- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - Monday’s history lesson on wheels was twofold: the tracing of America’s first uprising and how it eventually distilled the American distilling industry.

Whiskey maker Jim Beam Brands sponsored a bus tour Monday of famous Whiskey Rebellion sites in southwestern Pennsylvania for some of its Pittsburgh area employees, along with officials of the 2015 Washington County Whiskey Rebellion Festival and Washington County Historical Society.

The tour, which stopped at several key sites where the 1794 uprising was staged, also included 15 bartenders from some of Pittsburgh’s upscale bars and restaurants, who added to their knowledge about the history behind the American whiskies they pour.

Since its original incarnation in July 2010, the Whiskey Rebellion Festival celebrated the July 1794 uprising of 400 whiskey rebels, mainly from Washington County, whose acts protesting the taxation of their whiskey caused President George Washington to send a force of 13,000 militia troops to the area.

Washington’s show of force quickly quelled the rebellion, and as a result, much of the whiskey-making eventually migrated to the Kentucky territory, which became famous for its bourbon and rye whiskies.

Enter Beam Brands, which has been a supporter of the festival for the past four years and will this year use its Makers Mark bourbon brand as the official whiskey of the Washington County event.

Stephen Jamieson, senior broker manager for Jim Beam Brands in Pittsburgh, said the purpose of Monday’s tour was to give Beam’s area employees and local bartenders the opportunity to learn more about the rebellion and its relation to the evolution of American whiskies.

“The No. 1 goal is to build knowledge about what happened here with regard to all of the great American whiskies,” Jamieson said.

The tour included ongoing explanations by Clay Kilgore and Bryan Cunning, members of the county historical society and the Whiskey Rebellion Festival board, who described key events of the rebellion and local history in relation not only to American history, but also Southwestern Pennsylvania’s importance to the history of distilling in America.

At the first stop, the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park, docents described how the new federal tax impacted the Miller family, a large clan whose parents Oliver and Mary Miller, purchased 1,400 acres of land for farming.

The Millers made whiskey from some of the grain they raised, but were angry with the federal government which imposed what was a 25 percent tax on their product, but wanted them to pay for it in cash. The Millers, like many other area farmers, used their whiskey to barter for the goods they needed, because no scrip or currency existed in most of Western Pennsylvania.

William Miller, who had served in the Revolutionary Army, was also incensed that another Revolutionary War veteran, Gen. John Neville, accompanied a federal marshal to serve a writ for his failure to pay the $250 he owed.

Miller and several other rebels fired shots over the heads of Neville and U.S. Marshal David Lennox, who quickly departed.

Neville was a wealthy commercial farmer and whiskey producer who had a 1,200-acre estate known as the Woodville Plantation with two separate houses and outbuildings, including the Bower Hill homestead, which rebels attacked and burned to the ground after William Miller’s nephew, 18-year-old Oliver Miller, was shot and rebel James McFarlane was killed during the skirmish.

Neville was eventually able to get word to Washington, who sent troops to quell the first rebellion of the young country.

Monday’s tour also included a stop at the David Bradford House in Washington. Bradford, a wealthy businessman who opposed the rebel’s violence but helped the rebels in their cause, fled to the Louisiana Territory; and lunch at Scenery Hill’s Century Inn, one of the oldest operating taverns along the old National Pike, which was the country’s first turnpike, built to serve the westward expansion.

The tour concluded with a dinner at West Overton Village, where Old Overholt rye whiskey - now also part of the Beam Brands portfolio - was distilled for many years.

As part of the strategy for promoting the Whiskey Rebellion Festival as a regional event, Beam and festival organizers see Pittsburgh bartenders as being able to spread the word as they pour American whiskies to customers at upscale bars like Butcher and the Rye and the Commoner bar in the new Monaco Hotel.

Wes Shonk of the 100-member Pittsburgh branch of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild said the extra knowledge is always a plus for anyone pouring spirits.

“You’re a better bartender,” because of the historical background, Shonk said.

“The more you know, the better you are.”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1EOaV76

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Information from: Observer-Reporter, https://www.observer-reporter.com

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