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A Sound in the Wilderness

The whiskey barrel on the South Hills Squadron's burgee recalls the Western Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion. The first squadron meetings were held in the Pioneer Inn, one of the spots where the tax protests and the rebellion germinated.

The Allegheny Mountains were a formidable barrier to horse drawn shipments to the eastern markets, so farmers distilled their grain. Converted into whiskey, the grain went to market as "Old Monongahela Rye" which sold for 25 cents a gallon and brought twice the price in eastern markets. "Wet goods" was often bartered for "dry goods" because little hand money was seen in those times.

Secretary Hamilton's tax on whiskey in 1791 was a big burden on the farmers who thought the tax discriminatory. By 1794 the "Whiskey Boys" were in open rebellion. They tarred and feathered tax collectors and even marched on Pittsburgh. President Washington sent 13,000 man militia against the 250 rebels who were squashed, but not before the insurgents had staunchly stood for their rights against the tax.

There were skirmishes, vandalism and house burnings. On July 16, 1794, tax collector General John Neville's mansion and barn on Bower Hill Road were burned. The muster at Braddock's field and march on Pittsburgh were considered treason and a few of the "insurrectionists" were taken east for trial. They were subsequently pardoned. The excise tax was later repealed in 1800.

The swift crushing of the Whiskey Rebellion showed the citizens not only that their new government was strong and could make them obey its laws, but also that it was just and could listen to the voice of the people.

South Hills Squadron's burgee preserves this important bit of American history.

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