Places Of Rebellion, July 1794

 

 

 

On August 11, 2007 Carl and I did a wedding at this old shelter

in South Park. It is just a block up the hill from the Oliver Miller

Homestead and I walked down afterward and took a few pictures

around the old home.  That gave me the idea for this photo album

and the next day I drove just around the corner from where we live

to Old St. Luke's and then to Woodville Plantation, which is

only about 3 blocks further.  Since I live right here where the

Whiskey Rebellion was centered, I thought I'd do an album

with pictures from the 3 main sites around here.

 

 

This is the Oliver Miller Homestead as it looks today. The

Miller family emigrated from County Antrim, Northern

Ireland in 1742, settling for a while in Maryland, where Oliver

married the first in a series of Marys that several generations of

Miller men took as wives. They moved further west to Bedford, PA

but when in 1770 land was opened for settlement in western Pennsylvania,

Oliver and Mary took their 10 children and a batch of her relatives

and came here.

 

 

On July 4, 1772 he purchased a tract of land and built

a rather unique log cabin in that it had a roof of split-

shingles.  Such a thing was very rare and it came to be

called "the split-shingled house."  This is a reproduction

from the rear that has been built adjacent to the stone

house. Several times the family was forced to flee to forts

on the Monongahela River because of Indian attacks.

Oliver opened his home as a church since there were none

in the area and folks came on foot or horseback for preaching

by traveling ministers and for baptisms.

 

 

In 1808, Oliver's son James added a stone section to the log

home. That is the part with the brown door on the right, the

log home remaining where the larger section now stands.

 

 

In 1830 James' son Oliver and his wife, Mary, came to live

with them and the log home was replaced with the larger stone section,

resulting in the home as it's seen today.

 

 

The original Oliver was appointed Justice of the Peace and had

to tender his oath of allegiance to Virginia at a time when both the

heirs of William Penn and the state of Virginia claimed this area.

Oliver died in 1782, when only the log home existed, and his property

was divided among his 6 sons, James at 19 getting the log home. James,

like his father before him and his son after him, married a Mary.

James owned the home from 1782 to 1844. James named his son

Oliver, just to make sure we all remained very confused.

 

 

Western Pennsylvanians were mostly Scotch-Irish, Irish, and

German at the time and since this area was rather cut off from the

Eastern Seaboard by mountains, they had a fierce independence.

Even as early as 1775 they'd petitioned the Continental Congress,

hoping to be acknowledged as the 14th colony.  Claimed by both

Pennsylvania and Virginia, they wanted to be the new state of

Westsylvania. England was very interested in this, as was France,

and they sent representatives to encourage the west in separating from

the other 13 colonies. There were constant Indian raids, often led

by the British, and the United States sent two major military ex-

peditions, one in 1790 and another in 1791, both of which were defeated

by the Indians. Not until Mad Anthony Wayne won at Fallen

Timbers in 1794 did the British give up their hopes of claiming these

areas west of the mountains.

 

 

Enter Alexander Hamilton, not a popular guy in these parts.

He became the first Secretary of the Treasury and urged the

levy of the first nationwide internal revenue tax--an excise tax

on distilled spirits. It was 1791 and Congress was using its new

constitutional authority to "lay and collect taxes." The new

Federal government had assumed the debts of the 13 states after

the Revolutionary War...and they needed money to do it.

Alas, the farmers west of the mountains did not find this concept

to their liking. Eastern farmers didn't have much trouble getting

their grain to market, but the western ones, well, they had mountains

and rivers and Indians and...distance.  So they distilled their surplus

grain into whiskey.  Out here it was a cash-poor society and bartering

was the way of it. Whiskey was the main item of barter and was the

actual currency of the area. So this new tax was, effectively, a tax on

their main crop. The law required all stills to be registered and, at the

time, there was likely a still for every 15 folks in the population. If you

were cited for failure to pay the tax, you had to appear in federal court,

some 300 miles from here. To the settlers, what the new federal government

was up to didn't look all that different from what the British Crown had

been doing. The tax wasn't fair, either. The rich guys with the big stills

had to pay less, sometimes a lot less, than the small farmer. This tax applied

nation-wide and all the then-western settlements felt the same as here in

southwest Pennsylvania. The reason it all got centered here was because

in this area there was a group of wealthy officials and these guys were willing

to collect the taxes.  In, say, Kentucky, they couldn't find guys to do the job.

Tensions over this mounted and mounted until the summer of 1794 the civil

protests changed into an armed rebellion.

 

 

Whiskey was a staple of life and diet on the frontier, used as a tonic, as

medicine, as an anesthetic, sold to pay bills, to compensate doctors and

teachers, even clergy, transported over the mountains more easily than grain

and sold in Philadelphia. The new federal constitution declared that no

"thing but gold and silver coin" could be used as legal tender. So when the

tax collector knocked on your door for the taxes on your whiskey and all

you HAD was whiskey as currency, he required gold or silver coin in

payment. And the tax collector got paid on commission for how much he

collected. They were not popular fellows in the neighborhood!

 

If you didn't pay, and few did...or could...federal marshals issued writs of

citation against the owners. You had to answer these in 30 days, requiring

a 10-day ride over the mountains. Most went unanswered. Then you got

a contempt citation and you could be jailed, evicted, your property (including

your still) seized and sold. The new government, well, it was making a lot

of frontier folk feel downright resentful.

