Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Bradford Cousins and the Whiskey Rebellion - Part 2

David Bradford (left), successful attorney, businessman and Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, became the infamous leader of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in 1794. He was also the cousin of our Rebecca Bradford Miller!

David Bradford took lead of the rebellion in 1794 and held a series of strategic planning meetings at his home in Washington County, Pennsylvania (about 50 miles west of where Rebecca and William Miller were living in neighboring Fayette County). A bold, defiant plan took hold among the insurrectionists - they would steal the U.S. mail in order to discover which local leaders opposed the rebels. To them, this was an issue of unfair taxation without representation, not the perpetration of a federal crime. It seemed that the end justified the means.

Two men would actually snatch the mail, and one of them was none other than our Rebecca's brother, William Bradford! What were the circumstances that led to this event? Let's go back in time.

As children, Rebecca, her younger brother William (b. 1770), sister Jane, and another brother David (not the David above who was their cousin), grew up in Cecil County, Maryland. It is said that their cousin, the infamous David, also grew up in Maryland, and it is assumed that this was in or near Cecil County, so the cousins no doubt would have known each other. Rebecca's Uncle James Bradford had moved to western Pennsylvania in the early 1780's, some of his adult children having already located there. His son, David Bradford, was admitted to the Washington County bar when he was 22 years old in 1782. Just one year later, this brilliant young laywer was apppointed Deputy Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, his aunt and uncle, Samuel and Sarah Bradford, had remained behind in Maryland. Their daughter Rebecca had grown and married William Miller in 1778. About four years later, William and Rebecca also moved out west to Fayette County, which adjoins Washington County, Pennsylvania, again only about 50 miles from their cousin David. At some point, Rebecca's brother William Bradford also moved to Washington County near his cousin David. William and David were obviously close in proximity, in familial ties, and apparently in friendship, and it was to William that David Bradford looked for help in carrying out the plan to rob the U.S. mail. Five years later, William would marry Margaret Parkinson, believed to be the daughter of Benjamin Parkinson, another one of the rebels. But at this time, as far as is known, William was 24 and unmarried.

The dark plan conceived, it was now just a matter of carrying it out. In the next post we will examine the deed itself.

(picture courtesy of

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