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WCCF Grant Helps Preserve and Restore Tombstones of the Six “Whiskey Boys”

By Paul Chasko

On a bright mid-August summer day, residents near the Mingo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery in Union Township gathered with local, county and state officials to thank the Washington County Community Foundation for funds acquired through a financial grant.

Mingo 1
Telling it like it happened (left to right) Reenactor Charles McCormick, Union Township residents and historians, Len and Donna Marraccini and Betty Amato, President of the Peter’s Creek Historical Society. Len is also Vice President of the Peter’s Creek Historical Society.

The funds from this grant are serving to preserve a bit of history that was a rebellion quelled by George Washington after taking the office of the President of the young United States of America. Local residents dressed in “Period Attire” were on hand to add color and interest to the event while narrating what led up to the historical events described below.

The Mingo Church Cemetery contains the graves of six men who were very active in the tax protest known as the “Whiskey Rebellion” that began in 1791. Their graves were marked by Sandstone tombstones that had nearly lost all identifying names and dates due to weathering over the years. The grant covered the cost of protecting the original tombstones with new tombstones that will last for decades to come. Included in the project was an informative plaque that briefly covered this historic early American event. The plaque gives the location of the graves and the roles played out by the long- interred “Whiskey Boys” as they were known.
• John Holcroft was an active insurgent who used the name “Tom the Tinker” to threaten farmers who complied with the tax law.
• Reverend Raiston was the first Pastor of Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church where rebels met at the Meeting House to discuss and plan their strategy.

• Colonel John Hamilton of the Mingo Creek Militia and Sheriff of Washington County was accused of helping the rioters burn the Neville home at Bower Hill. He and other prisoners were marched to Philadelphia by foot where he was tried and acquitted.

• Major James MacFarlane was killed in an exchange of gunfire at the head of hundreds of militiamen marching on Bower Hill, who had come to force the local tax collector to resign (Some accounts say under threat of being tarred and feathered).

Mingo 2
Mr. McCormick Tells tales of Early Militiamen patrolling against marauding Shawnee indians.

• David Hamilton by invitation, offered his hospitality to excise officers plying them with drinks of whiskey laced with Jamaican Ginger at his Hilltop Home when they came to seize his still. (Now known as Ginger Hill). When the officers awoke they found the still had disappeared.

• John Gaston, a Revolutionary War Veteran, delivered “Tom the Tinker” letters to the Pittsburgh Gazette for all to read and be forewarned. The town of Gastonville was named after him.

The challenge of the “Whiskey Boys” of Southwestern Pennsylvania was quelled by federal troops dispatched by President Washington that camped on a flat area off the Monongahela River. Just south of what is now the City of Monongahela. Washington proclaimed a day of “Public Thanksgiving and Prayer” on February 19, 1795 for the defeat of the Whiskey Rebellion.

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