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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Wedding Photographers Share Their Best Wintery Photo Shoots

We asked local wedding photographers to share their favorite engagement and wedding photographs from the most wonderful time of the year.

Watch: A New Penguin Has Arrived in Pittsburgh

Check out some high-resolution penguin snuggling.

Show House: Junior League Unveils Historic Wilkinsburg Manse

The nonprofit currently is seeking interior designers to decorate the 112-year-old mansion’s 28 rooms before tours take place in May.

Did You See This? Steelers' JuJu Delivers Surprise Autograph

In a video he shared, JuJu Smith-Schuster shows up at a store that had just started selling his jerseys to sign one for a fan who had been waiting for it to come in.

Watch: The Terrible Towel and 45 Years of Steelers Nation

Perspectives from Franco Harris to Joe Manganiello.

Yinzers Eating Chicken Wings Are Going to Be on TV

Mt. Washington’s Bigham Tavern is the latest ‘Burgh eatery to host a film crew.

Madeline Bakery and Bistro to Open in Wilkinsburg

The French-inspired bakery will feature croissants, cookies, bread and more.

32 Years Celebrating Pittsburghers of the Year

As we honor the 2017 Pittsburghers of the year, take a look back at the previous honorees and their significant, unforgettable contributions to our city.

Wish a Steeler a Speedy Recovery in a Big Way

An oversized get-well-soon card for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is waiting for your signature Downtown.

Watch: Who is Faster on a Zamboni? Crosby or Malkin?

Sid and Geno love to compete, especially against each other. This time, the future Hall-of-Famers climbed aboard Zamboni machines for a race across a parking lot.