It's unfortunate that the Broad Axe Tavern closed down last year in 2019. It really does have an interesting history behind it. Not only it had an interesting history, it also had an interesting story of a ghost named Rachel.
History of Broad Axe Tavern
It was considered one of the oldest taverns in Pennsylvania, possibly one of the oldest taverns in the nation! And being one of the oldest buildings means that there's little known history about it. For example, it's unknown when exactly this building was erected.
Sources were saying it was built in 1681, which was around the same time William Penn established the city of Philadelphia. Other sources said that the tavern was built in 1792. Based on what I know in my historic preservation classes at Temple University, almost every historic/old building has a date marker. That will determine when the tavern was built.
The origin of how the business began started with an old woman named Mrs. Hatchet, who ran a beer and candy store on the opposite side of Butler Pike, where the Broad Axe Tavern is currently standing. With the success Mrs. Hatchet was having at her store, an anonymous man came into the picture to compete against her business. He hung out his sign that said "Broad Axe"
The origin of the name "Broad Axe" possibly came from large axes used in clearing the local forests.
Who Was Rachel?
The story goes that Rachel was the daughter of one of the owners of the tavern, and lived on farm behind the tavern. The thing was that the tavern had changed ownership since its establishment. I did a post about the Rex family, and one of the family members owned the tavern for a while until handing it down to another family member. Unfortunately, in the family tree I created, there was not a single "Rachel" in the family.
When searching for family members of the owners, it was difficult to actually find the family members online. It comes down to these 3 owners of Broad Axe:
Nathanial Davis (owner, 1757-1770)
Jonathon Davis, son of Nathanial Davis (owner, 1770-1775)
John Ashmead (owner, 1775-1796)
Question: Is Rachel even real? Did they make this up to scare people who ate and worked at Broad Axe Tavern?
Maybe "Rachel" was not one of the owner's daughters after all. She could be a normal girl who needed to find a place to hide from those drunkards. I thought this makes more sense, to be honest.
Anyways, the story goes like this:
One night, a group of men left Broad Axe. They were drunk, they were taunting Rachel for unknown reasons. She fled from the intoxicated men, and ran into the bathroom of the tavern. She was never seen again ever since.
The most eerie thing that still exists in the tavern is the first floor bathroom, where Rachel fled decades ago.
Decades since her "disappearance," people working in the restaurant at the time began seeing weird things happening inside the side: there were incidents when people were pushed down a flight of stairs, and knocked over by a tray with food when nothing was around them.
One source said that Rachel was active when any sort of construction is happening around the tavern. People heard and saw Rachel's ghost at the 3rd floor windows when sitting at the lights at the intersection of Butler Pike and Skippack Pike.
Deana Clement did an "Ambler Ghost Stories" article for Around Ambler. She wrote a story about the Broad Axe Tavern. Read about people's ghost experience here at Broad Axe!
"Broad Axe Tavern: Over three centuries of history." All Around Philly. September 23, 2020. http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/reporter/anniversary/broad_axe.html.
Clement, Deana. "Ambler Ghost Stories | The Broad Axe Tavern." Around Ambler. Last modified October 30, 2017. https://aroundambler.com/ambler-ghost-stories-broad-axe-tavern/.
Historical sketches : a collection of papers prepared for the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Norristown: Historical Society of Montgomery County, 1915): 205.