Booths give the feeling of privacy, or individual tables can be put together for larger get-togethers, all in a large room. And, for conferences, celebrations and other gatherings, a large, authentic-looking barn door opens to reveal a large private room.
Native Woods Used for Tabletops
The tabletops are especially interesting, as they are made of wood from Fayette County trees. The lumber was bought from the late Darrell D. Weaver’s sawmill, and though the tables are beautifully finished, the natural markings of the trees and of Darrell’s saw blade is still visible.
The Hitchin’ Post Menu…
… will not be a disappointment, as it offers a large variety of food from appetizers Ace in the Hole quesadillas, Tumbleweeds (onion straws, freshly cut and fried, served with chocolate sauce); Desperado steak fries; salads, pastas; chicken (Prairie Bird Tenders, Tombstone Chicken, Campfire Chicken); Jumpin’ Catfish; creekside salmon dinner; pork chops; and, of course, Cowboy steaks and ribs.
There are also several choices in the Lil’ Wranglers section which, Danielle stated, can be purchased by customers of any age.
“Everybody doesn’t want a full meal, so any age can order from the children’s menu,” she said.
She plans to change the menu about twice a year, keeping the popular foods and adding some new ones.
“I try to keep everything fresh. I don’t like all of that frozen food,” she said.
Danielle, In Person
Danielle is a very pleasant, friendly and attractive young woman. Danielle and Cory’s family consist of sons, Dodge and Bryant.
Danielle attended college in Carbondale and Edwardsville, and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business. Her grandparents are Bill and Bette Stolte. The late Erma Stolte was her grandmother.
Both Danielle’s and Cory’s families have helped with getting the restaurant launched.
She said that she has worked a lot in restaurants, beginning when she was 15 years old, and it’s something she had always gone back to, because it was something she liked.
Danielle said that running her own restaurant “is just something that I’ve always wanted to do, and when the building became available, my husband got on the phone and just made it happen. He is a great guy,” she said.
In the renovation, they built booths in the large room, giving some privacy to the customers, a change from the previous cafeteria-style interior.
“We also have a banquet room in the back that will seat 40 people. We can close the barn door so they can have a private party,” she said.
How did she come up with the ideas and decorations?
“My aunt, Tina Kingery, owns Country Folk in Vandalia, and she helped with some of the decorations, such as the metal horse outside. Her husband, Todd Kingery, does willow woodwork. Todd planed down the tabletops and put them together.”
A friend, Chad Mayfield, has made a sign for the Hitchin’ Post, and she is anxious to get it in place.
‘We Don’t Do Breakfast, But ...’
The Hitchin’ Post is open from 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We will have daily specials. We don’t do breakfast, but we open early for lunch and dinner. On Sunday, we just have a brunch buffet only, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.,” she said.
She said that she isn’t a breakfast person. Also, she said, “Mark’s Café serves breakfast. I don’t want to take anything away from him and I also enjoy eating there,” she said.
“We hand-cut all of our steaks and they are always fresh. We haven’t had one sent back yet, so they (customers) must like them,” she said.
“My meals (served) are always a full, rounded meal. All have the featured potato, featured vegetable and salad.
“Everyone who comes in for dinner gets a free cheese ball,” she said. “Also, we have lemon water and cucumber water, and the customers can help themselves to it.”
Jason Nowlan, a personable young man, is the head chef. He is proud of the fact that he is Irish, and his great-great grandparents emigrated from Ireland, and he has Irish outfits for St. Patrick’s Day.
He likes hiking and getting away from the crowd. He especially enjoyed hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
He comes from a family of good cooks and has been cooking professionally for about 11 years. He is a natural cook, and turns out such unique desserts as orange pie and top-of-the-line sandwiches, such as loaded grilled cheese, with tomato slices and onion added.