Marker Text: This inn at the junction of the Forbes and Burd Roads was operated, 1779-1815, by Jean Bonnet and his heirs. In mid-1794, during the Whiskey Rebellion, embattled farmers met here and raised a liberty pole to protest the federal excise tax on whiskey. That October, troops called by President Washington camped here on their march west to quell the insurrection.
As roads were developed to open up lands west of the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains local commerce appeared with the opening of inns and taverns, stables and other services needed by the traveler. The Jean Bonnet Tavern was located at the junction of two early roads, the Old Forbes and Burd Roads (Routes 30 and 31). Bonnet Tavern due to its unique location destined it to witness some of the early history of the U.S from 1779-1815.
The tavern was built on the only road connecting eastern Pennsylvania with the Ohio River and territories beyond. The tavern is still located today near a major east-west transportation route, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tavern can be seen from the Turnpike about four miles west of the Bedford exit. Unfortunately, you can not exit here to visit the tavern but have to exit the turnpike at the Bedford exit and travel west on Route 30.
There is little to prove the actual date of the building, but it had served as a French fort and trading post. The namesake, Jean (John) Bonnet, and his wife purchased the property in 1779. In October 1780, Bonnet was issued a license, allowing that "Petitioner lives at the Fork of roads leading to Fort Pitt and the Glades with everything necessary for keeping Public House..."
Photo is taken looking east on Route 31 (Burds Road) toward the junction with Route 30.
Since 1780, ownership of the Jean Bonnet has changed hands many times. Most of those recorded as deedholders to the Jean Bonnet maintained the building as a public tavern and inn. Several utilized the property as a private residence. In 1957 the Jean Bonnet was purchased by the Enyeart family and the tavern is still open to the traveler.
The tavern became a meeting place for the farmers involved in the Whiskey Rebellion in mid-1794. Pennsylvania farmers, upset by the federal excise tax on whiskey, met here and raised a liberty pole in protest. Angered by an excise tax imposed on whiskey in 1791 by the federal government, farmers in the western counties of Pennsylvania engaged in a series of attacks on excise agents. The excise tax on whiskey effectively eliminated any profit by the farmers from the sale or barter of an important cash crop, and became the lightning rod for a wide variety of grievances by the settlers of the region against the federal government.
On August 7, 1794, President George Washington issued a proclamation, calling out the militia and ordering the rebellious westerners to return to their homes. Washington's order mobilized an army of approximately 13,000 under the command of General Harry Lee, the then-Governor of Virginia and father of Robert E. Lee. Washington himself, in a show of presidential authority, set out at the head of the troops to suppress the uprising.
The events of the Whiskey rebellion were important to the development of the new federal government. It was the first test of power of the government establishing its primacy in disputes with individual states and setting a precedent for the use of the militia to assert the right of the federal government to enforce order in one state with troops raised in other states. In the end, a dozen or so men were arrested, sent to Philadelphia to trial and released after pardons by Washington.
The Jean Bonnet Tavern was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. You can still experience the services of an early U.S. tavern and inn today at the Jean Bonnet provides a restaurant and overnight accommodations. Though be forewarned it is said the tavern is haunted. There are many stories of ghosts at the Jean Bonnet. Most people who experience a haunting come away fascinated and not frightened. Some of these ghost stories and even a photo are on the Jean Bonnet Tavern web site.
To see another view of the tavern, visit the posting for the marker for Forbes Road.