I’ve always been fascinated by the Whiskey Rebellion, so I was happy to finally have a chance to check out the Oliver Miller Homestead, which sits on land that has a strong connection to this event from early American history.
The Oliver Miller Homestead is located 10 miles south of Pittsburgh in the middle of South Park, the second-largest park in Allegheny County. Despite being within a public park, this site isn’t open to explore at any time. In fact, it’s only open on Sunday afternoons from May through December, so you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to check this spot out.
The Millers were one of the first families to settle in this portion of Pennsylvania in the 1770s. Initially, a log cabin was built on the site, and, over time, the stone building was built onto and over the site of the original home. This actually means that most of what you see on this site wasn’t in place at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s, even if the Miller family home did stand in this exact spot.
Oliver Miller died in 1782, and it was his son James who took over the farm and was influential during the Whiskey Rebellion Period in the early 1790s.
In 1794, the first (and one of the only shots) of the Whiskey Rebellion was fired just up the road from this house at the home of James’ brother William (whose home was where the South Park golf course is today). This event led to an assault on the home of John Neville, who was related to the Miller brothers through marriage, and then to President George Washington leading troops on a march towards the Pittsburgh area to quell the rebellion.
Because of this area’s rich history related to this little-known conflict, the Oliver Miller Homestead is an excellent spot to visit if you want to learn more about this period of early American history.
Volunteer docents are dressed in colonial-era costumes and can often be found around the property participating in period-appropriate activities including blacksmithing, woodworking, and cooking. They are more than happy to tell you about the work that they are doing, and how that related to life on the frontier in the late 18th century.
The homestead is the main building on the property and is in excellent condition given its age. The two-story stone building, which is also locally-known as Stone Manse, primarily dates to 1830 and was largely built by James Miller’s son, Oliver (who shares a name with his grandfather).
While there is a lot to see during your self-guided tour of the property, exploring the six rooms inside the home was my favorite part of my visit to the site. As you go from room to room, there is a lot of great information to be learned about life on the frontier in the earliest days of the United States, which docents are more than happy to tell you about.
It was also interesting to learn about some of the unique tools and items used during this time, some of which are on display and in use when the site is open.
In addition to the main home, there are several interesting other structures to see when visiting the Oliver Miller Homestead.
The first is the spring house, which is located very near to the home and would have supplied the family and its livestock with water. Amazingly, there is still water flowing through this spring house today, and it’s definitely worth taking a peek inside.
A date found on the springhouse reads either 1765 or 1785, which makes it the oldest structure the an Allegheny County park, regardless of which date is correct. It also means that it was around during the Whiskey Rebellion, and it’s likely that some of the stills on the farm got their water from this spot.
Another notable building on the property is the barn. Inside, you’ll find some great information about the Whiskey Rebellion, a gift shop, a kids’ area, and more. Just note that if you visit during one of their monthly events, the vendors in the barn sometimes make it hard to see the items on display within this space.
There are also several other structures around the property including a blacksmith forge, a transportation shed, and a log cabin. At each spot, volunteers can be found who can offer insight into various aspects of 18th-century life in the region.
Having personally been to so many sites around the state, this information isn’t significantly different than what you’ll find elsewhere, but it’s very well done and is definitely a great primer if you haven’t explored a lot of similar sites.
Overall, the Oliver Miller Homestead is definitely an interesting spot to check out in southern Allegheny County. While the limited hours mean you’ll definitely have to pre-plan your visit, the site’s history and story are certainly worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Oliver Miller Homestead
Hours: Sundays: 1:30p-4:30p
Address: 1 Stone Manse Drive