Historical Marker #1765 in Walton commemorates the Abner Gaines House, which was used as an inn and stagecoach stop on the first stagecoach line that ran between Cincinnati and Lexington.
A member of the prominent Gaines family, Abner Gaines (b. 1766) purchased property in southern Boone County from Archibald Reid in ca.1813. He continued to operate a tavern and inn built by Reid in ca. 1795. Gaines built a striking new house in ca. 1814, which is preserved today as the Gaines Tavern History Center. This Federal style house has 3 stairways and 10 carved mantels. Gaines also became the proprietor of the first stagecoach line that carried mail and passengers between Cincinnati and Lexington; a thirty-four hour trip in 1818. Gaines was a Boone County Justice from 1805 to 1817, at which time he was appointed Sheriff.
Abner and his wife Elizabeth (Matthews) had 13 children; several of them experienced some notoriety in various areas of the United States. Abner's oldest son, James Matthews Gaines, became the first postmaster for the community referred to as Gaines Cross Roads, now Walton, in 1815. Woodford Gaines became a paymaster in the US army and spent time at Fort Smith, Arkansas. President Andrew Jackson appointed Richard Gaines U.S. District Attorney of Mississippi. William H. Gaines made a successful claim for a large portion of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Major John Pollard Gaines was a soldier and a statesman. He was also the original owner of the Maplewood Farm, along with Margaret Garner and her family, before he sold it to his brother, Archibald, and moved to the Oregon Territory to assume his position as governor. Archibald K. Gaines enslaved Margaret Garner as well.
Margaret Garner, her husband Robert, and her children crossed the Ohio River in 1857. The family took refuge in the home of a formerly enslaved person in Cincinnati. With the legal support of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, deputy marshals apprehended the Garner family. Unwilling to return her children to captivity, Margaret cut the throat of one of her children and attempted to kill the other three before being stopped. Margaret was tried for murder and sold further south.
Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, was inspired by Margaret Garner's actions.
The Abner Gaines house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The marker reads:
In 1790s Abner Gaines built this Federal style mansion and became owner of first stage line between Lexington and Cincinnati, 1818. House used as inn and stagecoach stop. It has 3 stairways and 10 carved mantels. Abner's son, John P. Gaines, was appointed governor of Oregon Territory in 1850. House listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1980.