Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 37 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 37 of 193)
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Gazette that the office of the inspector should no
longer be kept at his house.

On receiving intelligence of this occurrence, as also

of the proceedings of the Pittsburgh meeting, the Sec-
retary of the Treasury reported the facts to President
j Washington, wdio thereupon, on the 15th of Septem-
j her, 1792, issued a proclamation admonishing all per-
I sons to refrain and desist from all unlawful combina-
tions and proceedings whatsoever having for their
; object, or tending, to obstruct the operation of the
laws, declaring it to be the determination of the
government to bring to justice all infractors of the
law, to prosecute delinquents, to seize all unexcised
spirits on their way to market, and to make no pur-
j chases of spirits for the army except of such as had

paid the duty.
I A supervisor of the revenue was sent into the
western counties immediately afterwards to gain ac-
curate information of and report on the true state of
affiiirs; but his mission "had no other fruit than that
of obtaining evidence of the persons who composed
the meeting at Pittsburgh, and two of those who were
understood to be concerned in the riot [against Capt.
Faulkner], and a confirmation of the enmity which
certain active and designing leaders had industriously
infused into a large proportion of the inhabitants,
not against the particular laws in question only, but of a
more ancient date against the government of the United
States itself" '■

In the following April (1793) a party of men, armed
and disguised, made an attack upon the house of Ben-
jamin Wells, who was then collector of revenue for
Fayette and Westmoreland Counties. His house,
which stood on the west side of the Youghiogheny
River, opposite the present borough of Connellsville,
was visited in the night by these rioters, who, having
forced an entrance, finding that Wells was absent,
contented themselves with threatening, terrifying,
and abusing his family, without proceeding to any
further outrage. Warrants for the apprehension of
several of these rioters^ were issued by Justices Isaac
Meason and James Finley, and placed in the hands
of the sheriff of Fayette, Joseph Huston, who, how-
ever, refused or neglected to serve them, and was
therefore indicted in the Circuit Court.

A second attack was made on the house of Wells,
the collector, in the night of the 22d of November by
a body of men all armed and in disguise.^ They broke
and entered the house, and demanded a surrender of
the officer's commission and official books, and upon

upon tlie house of a collector of tlio revenue in F.iyetto

County; pr.

cesse.s issued against tliein also to brins tlii-m to liial, a

.1 if guilty, t

pniiislmient."— Ho.n.Vfoi. lo Presid ii( WuMiialou, Aufj.5,

1794; Pa. A

f.,j). 100.



his refusal to deliver them up they threatened him,
with i)istols presented at his head, and swore that ifhe
(lid not comply they would instantly put him to
death. By this means they forced him to surrender
his books and commission, and not content with this,
the rioters, before they left the premises, compelled
Wells to promise that he would, within two weeks,
publish his resignation. It does not appear, however,
that Wells did resign his office at that time, for he
certainly held it in the following year, and was then
an object of peculiar hatred to the opponents of the

"At last March [1794] Court, in Fayette County,"
said Judge Addison, " in a publick company at din-
ner in the tavern where I lodged, some of the most
respectablegentlemenof that county, and most strenu-
ously opposed to the Excise law, proposed that a
meeting of the inhabitants of that county should be
called, in which it should be agreed that they would
all enter their stills, provided Benjamin Wells was
removed from office, and some honest and reputable
man appointed in his stead. I will not say that these
are the words, but I know it is the amount of the
conversation." This was written by the judge in a
letter addressed to Governor Mifflin, dated Washing-
ton, May 12, 1794.^ In a reply to that letter, written by
Secretary Dallas,^ on behalf of the Governor, he says,
" The truth is that such general dissatisfaction has
been expressed with respect to Wells that, for the sake
of the western counties, as well as for the sake of the
General Government, it was thought advisable to
transmit all the information that could be collected
on the subject to the President, and the extract from
your letter . . . made a part of the documents."

Finally, about the 1st of July, 1794, the rioters de-
stroyed Wells' house and forced him to vacate his
office, the circumstances being as follows : The ex-
cise-otfice for Westmoreland County had been opened
in the house of Philip Eeagan, whereupon an attack
was soon after made upon it by the insurgents. This
attack had been expected by the owner of the house
(Reagan), who had accordingly prepared for it with
a guard of two or three armed men. When the as-
sailing-party approached they were fired on by Rea-
gan's party, among whom was John Wells,' son of

