The Whiskey Rebellion

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Biographical Index

David Bradford - David Bradford was a prominent lawyer and was Deputy Attorney General for Washington County, Pennsylvania. Bradford was, by all accounts, a bit eccentric, lacking in common sense, though he was well-liked by many. He was extreme in his opposition to the whiskey excise, and he radicalized the movement when he became the leader of the Mingo Creek Association after the Battle of Bower Hill. Bradford is perhaps best remembered for his fictionalized escape to Spanish West Florida with soldiers at his tail, which is recounted in David Bradford and His House by Harriet Branton. He was eventually pardoned by President John Adams for his actions during the Whiskey Rebellion. Today, his family's home, the David Bradford House in Washington, Pennsylvania is a national landmark open to the public.

Hugh Henry Brackenridge - Hugh Henry Brackenridge was a leading author and founder of the Pittsburgh Gazette. He was an advocate during the Westylvania dispute; he considered himself a Pennsylvanian and did not believe that the western lands, known as Westylvania, should become a 14th state. Breckenridge was a moderate who tried to keep the peace during the Whiskey Rebellion, many times acting as a liaison between the federal government and the rebels. He opposed the excise tax and defended some of the rebels in court. A natural politician, Brackenfridge attempted to support the federal government while simultaneously opposing the tax. In 1795, Brackenridge published Incidents of the Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania in the Year 1794. In 1799, Brackenridge, a Republican, was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Henry Marie Brackenridge - Henry Marie Brackenridge was the first-born son of Hugh Henry Brackenridge. Born in 1786, Henry Marie would have been a small boy during the Whiskey Rebellion. However, he took an interest in the event and its legacy, probably because of the involvement of his father in the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1859, towards the end of his life, Henry Marie published History of the Western Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, Commonly Called the Whiskey Insurrection, 1794.

John Connor - John Connor was an illiterate cattle-driver. He was given the unenviable task of serving warrants to the men who attacked Robert Johnson. Connor was brutally attacked during his attempt to serve warrants to the accused rebels.

William Faulkner - William Faulkner allowed his Washington County home to be used as an office for the Inspector of Revenue, General John Neville. For this action, he was repeatedly terrorized and intimidated, until he finally agreed to renege on the lease. Faulkner’s eventual compliance to rebel demands did not prevent him and his home from being attacked by a whiskey mob in 1792.

William Findley - William Findley was a farmer and politician in Westmoreland County. He was a Jeffersonian Republican and was opposed to the whiskey excise. Findley was a moderate who urged peaceful protest of the whiskey tax, also wrote a book on the rebellion in 1796, entitled History of the Insurrection: In the Four Western Counties of Pennsylvania in the Year MDCCXCIV; with a Recital of the Circumstances Specially Connected Therewith, and an Historical Review of the Previous Situation of the Country. Findley is widely credited with helping to calm the passions of the Whiskey Rebellion. Findley was an active politician and was elected repeatedly to Congress. By the end of his career in 1817, he was the longest-serving member of the US House of Representatives.

Albert Gallatin - Albert Gallatin was a leading Pennsylvania businessman, land developer, and state legislator and a vocal opponent of internal federal taxes. Gallatin was elected to the rebel assembly during the Whiskey Rebellion. Gallatin was a moderate who spoke out against an open, violent break with the national government in a series of speeches, the most famous of which was at Parkinson’s Ferry in August 1794. Gallatin also served on the 15-member committee that met with President Washington's three commissioners in an attempt to end to the crisis peacefully. Gallatin went on to become Secretary of the Treasury and a prominent figure in American politics. Years after the Whiskey Rebellion, Gallatin considered his moderating role in the rebellion to be his “only political sin.” His western Pennsylvania estate, Friendship Hill, is now a National Historic Park and is open to the public.

Alexander Hamilton - Alexander Hamilton was United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 to 1795. After several years of trying, Hamilton finally convinced Congress to pass a federal excise tax on distilled spirits in 1791. Alexander Hamilton believed compliance with the whiskey tax was vital to the establishment of federal authority. In response to the Whiskey Rebellion, he supported the use of federal force to quell the insurrection and to limit bloodshed. Hamilton accompanied George Washington and General Henry Lee as they led federal troops to western Pennsylvania. The whiskey excise is not generally considered a high point in Alexander Hamilton’s legacy.

Daniel Hamilton - Daniel Hamilton was a frontier farmer, hunter, and small-scale whiskey distiller, of no relation to Alexander Hamilton. Daniel Hamilton was the leader of a ragtag mob that snuck up on tax collectors and violently attacked them. William Hogeland writes of Daniel Hamilton, “To moments like tar and feathering he brought a degree of enthusiasm that people remembered. He had no compunction about putting his hands on weaker men and seeing them shake.”

