Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Our Famous Cousin, David Bradford of the Whiskey Rebellion - Part Three

Home of David Bradford in the town of Washington,
Washington County, PA
Let's look a little more closely at one event briefly mentioned in the last post. Reminder: The "Bradford" in the following except is David Bradford, leader of the Whiskey Rebellion and our Rebecca's cousin (their father's, Samuel and James Bradford, being brothers).  

We learned that in 1794 there were a "series of meetings at Bradford's home to consider the problem of the easterners knowing what was happening almost before it happened. As a result of these meetings, the mail from Pittsburg to Philadelphia was robbed on July 26th and taken to the Blackhorse Tavern in Canonsburg to be examined."

Who attended these meetings? Why were they so desperate as to be willing to rob the US Mail? And what of the mysterious Blackhorse Tavern? Did it really exist?

From the Monongahela Valley History, Section 5, we read:

"The rebels next move was the most disastrous. They conspired to rob the
mail because they wanted to find out what the dispatches going from
Pittsburgh to Harrisburg and Philadelphia said about them. The plot was
devised at the Canonsburg Tavern of Henry Westbay, called the Black Horse
Tavern, and was carried out by William Bradford, cousin of David Bradford,
and William Mitchell, hired by David Hamilton.

"They waylaid the mail carrier about 22 miles east of Pittsburgh near the
present Route 51, took only the letters they were interested in, tied the
carrier so that they would have time to get away. The mail was taken to
Benjamin Parkison/Parkinson and then to Col. Canon and David Bradford in
Canonsburg. Although there was to be a meeting at Parkinson's Ferry in 17
days, Bradford became so incensed by the content of the letters that the
militia was commmanded to meet at the Mingo Church and proceed to Braddocks
Field to march on Pittsburgh." (For more information on the outcome, see previous post).

We see 3 names in that paragraph of interest to us genealogically speaking. First, as mentioned already, is Rebecca's cousin, David, but who is David's cousin that is mentioned, a William Bradford? He is none other than Rebecca's own brother, who was a 15-year-old teenager at this time.

They had all grown up together as children in Cecil County, Maryland. As adults, several of the families eventually headed west and settled very near to each other in Fayette County and adjoining Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, living only about 45 miles apart. Rebecca and her husband, William Miller, along with her mother and siblings, lived in the Dunbar/Connellsville area of Fayette County, and David, several other siblings and his parents settled near the town of Washington in Washington County, PA. Canonsburg was only a few miles north of Washington. William must have been close to his older cousin David, who in turn must have trusted the young William to help carry out the robbery of the U.S. mail!

In fact, both of there faces are immortalized on 500 hand-made Whiskey Rebellion Commemorative plates! (see below)

Whiskey Rebellion Commemorative Plaque
Concerning Benjamin Parkinson, on November 14, 1794, his distillery was seized (History of Washington County, Crumrine,  p. 883) for non-payment of taxes. Not surprisingly, Ben took an active part in the Rebellion, because acquainted with it's leader, David Bradford and his young cousin William, and in later years, William would marry Ben's daughter, Margaret Parkinson on November 18, 1800.

And finally, the Black Horse Tavern was indeed the stuff of legend, as the rebels met there to make their plans within its walls of secrecy. Some sources identify the tavern as the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion. According to the newspaper, the Beaver County Times, in a May 27, 1976 article that included comments from  local historian, James "Doc" Herron, it is also where the stolen mail was read: "In a backroom of the inn, in the dead of night, Bradford and six others opened and were infuriated by five critical letters addressed by Pittsburghers" (see source #1 below).  Was David's young cousin and our Rebecca's brother, William Bradford, one of "the six?" 

I believe he was. From a previous post we read “William Bradford, a relative of the writer, had procured the pouch near Greensburg and brought it to Canonsburg for inspection. What a tale this old "Black-horse" [Tavern] could unfold if to its crumbling walls speech were possible. After my graduation at Washington College in 1850 I taught a select school in Aberdeen , Ohio , opposite Maysville , Ky. , and boarded for a time in the family of Benjamin Bradford; a son of this same William Bradford and one of the wealthy and most highly respected citizens of the town. His fatherthis notorious William Bradford, was a large landowner in Braden CountyOhio, and was esteemed quite rich for those times, lived in Kentucky, and loaned his money in Ohio . I occasionally saw him, an old man "leaning upon the top of his staff." At that time I had learned but little of the Whiskey Insurrection, knew nothing of the history of the Black Horse tavern, the interception of the mail, and was not aware that I was in the company of one of the men who dared to "holdup" Uncle Sam's mail coach, carry off the pouch to Canonsburg and rifle the bag. Had I known these things he would immediately have become an object of greater interest to me that he was. As old Dungee of Canonsburg seemed to be afraid even in his old age to confess that he had ever been a slave, so I suppose that William Bradford would have hesitated to make any free utterance as to what he knew of the "Black Horse" tavern, and his illegal handling of the mail. Away with the old "Black Horse" then to make room for a modern structure which shall never be the haunt of men who neither fear God nor regard men. D. G. Bradford.” (see Post entitled "Rebecca's Brother, William Bradford, And His Involvement in The Whiskey Rebellion").

The Black Horse Tavern, Canonsburg, PA
It is most interesting to note that our ancestors took such a prominent role in a little known, but very influential part of American history. "Although the Whiskey Rebellion did mark the supremacy of the federal government, it also made the citizens of the states wary of this power. The question of states rights versus the powers of the federal government was not to be fully resolved until after the Civil War" (see source #2 below).  I'm not sure this question has altogether been settled even to this day! 

Your comments are most welcome!

Source #1:  http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2002&dat=19760527&id=dV0vAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FdsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2591,5860390

Source #2:  http://www.essortment.com/causes-effects-whiskey-rebellion-20880.html

1 comment:

  1. So much fun to read and see some photos of these events! Thanks!


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