1 "Andrew Robb [liiiM.]. a .lnsli:-(. nf tho pc:u<% ilinigcil li.v in-

with having ofFeri'fl I i : I ; i I ,~ c .ri,

tliG infornmtion I'f t)i,' -ii.l ( ' ii..imi /- i • .-.,,.,,/ ,,^,,

2S8; Lellerof lluinlloit l„ 7V.m.!™( W„>hi,„

2 Pil. Alcll., iv,, p. 03.

3 Ibiil, p. 04.

* In tlic nccounts which havu bpou ns^l.^lly given cf thi< .iffnir, .T..hM
"Wells has been nientiuned as tlie collector for W'fstiiiinrl.unl, .unl iljc

time of the final abandonment of ]te;)gan'& Iiouso u- :iii . \.- Hi. r ;,.;

being in the month of .Tune; bnt both those stalpnirnr, ., . ,ii.|,t ,,, ,,1

by the report oC the Secretary of the Treasury to Ti. -i I ,' w i-:,m. i i,

ilatril Aug.5,1794 (Pa. Archives, 2.1 series, iv., «n. i ', '. >,

" .Tune being the month for receiving annual entri.-' >: ■

were used lo open offices in Westmoreland and W.l-Im i,_-r .',, ^^^ . n

had bilherto been fviund impracticable. With mucli |iali]s ami .1 Iflcully

Benjamin Wells, of Fayette, and deputy collector
under him. The fire was returned, but without
effect on either side. Then the party set fire to
Reagan's barn, and having burned it to the ground,
moved off without making further depredation. In
a day or two a much larger party of assailants
(numbering about one hundred and fifty men) ap-
peared at Reagan's, and he, knowing the folly of
attempting to resist so large a force, and wishing
to avoid the shedding of blood, consented to capit-
ulate, provided they would give him assurances
that they would not destroy his property nor abuse
him or his family. This was agreed to, with the con-
dition that his house should no more be used as an
excise-office, and that John Wells should agree and
promise never again to act as an officer for the collec-
tion of the excise duty. The stipulations were reduced
to writing and signed by the jjarties. The house was
then thrown open, and Eeagan produced a keg of
whiskey, from which he "treated" the assailants.
But after they had drank the whiskey they began to
grow more belligerent, and some of them said that
Reagan had been let off altogether too easily, and
that he ought to bo set up as a target to be shot at.
Some of them proposed that he be tarred and feath-
ered, but others strongly ojiposed this, and took Rea-
gan's part, saying that he had acted in a fair and
manly way, and that they were bound in honor to
treat him well after having agreed to do so as a con-
dition to the surrender. Then they drank more
whiske>and fell to quarreling among themselves, and
the proposition was made to " court-martial" Reagan,
and to inarch him to the house of Benjaniin Welh,
in Fayette County, and try them liotli to^rllier. This
suggestion was immediately acted on, and the paily
iiioveil towards Struart's Cn.-in - , taking Keagan
with iheiii. Aniviii-at W.l Uli. .ii-c they found that
111- was aliseiit, and in llnir di-a|.|iniiitiiient and anger

on his return,— a design which they effected in the
following morning. On making him prisoner they
demanded of him that he resign his commission as
collector, and pioiiiise to accept no office under the
excise law in tlic fauire. These demands were made
as the eundilidns du which his life and safety de-
pinded. He accepted them and submitted to all
their requirements, upon wdiich they desisted from
all further ill treatment and liberated him. This
was the end of his career as an excise-officer. He
afterwards removed to the other side of the river (at
Connellsville) and made his residence there.



Soon after the destruction of Wells' house by the |
insurgents, a United States officer came into Fayette
County to serve proecises against a number of non-
foniplyinn- distillers, and also against Robert Smilie
and Jcilin M.eCullocii, two persons charged with par-
tiei|iatioii in the riotous attack on the house of Col- i
lector Wrlls ill thr previous November. "The mar- !
shal of the ili-tii.t." said Secretary Hunilton,' "went
in person tn snvc these processes. He executed liis
trust witliout interruption, though under many dis-
couraging rircuinstauces, in Fayette County;- but
while he was in the execution of it in Allegheny
County, h.ini:- then accompanied by tin- ins|ieitor of
the rcvcnnr liUjn. Xeville), to wit, on tlir l-',tli ..fJuly
last 1 17V4 I, he was beset on the mad by a party of from
thirty to forty armed men, wlm al'tur nun li irregularity
of conduct hnally tired on him, Imt, as it liappened,
without injury citlier to him (jr to tlie inspector."