John Holcroft - John Holcroft was a prominent farmer and whiskey distiller of some means who became a leader of the Whiskey Rebellion. On July 16, 1794, as a hastily-arranged group of about thirty men marched on Bower Hill, John Holcroft was chosen to command the expedition. Holcroft was a veteran of Shays’s Rebellion and was thus well-versed in politically-motivated crowd action. John Holcroft is widely believed to be Tom the Tinker (see Tom the Tinker), but this has never been proven. He is buried in the Mingo Creek Cemetery.

Robert Johnson - Robert Johnson was a tax collector in Washington and Allegheny Counties. He was the first victim of mob violence, which came at the hands of Daniel Hamilton and his gang in September 1791.Johnson recognized two of his attackers and convinced a local judge to file warrants for their arrest, which were ultimately never served.

Abraham Kirkpatrick - Major Abraham Kirkpatrick was the brother-in-law of General John Neville’s wife Winifred Oldham Neville. Major Kirkpatrick was a Revolutionary War veteran and land speculator, and he was one of General Neville’s cronies. He commanded about ten US Army soldiers as they fought against the whiskey rebels during the Battle of Bower Hill. Major Kirkpatrick was taken prisoner by a band of whiskey rebels after the skirmish at Bower Hill, but he was later released unharmed.

John Lynn - John Lynn allowed his Washington County home to be used as an excise office. Although Lynn wasn’t a tax collector, he became the victim of violent attacks by the anti-tax mob. After the skirmish, Lynn was ordered off his property by his landlord and sought refuge with Robert Johnson, a fellow tax collector who was subjected to violence himself.

James McFarlane - Captain James McFarlane was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. On July 17, 1794, he commanded a force of about five hundred rebels as they marched on Bower Hill. He was fatally wounded during this skirmish. His death radicalized the rebel cause, and he was treated as a martyr. Captain McFarlane was given a hero’s funeral on July 18 and is buried at Mingo Creek Cemetery.

Oliver Miller - Oliver Miller was the nephew of William Miller. To add to the confusion, Oliver Miller is also the name of the father of William Miller, who built the Oliver Miller Homestead. Oliver Miller, nephew of William Miller, was mortally wounded during the July 16, 1794 skirmish at Bower Hill. Young Miller’s death galvanized the rebels and contributed to the ramping-up of resistance against the whiskey excise.

William Miller - William Miller was the son of Oliver Miller, who built the Oliver Miller Homestead in 1772. Along with his brothers and their families, William Miller lived on the Oliver Miller property and was a farmer and small-scale distiller. William Miller is notable for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. He was served a writ on July 15, 1794 by General John Neville and US Marshal David Lenox, which he refused to accept. Miller’s angry refusal of the writ prompted his neighbors to join up in a hastily-arranged group and march to General Neville’s home at Bower Hill. This began the two-day Battle of Bower Hill, a central event in the Whiskey Rebellion.

John Neville - General John Neville was a war hero, land speculator, businessman, and political insider who played a central role in the Whiskey Rebellion. General Neville dominated the economy of western Pennsylvania. He owned a large tract of land that was farmed by slaves. He also operated the largest whiskey distillery in the area. Neville was appointed Inspector of Revenue under the excise laws by Alexander Hamilton. He became the main target of the rebels’ opposition to the whiskey excise, and was frequently attacked by whiskey mobs. On July 16 and 17, 1794, the violence came to a head at his Bower Hill home. Neville remained in western Pennsylvania, residing at his Woodville Plantation home, until his death in 1803.

Tom the Tinker - Tom the Tinker was a prolific writer and activist during the Whiskey Rebellion. When the rebels wished to intimidate an excise officer, or a distiller who complied with the whiskey excise, the character of Tom the Tinker would send a written notice, often in the style of an official legal notice, warning the individual. Upon receipt of the notice, the person was advised to publish the notice in the Pittsburgh Gazette as a confirmation of receipt. Violence often followed the written notice, particularly if the demands of the notice were not met. Tom the Tinker galvanized the rebel cause, and those who were against the whiskey excise were proud to call themselves “Tom the Tinker’s men.” One of the rallying cries of the Whiskey Rebellion was “Hurrah for Tom the Tinker!” Tom the Tinker is widely believed to be John Holcroft (see John Holcroft), but this has never been proven.

Benjamin Wells - Benjamin Wells was a tax collector for Fayette and Westmoreland Counties and the father of John Wells, also a tax collector. Benjamin Wells was attacked and threatened in his home by a whiskey mob.

'Robert Wilson - Robert Wilson was an intellectually disabled man who had delusions that he was a tax collector. He was so convinced of this that he was attacked by Daniel Hamilton and his gang for being a tax collector.