The Millers Lived Here

Oliver Miller and his family produced whiskey from their homestead in South Park.



The building influenced the basic design of structures in South Park.

Like most of us who grew up in Bethel Park, I learned early on that the old stone house in South Park was historic. It’s called the Oliver Miller Homestead now, but we kids knew it as “Stone Manse.” It was where the Miller family, some of the first Europeans to settle in the hills south of Pittsburgh, made their home. In 1975, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When Oliver Miller first came here in the 1760s, this part of the world was wilderness. Miller left Ireland in 1742, lived near Fort Bedford for a while, got married, then reportedly started making “improvements” along our local stream called Catfish Run in 1762. His youngest son, James, was born here in 1763, the first child of European roots born in the area. By 1772, Oliver Miller and his family had a two-story log house with a fancy shingled roof. Nonetheless, when there were threats of attacks by local Native Americans, the Millers hurried to one of the local forts for protection.

Their house became a meeting spot, and when missionary preacher John McMillan came through in November 1776, he held services there and baptized five children. That gathering is considered the first service—the founding event—for at least two local congregations, including Bethel Presbyterian. And that may be why someone dubbed it “Stone Manse,” “manse” being a word for the home of a Presbyterian minister.

The Millers were farmers, however. They cultivated grain and used it to make whiskey, a distinctive and profitable product. When Oliver Miller died in 1782, he left his land to his six sons, and the log house went to James, who was just 19 years old.

Then, in 1794, two federal agents came to serve a writ on brother William who did not live far away. William still hadn’t registered his land and hadn’t paid the new American tax on whiskey. When William ordered the men off his property, farmers in nearby fields fired rifles at the men. No one was hurt, but these were the first shots of what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The Millers and neighboring farmers fought against the tax but eventually signed Oaths of Allegiance to restore their status as U.S. citizens.

In 1808, James decided to add a new stone structure onto the log house, and then, in 1830, his son, Oliver, replaced the log house with a bigger stone house, creating the five-room structure that we know today. In 1927, Allegheny County bought the house from the Millers to be part of the new South Park. At the time, Corrigan Drive was still called Catfish Run Road. Since then, groups from the Federation of Women’s Clubs of Allegheny County to the current Oliver Miller Homestead Associates have cared for the house. During the summer months, it’s often open to the public on Sundays.

For several months now, I’ve been gathering material for a TV show about the joys of North Park and South Park and the local pride we develop for these places. My research tells me that there’s nothing like the Oliver Miller Homestead in that other park to the north.
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Pittsburgh gridlock not only frays nerves — it dings the wallet.
Breeding Success: Alpaca Farming is Booming in Western Pa.

Breeding Success: Alpaca Farming is Booming in Western Pa.

Our rolling hills are good for more than vegetable gardens and chicken coops. Dozens of alpaca farms are located in the region.
Head North to Find the Comfiest Place in the Pittsburgh Area

Head North to Find the Comfiest Place in the Pittsburgh Area

Cranberry Township was the only western Pa. area mentioned in a nationwide list of most comfortable cities.
'We Are Family Matters' Pirates Mashup is Brilliant

'We Are Family Matters' Pirates Mashup is Brilliant

Pittsburgh viral video genius Benstonium creates another winner.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
 A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

Pitt Girl explains her change of heart on what should be done with the large, decaying billboard on Mount Washington.
Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Locally and nationally, college and university students are flocking to programs they perceive to be pathways to jobs while they forego studies of languages, history, art and philosophy. But at what cost?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module