Tlie attack on tiie marshal and Gen. Neville, how-
ever, ;uMved t.. lie but the prelude to one cf the most
daring outrages tliat were ci>mmitted during the con-
tinuance of tlie insurrection. The disalfectiMl p.-ople

panying the niar>lial to as-ist in serving llir |m-occss,.s,
].iloting Ilia, to tlir lionios of his vi.-tini-, as tliry
s.iid. ( >a this arcouiit tlic fa-ling agaiii>t liiiii became
very intense and bitter.

On the day next following tlie attack on the mar-
shal and inspector (July Kith i, at daylircak, " in eon-
some time entertained, and wbicli was prob:J.]y only
accelerated by the coming of tlic mai-.hal into the
survey, an attack liy aliout one liundr.d piT^ons armed

of the inspector (Nevillei, in tie- vicinity of Pitts-
burgh. The inspector, though alono, vigoiou-ly dr-
fended himself .against the a<-ailants, and ol.'ligrd
them to retreat without acruinplisliing their ].urpose."'
They had only ],ost|,oned, and not aLandoned, the
execution of liieir [dan^. l >n the following .lav lliev
rcassenil.led in augmented nnml.ers, anionntii,^-, a's
it wa. -aid. to folly tlve hundred, and on the 17tl, of
July renew, -d their attack on (ien. .Xeviile'- leai-e,
whicli was tluai del'endcd by a detachnnait of eleven

thatatterall'jhtofaboutan hour's .Inration. in wlii,di
,,ne of the iii-ui-,Ht- »a- killed and several wounded,

wliih- three of ih.' ].er s in the liouse were als,,

w„unded. the del-ending pally snrreii.lcrcd, and the in-
surgents then burned the Imuim' to the ground, t.i^ether
witli all the onihnihlinu-. oeeasioning a lo.. ,,f more
than twelve thousanil dollars. ( ien. Neville had left the

house before the commencement of the firing, and had
sought a place of concealment at a distance, wisely
concluding that this nas the only way to save his life.
On the night of the 19th of July he with the marshal
who had come to .serve the processes (having been re-
peatedly threatened with death at the hands of the
insurgents, and finding that no protection wa-s to be
expected from the magistrates or inhabitants of Pitts-
burgh) made their escape from tlie place, fled down
the Ohio, and proceeded to the East by a circuitous
way, the usual routes over the mountains being known
to be beset by their enemies.

On the 25th of July the United States mail, near
Greensburg, on the road from Pittsburgh to Philadel-
phia, was stopped by two armed men, wdio cut open
the pouch and abstracted all the letters except those
contained in one package. In connection with this
circumstance, it is proper to notice a circular addressed
by ( 'ol. John Canon, David Bradford, Beiijamin Park-
iiisim, and others to the militia officers of the counties,
dated July 28, 1794, as follows:

"Sir, — Having had suspicions that the Pittsburgh
post would carry with him the sentiments of some of
tlie ])Cople in the country respecting our present situ-
ation, ami the letters by the post being now in our pos-
x'-asiiin. by which certain secrets are discovered hostile
to our interest, it is therefore now come to that crisis
that every citizen ninst express his sentiments, not by
his words, hut by his actions. You are then called
upon as a citizen of the western country to render
your personal service, with as many volunteers as you
can raise, to rendezvous at your usual place of meet-
ing ou Wednesday next, and thence you will march
to the usual placeof rendezvous at Braddock's Field,'
on the Monongahela, on Friday, the first day of Au-
gust next, to be there at two o'clock in the afternoon,
with arms and aeeoutrenients in good order. If any
voluuteci's shall want arms and ammunition, bring
them forward, and they shall be supplied as well as
possible. Here, sir, is an expedition proposed in
wdiich you will have an opportunity of displaying
your military talents, and of rendering service to your
country. Four days' provisions will be wanted ; let
the men be thus supplied."

?dany id' the militia officers o'beyed the directions
contained in the circular, and marched their men to the
appointi'd rendezvous. Witli reference to the readi-
ness ills;. hived by officers and soldiers to obey these
orders, emanating as they did from no responsible au-
thority. Judge Addison said that in consequence of
the danger of Indian incursions having often ren-
dered it necessary in this region to assemble the mili-
tary force without waiting for orders from the govern
ment, " it had become habitual with the militia of
these counties to assemble at the call of their officers,
without inquiring into the authority or object of the

Brad.lncli's Field \

tlio plu



call." This habit, well known to the contrivers of
the rendezvous at Braddock's Field, rendered the exe-
cution of their plan an easy matter. They issued
their orders to the officers of the militia, wjio as-
sembled their men, accustomed to obey orders of this
kind given on the sudden and without authority.
The militia came together without knowing from
whom tlie orders originated, or for what purpose they
met. And when met it was easy to communicate
from breast to breast more or less of the popular
frenzy, till all felt it or found it prudent to dissemble
and feign that they felt it."

