Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rebecca’s Brothers – Famous Or Infamous?

Our ancestor, Rebecca Bradford Miller had 3 siblings. Her sister Jane we know nothing of, but that is not the case of her two brothers, David (born 1765) and William (born 1770). Which was famous and which was infamous? This and future posts will deal with this intriguing question.

Rebecca and her siblings were born in the region of Elkton, Maryland, the children and Samuel and Sarah Bradford. In 1775 Rebecca married William Miller, and around 1782, they had moved west to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. It is probable that Rebecca’s parents and her brothers, who would have been in their teens, also moved to this area at the same time, though there are no official records to substantiate this.

Records indicate that Samuel passed away when William was 12 years old (David would have been 17), making it 1782, so he must have died soon after their arrival to this new land, leaving the young boys fatherless and Sarah a widow. This seems to have been a sentinel event in the future of these young men. Let’s look at the life of Rebecca’s brother, David, first.

In 1790, David married Barbara Grimes of neighboring Washington Co, PA. They eventually moved 250 miles west to Adams County, Ohio, possibly as early as 1796. Over the years, he became a pillar of that community.

According to, quoting from A History of Adams County, Ohio, “General David Bradford was one of the most important factors in the early settlement of Adams County. He owned a number of lots in the town of Washington and resided there while it flourished, and when it collapsed he went to West Union. When West Union was located he bought lots 10, 11, 18, 19, 65, and 75 at the opening sale. He built the Bradford House in 1804 and, from that time until his death, kept tavern there. He was Country Treasurer of Adams County from June 6, 1800, until June 6, 1832. As he died in 1834 at the age of sixty-nine, he very nearly had the treasurer's office for life. In 1804, he was made a Quartermaster General of the militia. He was a very popular man, and from holding the County Treasurership so long without any complaint, must have been a very honest one.”

“David was known as General Bradford because he served as the Quartermaster General of the Second Division of the Ohio militia. He also started building on a large log structure in 1804 in West Union that would eventually serve as an inn and stagecoach stop. It opened in 1806 and was known as Bradford's Tavern. It still exists and is the oldest operating tavern in Ohio, now known as the Olde Wayside Inn [go to then scroll down].

“David also distinguished himself during a cholera epidemic in 1835: “There were two persons in the village, reckless dissipated men, who at this time showed themselves heroes. They were David Bradford and Samuel Ross. They went everywhere, ministered to the sick and dying, and attended the funerals. They did not hesitate to expose themselves in any manner to the risk of the disease. They vied with the Rev. Burgess in their good offices in every family which had the disease. There were no paid or trained nurses in those days, and the nursing and care of the sick was a voluntary matter. These three persons came forward and made themselves the cholera nurses of that time.”

David Bradford was certainly a moving force in his community, but why did the writer call him “reckless” and “dissipated” [definition: over-indulging in sensual pleasures]? Perhaps another entry in the above-mentioned book sheds light on this choice of words:

“David Bradford, who immortalized his name during the scourge of Asiatic cholera in West Union (1835), was one of the daredevil jehus who drove a stage coach from Maysville to Chillicothe before the days of canals and railroads in this region. The Fristoe hill at the crossing of Ohio Brush Creek was the longest and steepest on the route, and was considered then a very dangerous place of descent with a loaded coach or wagon....On one occasion, when there had been a heavy fall of sleet and the road was covered with a thick coat of ice, people in the vicinity wondered how Dave Bradford would get down Brush Creek hill; and, when finally he dismounted from the box at the village post office, at Jacksonville, he was admonished of the great risk of attempting to descend the hill with his coach. But David seemed little concerned about the matter; however it was observed that his drinks of "old double distilled" were larger than usual, and that at his departure he had taken an extra "bumper"* with Matt Bradney, who had come to town the night before and was "weather-bound" at the village tavern. But the "bumper" with Bradney meant more than a nerve stimulant to Bradford. It was the seal of a solemn vow to Bradney that he would not again permit his "nigger," "Black Joe" Logan, to butt the life out of him as he had nearly done at the Noleman Cahn Meeting the summer previous, when Bradney and “Big Dow” Woods had attempted to drive Logan from the camp grounds while he was peaceably caring for Bradford's team and carriage [more on this story in the next post]. So, seating himself on the box of his stage, he cracked his whip and set out on a swinging trot for Brush Creek hill. On arriving at the point where begins the descent down to the valley of Brush Creek, he halted his team and unhitched it from the coach. Then he hitched a favorite horse to the end of the tongue, and mounting the animal began to ply the whip and yell like an Indian, making the descent of the long and steep grade without a single mishap; remarking that it was "a damned poor horse that could not outrun a stage coach."
(* a “bumper” is a glass filled to the brim, especially for a toast)

We will continue this fascinating look at Rebecca Miller Bradford’s brother in the next post.

[picture courtesy of]

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