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Whiskey Rebellion landmarks are few

July 6, 2018
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This recent photo shows a Pennsylvania historical sign marking the approximate site where the Whiskey Rebellion was settled in 1794 in Monongahela, Pa. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter via AP)

MONONGAHELA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania historical sign in a Monongahela parking lot marks the location where U.S. statesman Albert Gallatin delivered an eloquent speech that brought an end to a revolt over a federal whiskey tax in 1794.

However, Gallatin actually delivered the speech before 226 whiskey rebels a short distance to the north, on the back porch of a log house that was dismantled in 1914, Monongahela historian and architect Terry Necciai said.

“It was a natural amphitheater,” Necciai said. “The men sat up the hill.”

Crall’s Monongahela Floral & Gift shop at 120 W. Main St. exists today on the spot where the log house once stood.

Interest continues to increase about the Whiskey Rebellion, and in the annual festival that celebrates it in Washington, a party that kicks off Thursday.

The festival has grown in the past decade from a small garden party behind the Bradford House in Washington to one that now attracts about 10,000 people, said Clay Kilgore, executive director of Washington County Historical Society.

“We’ve had a steady increase,” said Kilgore, a festival organizer who also has portrayed the infamous Tom the Tinker during re-enactments of the rebels covering a tax collector with tar and feathers. The “tar” is actually a concoction of melted chocolate and molasses, but Tom the Tinker and his men were not so kind.

He was known to shoot holes in the stills of farmers who paid the tax enacted under President George Washington to pay down the debt from the Revolutionary War. The farmers in Southwestern Pennsylvania turned to making whiskey from the grain they produced because it was more profitable than the earnings from hauling grain over the mountains to Philadelphia.

Some people think the log house built by Tom the Tinker, who was eventually identified as farmer John Hollcroft, is still occupied in Union Township.

It’s not. The building was long ago torn down, Kilgore said.

Turning back the clock in Southwestern Pennsylvania to the late 18th century, one would have found a number of small settlements in a vast forest.

“Your nearest neighbor could have been miles away,” Kilgore said.

Woodville Plantation near Bridgeville is among the landmarks connected to the rebellion that still survives. It was built in 1775 by tax collector John Neville and later given to his son, Presley. John Neville later built a larger, nearby house that was burned to the ground when the rebels raided the property in a tax revolt in 1794. Historians believe Woodville survived because it was where the women, children and slaves sought safety during the raid.

“That’s the only site that is telling that federal side of the story,” Kilgore said.

The Virginia gentry-style house is the only one of its kind in the region and believed to be the oldest building constructed as a home in Allegheny County.

Mingo Cemetery along Route 88 in Union Township is another landmark associated with the rebellion. It holds the graves of Hollcroft, Capt. James McFarlane and several other Mingo rebels. McFarlane was given a hero’s burial there after being killed in the raid on Neville’s house.

The Bradford House was built in 1788 at 175 S. Main St. by attorney David Bradford, who was a leader of the rebellion. The stone house would not have survived had not civic leaders stepped in to raise money to rehabilitate it in the 1960s. Today it’s a house museum.

Necciai said a survey in 1991 determined only one whiskey distillery used during the tax revolt survived, and it’s located on the Huffman Farm in Somerset Township. Another one of them has since been documented on Plantation Plenty in Independence Township.

The Col. Edward Cook house, dating to 1772 in the Mon Valley, also is still standing and occupied by his descendants. It was where Cook and Gallatin met to discuss the direction of the rebellion.

Kilgore said most importantly, the story of the rebellion has survived.

Otherwise, few people would know today that some federal troops camped out on the Washington & Jefferson College campus when they came to the region in 1794 to quash the rebellion, he said.

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Online:

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Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com

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