At Braddock's Field, on the appointed day, there
gathered a. vast and wildly e.xcited assemblage, of
which a good proportion was composed of militiamen
and volunteers under arms. Fayette County was
sulli^'iently represented on the field,' though the num-
ber from this was less than from either Washington,
Allegheny, or Westmoreland. Among the great
throng of persons assembled there, very few were fa-
TOrable to the government and to the execution of the
law. Such as were there of this class had come to
the rendezvous lest their absence might be made a
cause for proscription.^ But they were compelled,
out of regard for their personal safety, to conceal their
real sentiments ; and some of them had even assumed
the rule of leaders, for the purpose (as they said after-
wards when the insurrection had been crushed) of
gaining the confidence of the disaffected multitude,
and then by organization and judicious management
to restrain them from proceeding to outrage and re-
bellion. The Hon. Hugh H. Brackenridge was one
of these, and there were some among the Fayette
County leaders, whose course with regard to the in-
surrection has been similarly explained. Tiierc were
also present at Braddock's Field on the occasion re-
ferred to some who went there merely as spectators,
without any strong feeling on cither side ; but by far
the greater part were in full syniiiathy wiih tlio in-
surgent cause, though probably tcv of tlnin Iim^I any
very definite idea of the object of the meeting othrv
than to denounce excise-officers and the government,
and to shout in wild acclaim, huzzahs for To:u the

As the rendezvous was but a few miles from Pitts-
burgh, the people of that place were greatly alarmed
lest the company assembled at Braddock's Field
should, at the instigation of their leaders, march on
the town and destroy it, in a spirit of revenge against
a number of officers and friends of the gcvernmcnt
who lived there. A meeting of the inhabitants of the
town had been held on the evening before the day of
the rendezvous, at which "a great majority — almost
the wh(;>Ie of the inhabitants of the town — assembled."
It was announced to this meeting that a committee
from Washington was present, bearing a message to
the meeting. A committee of three was appointed to
confer with the committee from Washington, and
after their conference they reported " that in conse-
quence of certain letters sent by the last mail, certain
persons were discovered as advocates of the excise
law and enemies to the interest of the country, and
that Edward Day, James Brison, and Abraham Kirk-
patrick are particularly obnoxious, and that it is ex-
pected by the country that they should be dismissed
without delay; AVhereupon it was resolved it should
be so done, and a committee of twenty-one was ap-
pointed to see this resolution carried into effect. Also
that, whereas it is a part of the message from the gen-
tlemen from Washington that a great body of the
people of the county will meet to-morrow at Brad-
dock's Field, in ciidir (o cnny into eli'cct measures
that may seem Ui them :i'h i-alile uitli respect to the
excise law and (lie advocates of it, Resolved, Tiiat
the above cuinniittcr shall at an early hour wait upon
the people un the ground, and assure the people that
the above resolution, with respect to the proscribed

puuty at Bi'iuMock's yielil on tlmt diiy,
|)rubal>le wliou it is reiiKjiiibured tlittt
uf tho pniuiiiieiit JeadLM-s of iiisun-ec-

" This Tom tlie Tiiilipr," say9.Indg:e T.ubenjxier, " wns a new jxod :idded to

I -t HI - . \VI v,.,-..l V liuii;,lip.l 111- T til.. T.nK.T W,i».if


t llio I


ciuo unless liis principles v
have gut no practice witliout
law, nor ctnild a morcliant i
trajy, to talk against the law
go to the Legislatnre or to I
It Wiis the Sliili!,ol,-IJi of safet

ally for |

'poses of I



persons, has been carried into effect. Resolved also,
That the inhabitants of the town shall march out and
join the people on Braddock's Field, as brethren, to
carry into effect witli them any measures that ma}'
socm advisable for the common cause."

The Pittsburgh committee appointed at the meeting
above mentioned reported to the leaders at Brad-
dock's Field the resolutions which had been adopted,
and that in pursuance of those resolutions some of
the men most objectionable to the insurgents, viz. :
Edward Day, James Brison, Abraham Kirkpatrick,
and Col. Presley Neville, had been driven from the
town and had fled down the Ohio. This liad been
done in deference to the demands of "Tom the
Tinker," and the committee's announcement
made to the assenililaL'C in the hope of dissuading the
leaders from u.ovinir thr lorees into the town; but it
failed to have tlie desired effect, though it probably
eurlied their excesses to a great extent.

