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.
 

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

The 412

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

The homegrown race series wraps up on Sunday at Ohiopyle State Park.
Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Have a little fun as you search the Web.
Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

The creator of the app — which takes any playlist on your smartphone or tablet and plays it in one-minute pieces — reminds users to please drink responsibly.
NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

The group behind the station's Sandwich Monday blog series orders the iconic sandwich and writes a review.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.
40 Under 40: 2014

40 Under 40: 2014

In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that Pittsburgh is deserving of its Most Livable City title.