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Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, PA

The outside of the Jean Bonnet Tavern.

A ghost-eye view of the front of the Jean Bonnet Tavern.

Four miles west of Bedford, Pennsylvania is the Jean Bonnet (bo-nay') Tavern, which has hosted travelers since the mid-1700's.  The Jean Bonnet Tavern has seen it all - war, peace, crime, rebellion, trade, Indian raids and westward migration as the nation grew. The tavern occupies a very strategic spot, sitting at the base of the eastern side of the Allegheny Mountains at the intersection of the Forbes Road (Route 30) and Glades Pike (Route 31). Those roads follow old Shawnee trading paths and are still the major east-west highways through the region.

The tavern is renowned for its old world charm, history, rustic decor and great food.  It is also famous for its ghosts and hauntings.

In 1742, the French built a small fort and trading post here to carry on trade with the Shawnee. It was abandoned during the French and Indian War. The British constructed a building on top of it and there has been one there ever since. The real Jean Bonnet bought the property from the British in 1779 and built the current structure using the thick stone walls of the fort as the foundation. Those stone walls are the walls of the downstairs restaurant today. The Jean Bonnet Tavern was very successful.  Anybody headed west over the mountains stopped here.  It was the last place to outfit and prepare before heading into the frontier. Soon, it became a hub for commerce, exploration, socializing, politics - and justice.

The basement dining room of the Jean Bonnet Tavern.

Part of the main dining room with the gallows of the French spy highlighted.  There is also a good view of the original French fort walls.

It was a meeting place for both sides during the Revolutionary War. It survived the Indian raids of 1780 that savaged the region. Later, it was a gathering spot for farmers involved in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.  Federal troops sent to quell the rebellion, led by President George Washington himself,  encamped near the grounds. That was the one and only time the Commander-in-Chief has led troops in the field. 

It watched as battles of the Civil War were fought less than 90 miles away, including Gettysburg and Antietam. In the week before Gettysburg, Pennsylvania militia troops skirmished with Confederate cavalry in Everett, only 10 miles away. 

At least two men are known to have been hanged here.

The Forbes Expedition of 1758 stopped here on its way to attack Fort Duquesne, the French base at the junction of the three rivers in modern-day Pittsburgh.  A suspected French spy was hanged.  His body was buried under the floor so the French would never know his fate. The beam that served as the gallows is still there.  According to legends and ghost hunters, the spirit of the French spy is still there too.

In the 1760's, a second floor was added to the original structure and was used as a circuit courtroom. Frontier justice was swift and several men were reportedly hanged.  The only one documented with any certainty was a horse thief who stole horses from the Shawnee.  He was tried and hanged while the Shawnee waited outside.  They took his body with them.

In 1980, the tavern underwent a major renovation.  Underneath the old floor downstairs workers found a human skeleton.  Although it was never identified, testing showed the bones dated back to the late 1700's.

Hauntings and paranormal events have been observed or recorded at the Jean Bonnet Tavern for years.  These include cold spots, strange lights, anomalies on pictures and apparitions.  The tavern was recently featured on the Biography channel's "My Ghost Story".  If you missed it, you can catch the Jean Bonnet Tavern segment here starting at the nine minute mark.

The original fireplace in the basement dining room.
The fireplace.  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It's massive. In the winter, there is a roaring fire going in it. The dining room view in the previous picture is directly behind the camera.

However, most people come here for the atmosphere and the food. Going into the main dining room is like stepping back in time.  It is quiet, cool and windowless with thick stone walls and the original massive exposed chestnut beams and columns. The focal point is the large fireplace that was once used to prepare the tavern meals.  People with buckskin clothes and three corner hats would be right at home here. 

Being a local native, I've been here dozens of times. Even though I haven't lived in Pennsylvania for 40 years, we make annual visits and Jean Bonnet's is always on the itinerary.  I've never seen a ghost or had a bad meal.  It's the kind of place where you can just relax, enjoy the food and savor the surroundings.  There are very few like it. We couldn't decide if it should go in  "Neat Eats" or the section on haunted places - so we linked it in both.

For more information, check out the Jean Bonnet Tavern website.

If you like to explore off the beaten path, there's lots to do nearby.  To the east, Fort Bedford is five miles away.  The Phillips Rangers Massacre Site is 30 miles.

To the west, the town of Schellsburg looks much like it did 200 years ago and is a hot spot for antique hunting.

The Johnstown Flood Memorial, the Flight 93 Memorial and the Allegheny Portage Railroad, all National Historical Parks, are less than an hour away.

You can also get your geocaching fix here.

The Pioneer Crossroads geocache is right on the grounds.  There are a couple dozen more  within a 15 minute drive.  To the west, the towns of Schellsburg and New Baltimore have several each, as does Shawnee State Park just outside of Schellsburg.  Bedford, to the east, has many geocaches and a lot of history.

A few miles northeast of Schellsburg near New Paris, there is an interesting geocache called Gravity Hill.  If you stop at the designated spot, water and cars roll uphill.  While you're there you can pick up the Gravity Hill letterbox.

The GPS coordinates for the tavern are 40.0424, -78.5606.  Click on the coordinates to bring up an interactive Google map.

Cheers....The Cachemanian Devils