New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

The Cave

by Jeannette Eckman, 1936
Facing the river on the Strand, north of Harmony Street was once the meeting place of soldiers, sailors and adventurers from foreign ports who liked good drink and substantial food at a modest price, and especially the company of Barney Murphy, who kept a tavern called THE CAVE, in the old Rainey House. The house was one of the oldest recorded in New Castle and the tavern was famous among seamen. In the old stagecoach days, while many distinguished passengers of the ships that came into port refreshed themselves with wines and champagnes and "gentlemen's fare" at the Stage Inn by Packet Alley, or opposite the Old Court House on Delaware Street, the ship's crew and often the officers hurried up the Strand to drink to Barney's health in mugs of beer or glasses of rum, and exchange the latest news of the world. Long after The Cave was gone the old sign was preserved in New Castle. It bore Barney Murphy's invitation:

Traveler, as you pass by
Come, take a drink as well as I,
The Liquor's good, the price is low,
Come take a drink before you go.
[From New Castle on the Delaware 1936, 1950, 1973, Federal Writers Project New Castle Historical Society]

Eckman provided no information on when this tavern existed. From the looks of the photo, its heydey was probably well prior to 1900. There WAS a Barney or Barnard Murphey in the 1820, 1830 and 1840 Federal Census in New Castle. Barney had an unudually large household according to the census (9 people in 1830, all free white), and probaby lived on or near The Strand, based upon his neighbors in the census. (Richard Sexton lived at 24 The Strand). Strangely, in light of the Eckman statement about the "old Rainey house", there are no Raineys listed in the census prior to 1850, and none of them were old enough to be heads of households in 1830. (Click on 1830 census images for Barnard Murphey and Richard Sexton to enlarge)