The Whiskey Insurrection

Bethel Presbyterian Church was closely connected with the events of the Whiskey Insurrection. In 1791, Congress passed a bill taxing spirits. Most of the farmers raised large quantities of rye. They could profit more from converting the grain into liquor than transporting the grain to market in the east. Many of the farmers in this region operated stills. The stills had to be registered and were taxed. The tax was considered oppressive and unjust by the small farmers. They resisted payment, burned property of those who paid the tax, threatened and abused them. They burned the stillhouse of James Kiddoo, a complying distiller and elder of Bethel Presbyterian Church. William Cochran had his still destroyed and his saw and gristmill damaged.

James Miller, another Bethel member, was the last man in Allegheny County to resist paying the tax. On July 15, 1794, federal officers attempted to serve a warrant on him for failure to comply with the tax. From across the field a crowd of men ran toward the Miller home. From this band, the first shot of the insurrection was fired. The whole region became aroused. Men gathered in the Mingo Valley and marched to Fort Couch near Bethel Church planning to march on Bower Hill to seize and destroy the commission and official papers of General Neville, Chief Inspector for the collection of revenue in this district.

The Rev. Mr. Clark, the venerable and aged pastor halted this band at Fort Couch.
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Thus he stood like an ancient prophet, with the spirit and burden of prophecy shining from his eyes and burning in his speech:

ABrethren, fellow citizens and friends,= he cried, >I have come to raise my feeble voice against the business of the day. Duty, conscience , my office, the spirit of our Divine Lord and Master, a high and loving concern for your temporal and spiritual good, all compel me to warn you not to persist in your hostile purpose. You are in the way of rebellion, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft........@

They heeded not his words, but proceeded to Bower Hill. General Neville and his family had fled his home. Soldiers from the U. S. Garrison in Pittsburgh were guarding the property when the men arrived. The attack began, all the buildings were burned and soldiers captured. Six of the attacking party were wounded. Oliver Miller, II. was killed, along with their elected leader, James McFarlane. President George Washington dispatched 15,000 troops to crush the rebellion, but when they arrived, found no one to fight.

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