New book ‘Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History’ tours Pennsylvania pubs with rebellious histories
From a press release:
The insurrectionist past of the Wooden Keg Tavern in St. Clair is one of many exciting stories that comes to life in “Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History: Pennsylvania Pubs Where Rabble-Rousers and Rum Runners Stirred up Revolutions,” a new book from Sunbury Press in Mechanicsburg.
Author M. Diane McCormick takes a pub crawl through 12 Pennsylvania taverns where the stakes were high and the rum was flowing. The 312-page book spotlights the heroes and scoundrels of the American Revolution, Whiskey Rebellion, the boozy Fries Rebellion, the tumultuous Canal Era, the Underground Railroad, the Battle of Gettysburg and the making of the movie “Gettysburg,” the Molly Maguires, and Prohibition.
“Pennsylvania makes revolutions, and Pennsylvania has pubs,” said McCormick. “That’s not a coincidence. Gather people with gripes in a public place, add rum or wine, and the flame torch is lit.”
Each chapter features an interview with the current owner or proprietor (all of them rebels in their own right), a tour of the space; entertaining write-ups on the pub’s rebellious history, insights into historic décor and architecture, reports of ghosts, introductions to finely crafted food and beverages, plan-your-visit info, and nearby historical sites and unique lodgings. At the Wooden Keg, which claims to be “Schuylkill County’s best Irish tavern,” McCormick reveals:
- Legends that the Molly Maguires met here to plot against coal barons in a desperate attempt to liberate their families from starvation and oppression.
- Tales of Pinkerton spy James McParlan infiltrating the Mollies by buying drinks all around and besting a bully in fisticuffs.
- The basement tunnel – a convenient avenue for transporting beer, or a surreptitious escape route for conspiring Mollies?
“Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History” explores every nook, cranny, fireside, hiding place, secret door, and gallows of these atmospheric pubs. McCormick is a Harrisburg-based freelance journalist and writer who uncovers the quirks and historical marvels that today’s patrons won’t find on the back of the menu.
With her inquisitive nature and cheeky humor, McCormick journeys to the places where miscreants made trouble. All are standing taverns, where you can eat the food, absorb the atmosphere, and hoist a drink honoring history’s Hall of Fame scalawags. The full list of pubs featured in “Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History” is below.
Locations featured in “Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History:”
- City Tavern, Philadelphia: Epicenter of revolt. Revolutionaries conspired and the Madeira flowed like, well, wine.
- General Warren Historic Hospitality, Malvern: Espionage afoot. Planning site of the murderous Paoli Massacre. That debonair spy in the corner? John André gathering intel from local Loyalists.
- Blue Bell Inn, Blue Bell: George Washington finds sanctuary. The general committed an oops that lost the Battle of Germantown. He came here for consolation.
- McCoole’s at the Historic Red Lion Inn, Quakertown: Rumbling for tax relief. Women pouring boiling water on tax collectors. Hostages held in taverns. Drunken mobs on the march. The Fries Rebellion was a doozy.
- Tavern at the Sun Inn, Bethlehem: Crossroads of the Revolution. A fine inn sheltered a rogues’ gallery of rebels, from future presidents to Alexander Hamilton on vacation to a convalescing Marquis de Lafayette, finding time to flirt.
- Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford: Hotbed of the Whiskey Rebellion. Tax my whiskey? My lifeblood and my livelihood? Just try it.
- Black Bass Hotel, Lumberville: Life and death on the canal. Stone foundations keep rooms cool, which explains why today’s basement restrooms once doubled as morgue for canal builders dying by the score. Don’t miss the autopsy table.
- Dobbin House Inn, Gettysburg: Safe harbor in the Underground Railroad. Slide back the cabinet and refugees fleeing slavery found a hiding space. During the days of battle, Union soldiers flushed out Rebel snipers holed up here.
- Farnsworth House Inn and Sweney’s Tavern, Gettysburg: Bullets and bravado. Bullet holes tell of Confederate sharpshooters in the attic and Union soldiers firing back. Movie props tell of actors carousing after their days of filming “Gettysburg.”
- Wooden Keg Tavern, St. Clair: “Take that from a son of Molly Maguire.” The pub door opened and in walked a stranger who bought a round of drinks and danced a lively jig. Did Pinkerton spy James McParlan infiltrate the Molly Maguires here?
- Two Rivers Brewing Company, Easton: Speakeasy on the Delaware. Come to Sin City for all the illegal delights. Hooch is just the beginning.
- Horse Inn, Lancaster: Knock three times and whisper low. A nameless alley. A nondescript barn. A sliding door. The Horse Inn seemed made to be a speakeasy.
This post was compiled by the staff of NEPA Scene.