One of the most prominent of the leaders of the
insurgents was Col. David Bradford, of Washington,
who at the meeting (or more properly muster) at
Braddock's Field made the proiiosition to march to
Pittshnri;h and attack tlic garris.m stationed there.
This |ini|iosition was warmly entcitained by the more
hot-]iead,.l, but was finMly abandoned. "Bradford,
hou-ev.T. iii-i-t.Ml tliai the militia and vohmteers
should Ih> iiiMivlird to t'.ie town, and iti tliis hr was

in opposition to tlie proji'ct, fniinivril the idea of
guiding and controlling- the lawlr-; movcnent by ap-
parent ar(|uiescence. " "^'c^.' >aid he, "hy all means
let us i;'(i, it' fir no other rea-on than to L:ive a proof

tlie strictest order, an.! of reli'aiiiiiiL' Irom all excesses.
Let us march thrni;:li the town, nui-tei- on the banks

people, and then move the troops across the river."
The jilan wa< adopteil. Officers were appointed, —
David r.radlord and Edward Cook, generals, and Col.
Gabriel lihikency, officer of the day, — and under their
command the entire lio.Iy niuved over tin- Mononga-
hela road to Pittsburgh. ( In their arrival tlicre, tliey
were reeeived a^ the gu. - l~ „( the town, or rather as |
the gue.t^ ..f the prineipal eiti/en^-, who by a little '
/;i«sv', alter treating them Ireelv tn li,,u ir, succeeded '
in indnein- tli.' main l.odv t,. en.... the Mn,i,,n-ahela
without d .in_' a IV • U;i reaehin- the -..till,

Maj.Kirkpalrielcn:, the I. liifr.,pi.o.ite Pitt-burgh,. and
succeeded ill d ■^•r ivin- his barn at that place, though |
the dwellin- was savetl. Meanwhile a part of the
men not included in the 1> .ilv whii-li had been enticed
across the M m oniraliida lia.l heeime somewhat riotous
in Pitt-linr_di, and set tire to the town residence of '
Maj. Kiilq.atriek. It had been their intention to de-
stroy hi- h.,n-e, ,a- well as those nf Neville, Gibson, I
and others, but the consummation (if this design had
been prevented largely by the interference of Col. -

Edward Cook, of Fayette County,' and Bradford, of
Washington, two of the principal leaders. If they
had succeeded in doing this, there is little duubt that
the principal part of the town would have been burned.
An account of the turbulent proceedings at Brad-
dock's Field and Pittsburgh was forwarded without
delay to the State and natiooal authorities, and on the
7th of August the Presideut of the United States issued
a proclamation, reciting in its preamble that " combi-
nations to defeat the execution of the laws layim:
duties upon spirits distilled within the United State-,
and upon stills, have from the time of the commence-
ment of those laws existed in some of the western
parts of Pennsylvania, . . . that many persons in the
said western parts of Pennsylvania have at length
been hardy enough to perpetrate acts wdiich I am ad-
vised amount to tre.ason, being overt acts of levyiiiL'
war against the United States ;" and commanding " all
persons being insurgents, as aforesaid, and all other,-
wdiom it may concern," to disperse and retire peace-
ably to their re.spective abodes on or before the 1st ot
September following ; moreover, warning all persons
" against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpe-
trators of the aforesaid treasonable acts, and requiring
all officers and other citizens, according to their
respective duties and the laws of the land, to exert
their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such
dangerous proceedings." At the same time the Presi-
dent called for troops to be raised and equipped in
the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and
New Jersey, and to be held in readiness to march at
shortest notice, for tlie purpose of suppressing thf
insurrection and enforcing the law. The quotas ov
the States were assigned as follows : j

New .jcrfcy.

On the same day Governor Mifflin, of Pennsylvania
issued his proclamation directing that the State's quot:
of men be armed and equipped as speedily as pos
sible, " and to be held in readiness to march at a mo
ment'.s warning," and a second proclamation wa

1 e 1 mil- tii[- .i[;,iii , i; .■ I. ill i\\ ing card was piiljlislie'l in iln- Vitt-

'- I.', ■\^. i I,' -,, 1, oil belialforoursi-lM- e.,1 111

^!. ,1 I I ' , : ;, .! hill from Braddock':? fi I n 11

lie no authority for carrying tliein into effect. Wo consider it as
blemish on tlie good order of the marcli uf the colnnin tlirongli tliotnw
of Pittdbnrgli aiu! their cantonment in the neighborhood of it. It h:
been endeavored to be removed as much as posditdo b.v repaying. tii

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 37 of 193)