 

And here's where ol' Oliver Miller comes in. The four counties of south-

western Pennsylvania had up to 1/4 of the stills in the USA, and Oliver

was no different than his neighbors. Former General John Neville, also a

past commandant of Fort Pitt itself and a friend of George Washington's,

was the federal revenue officer for the area the Millers lived in. Oliver's son,

William, had refused to pay the tax and Neville was escorting US Marshal

David Lennox to Miller's house to serve the guy a writ which required him to

pay $250 and appear in court in Philadelphia.  Farmers in their fields

heard some shouting and after leaving the writ, Neville and Lennox were

met by an armed group of the Miller's neighbors.  Neville and Lennox rode

off as shots were fired, but weren't hurt. These shots were the first in the

Whisky Rebellion.

 

 

The next day a larger group of angry men gathered in the spot above,

which is the yard of Old St. Luke's church. The group included

some of the big Miller family.  From here they marched to General

Neville's house, Bower Hill, just beyond that tree-covered hill you

see in the background of the picture above. Bower Hill was probably

the biggest, fanciest house in the area. The men believed Lennox was

likely holed up in Bower Hill with Neville. There was a shoot out,

a Miller was killed, and Neville's slaves opened fire on the protestors

from their quarters. The men returned the following day with a force

of about 500 local militiamen. Neville had slipped away, though, and

a second shoot out left James McFarlane, the protestors leader, dead.

The men then burnt Bower Hill and its barn to the ground. It was

so thoroughly demolished that it has only been in the last year or so that

they've decided at last where to put a marker.

 

 

 

 

These two pictures of the Bower Hill marker I didn't get taken until

June of 2008. But this is where the big house once was.

 

 

 

A stockade was built on this promontory in 1765 and became the site

of the original church. It was later replaced with the Country Gothic

church that stands there now. We've done quite a few weddings here.

 

 

(Small dogwood on the side of the churchyard.) Because it wasn't lookin'

too good for the new government to be so challenged and all, George

Washington mustered 12,950 militia to march into western Pennsylvania.

In spite of being a sitting President, he got his old uniform outta mothballs

and spent almost a month in the field, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 20, reviewing

his troops at their assembly points and became the only sitting President ever

personally to lead troops in the field. When he got as far as Bedford, he

returned to Philadelphia and Lighthorse Henry Lee took command.

This was the first use of the Militia Law of 1792 "to execute the laws of the

Union and suppress insurrections." Much of the Miller family had already

moved to Kentucky before the militia arrived. James Miller, who stayed, was

required to sign an oath of allegiance to regain his rights of citizenship.

 

 

(Full view of the side.) Most of the whiskey rebels who ended up arrested were

released because there was no evidence against them. Only two were convicted

of treason but in the summer of 1795 Washington pardoned them.

 

 

This is the front step. I've always liked the simple carving on it.

 

 

Angle view of front step.  I like the boot scraper!

 

 

Plaque just to the right of the main entrance, dedicated to General

John Neville.  Old St. Luke's was the first Episcopal church in

the county.

 

 

The markers in the cemetery have degenerated terribly and, like the

one above, many cannot be read at all.  I like the way the rose cups

around this one.

 

 

Something that's happened to a number of them is a complete

cracking in half, with the broken off portion leaning against the

back of the still standing.

 

 

The whole front was breaking off this one and they've encased it now in

Lucite, but the grass grows up inside it.  This one is for Ellen

Darnbrough who died in 1839 at the age of 28.

 

 

Here's a view of the inside I took just before a wedding. The

old organ on the left, which is still played for ceremonies, was brought

by mules over the mountains.

 

 

This is that little dogwood in the autumn.

 

 

This is the outside of that central window you see in the inside

photograph up above.  I like the way the maple reflects in it.

 

 

Bower Hill was up at the top of the green hill in the background.

This is the back yard of Woodville Plantation, the original home

of General John Neville. In 1774, two years after Oliver Miller

bought his homestead, the General purchased 14,000 acres. He was in

command of Fort Pitt in 1775 and this house was begun 1775-80.

Later, when he built Bower Hill and his son lived in Woodville,

they could signal each other at night with a system of lights. The house

has a "Virginia" look to it that comes from the state of the Neville's

origin.

 

 

Side view of Woodville showing the vegetable garden area.

 

 

In the beginning, the steep-roofed house was four rooms with a central

passage and a detached log kitchen. He entertained there so much it

was known as "a temple of hospitality" and the front window panes bear

many names that guests scratched into them with diamond rings.

 

 

The latticed veranda was not added until the 1800's, but for me is

what I think of when I think of this house. The house was white,

then briefly brown, then a very pale yellow. It looks white in these

pictures, but is actually that palest yellow.

 

 

Looking down the front veranda. The row of lilacs shelters the house

from Route 50, which runs in front of it now.

 

 

The yellow actually shows in this shot. This is the end of the front

veranda and part of the side one, looking toward the fence above

Chartiers Creek.

 

 

Looking back the other way down the front veranda.

 

 

The side veranda, looking toward the back yard.

 

 

The whole side end of the house. When I was touring it once, a docent

told me how the house had been built over the main Indian trail of the

area and that they refused to go around the house. They'd open a window

on the end of the house, walk through the house, and exit by another window

at the opposite end.  I've always kinda liked that story.

 

 

Closer view of the front corner.

 

 

The Victorian gothic window treatments were added later.

 

 

Back corner

 

 

Back side of Woodville. The house was enlarged so the detached kitchen

became part of the main house.

 

 

Looking across back yard toward rear of Woodville.

 

 

There is a steep drop-off just beyond the fence down to Chartiers

Creek.  This is the side yard.

 

 

Closer view of the back of the house.

 

 

The thick row of lilacs that grow all along the front now.

 

 

A windowpane showing some of the names scratched there.

 

 

Back to Jo's Other Place

 

Back to Flour Sacks and Indians

 

Back to Fort Ligonier

 

Back to Pittsburgh and the Dancing Waters

 

Back to Riverboat Afternoon

 

Back to PPG...my love affair with a building