In the early years of Washington County, the beverage situation was much different than today.
“Whiskey was consumed by men, women and children. The farmer’s wife set it on the table as a beverage at mealtime,” Dorothy Bewick said.
And, of course, there was the medicinal and trade aspects, too.
“The farmers could barter with it and sell barrels of it in the East,” Bewick said.
So when the federal government imposed a tax on the spirits and the stills in which they were made, the result was what we know today as the Whiskey Rebellion.
At the epicenter of the protest was the Mingo Meeting House in Union Township, near the present-day Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church and Mingo Cemetery, in which several of the rebels are buried.
Saturday marked the dedication of “Headstones of American History: The Whiskey Rebellion,” a project Bewick spearheaded to place new headstones in front of the originals and metal markers identifying who is buried there, along with Whiskey Rebellion banners. Funding came from a Washington County Community Foundation grant.
Receiving upgrades were the graves of five participants of the rebellion, plus the Rev. Samuel Ralston, the first pastor of Mingo Creek Presbyterian. A new information board at the foot of the cemetery provides a locator map and a sentence or two about each of the men.
During the dedication, Bewick acknowledged the many supporters of the project, including two fellow Mingo Cemetery Corp. board members: Ronald Bewick, her husband, whom she said manages the cemetery on a “very limited budget” and installed all the posts, grave markers and flags, and Jim Mocniak, responsible for stabilizing more than 90 old headstones and maintaining the front section of the cemetery.
A member of Peters Creek Historical Society – which owns and maintains the historic Enoch Wright House in Peters Township, built 1815-16 – Dorothy Bewick invited fellow members to attend the dedication dressed in clothing of the late 18th century. Betty Amato, the society’s president, joined vice president Len Marraccini and his wife, Donna, along with period reenactor Charles McCormick, in sharing information about the clothing they wore.
The Rev. Glenn McClelland, Mingo Creek Presbyterian Church pastor, gave the invocation and added some details about the cemetery, which is across Mingo Creek Road from the church, just off Route 88.
“The early settlers of this area called that God’s Acre, when it was the original cemetery,” he said. “That was the place they had chosen to bury their deceased loved ones in the late 1700s, the beginning of what is now Mingo Cemetery.
The church’s history goes back to the period of the American Revolution.
“As early as 1774, people were gathering here at Mingo to hold services of worship and praise to God,” McClelland said. “At first, those services took place outdoors in the shade of an old oak tree.”
Along with the Whiskey Rebellion, the now-14-acre cemetery contains the graves of veterans of most American wars, including nine from the American Revolution and 18 from the Civil War. Dorothy Bewick said the intent is to honor them with further “Headstones of American History” projects, as funding permits.
“Don’t forget me,” she said to guests who could help in that manner. “I have more ideas.”