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Oliver Miller homestead site of Whiskey Rebellion drama

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, July 12, 2007
By Margaret Smykla
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When the tax collector comes calling in South Park on Sunday, Phil Haines will be waiting for him.

Smartly attired in a gray waistcoat and pants, made in the fashion that was worn in the 1790s, Mr. Haines, playing the part of pioneer William Miller, will plead his case until tempers flare, rifles are fired, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It will all take place during re-enactments at 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday at the historic Oliver Miller Homestead, where the first shots of the Whiskey Rebellion were fired on July 15, 1794.

The anniversary celebration will also feature, just as it does each Sunday from late April through early December, volunteer associates in period clothing demonstrating pioneer crafts, such as spinning, weaving, quilting, and open-hearth cooking, and conducting tours of the property’s four buildings and grounds.

The homestead is open from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with the last admittance at 4 p.m. Admission is $1.

Associate and tour director Paula Bowman, of Jefferson Hills, estimated that in 2006 more than 1,000 visitors took a scheduled tour of the site, and more than 3,000 people visited on Sundays.

“It’s important for people to see what happened back then; we’re here today because of [pioneers] like them,” said Mr. Haines, of Bethel Park, a homestead board member.

The Whiskey Rebellion was an organized rebellion among farmers over a federal law that levied a tax of 7 cents per gallon of whiskey. The main money crop of frontier farmers, whiskey was used for medical purposes, as a beverage, and as a medium of exchange.

On July 15, 1794, officers attempted to serve a writ on William Miller, son of Oliver Miller, imposing a fine for failure to register his still, and for not paying taxes based on an estimate of how much whiskey he would produce that year.

When nearby farmers heard the arguing, they fired shots in the air to scare away the officers.

Regarded by President George Washington as an early challenge to the new federal government, the insurrection was quickly suppressed. The whiskey tax, which went largely uncollected, was repealed in 1803.

Because of the family’s involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion, the homestead’s stone house has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

For more information on the Oliver Miller Homestead, located on Stone Manse Drive, and upcoming events there, or to schedule a tour, call 412-835-1554, or visit .

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633