Tag Archives: Whiskey Rebellion

Western Pennsylvania Whiskey Connections, Part II

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Western PA and the Whiskey Rebellion, let’s look at some more sites with connections to distilled spirits! Here are just a few places of note, in no particular order:

  • Shreve’s Distillery in Perryopolis, near George Washington’s grist mill. Shreve contracted to buy land from Washington, but spent several years haggling over payments and prices. Washington wrote Shreve in 1798 and 1799 asking for payments due, but could not bring himself to sue a fellow army officer. Shreve and Washington both died on the same day–December 14, 1799–although hundreds of miles apart.
  • West Overton is the site of the Overholt homestead and distillery, and boyhood home of their descendant, Henry Clay Frick. A second distillery was at Broadford and is now abandoned.
  • The Schenley name has a long history in distilling, but Schenley PA is no longer a hub of activity. The ruins of the distillery buildings can still be seen there, however.
  • The Dillinger distillery at Ruffsdale was another long-lived enterprise, but the buildings are all abandoned. The Dillingers, like the Overholts, were German Mennonites who relocated from Eastern PA to Westmoreland County.
  • Sam Thompson’s distillery in West Brownsville is also out of business, but his grandson’s imposing home was once a restaurant, and can still be seen.
  • A contemporary whiskey maker is Wigle Whiskey, located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District and named for one of two men sentenced to hang for their part in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.

You may also enjoy learning more about the history of Western PA distilleries here and here.

–Marilyn Cocchiola Holt

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Western Pennsylvania Whiskey Connections, Pt I

The most famous connection to whiskey in Western Pennsylvania is undoubtedly the events which led to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. If you are not familiar with them, there is a brief history at Wikipedia.

You can explore the sites related to those events at many nearby locations, including:

You can also connect to books in our collection on this topic here.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about more connections to sites related to whiskey in Western Pennsylvania.

–Marilyn Cocchiola Holt

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Music of the Whiskey Rebellion

Folk, country, and rock music have lots of songs about whiskey.  But unlike other events in U.S. History, there are not a lot of music or films specifically about the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.  Here is a list to get you started:

  • The public television series The Appalachians contains a segment on the Whiskey Rebellion.  (During the segment, you’ll hear the traditional song “Boozefighters,” performed by Gandydancer and also on the companion CD.  But this song is more likely about Prohibition in the 1920s and not the taxing of whiskey in the 1790s.)
  • The book Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs contains a song “A ‘Canny’ Word to the Democrats o’ the West” (1799) which includes references to the Whiskey Rebellion in heavy Scotch-Irish dialect such as this: “When, ance, about Whiskey, / Ye a’ gat sae crusty, / An’ swore ye’d na pay for a drap.”
  • The same lyricist, David Bruce, also wrote “A New Song for the Jacobins” circa 1798 and also found in Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs.  According to the notes accompanying the song, American Jacobin Clubs were radical agrarians inspired by the French Revolution and “furnished the leadership and organization for the Whiskey Insurrection.”
  • In 1953, Albert F. Beddoe published a song “Copper Kettle (The Pale Moonlight)” which became somewhat well-known amongst 60s folk revivalists.  It contains the lines: “My daddy he made whiskey, and my granddaddy too, / We ain’t paid a whiskey-tax since seventeen-ninety-two.”  Local group NewLanders, who specialize in songs about the region’s history, perform this song on their Where the Allegheny Flows album.
  • Another song called “Copper Kettle” also appears in folk song collections and tells the story of a jailed Patrick McCrory.  It contains the lyrics: “But Patrick paid no taxes / On any stuff he sold, / That’s why he went to prison,  / So the tale is told.”

— Tim

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