In 1791, Washington County, Pennsylvania, was a heavily wooded wilderness at the headwaters of the Ohio River. Many Scotch-Irish veterans of the Revolutionary War had returned to the area and the rocky farms that they had established before the War. They struggled against the weather and disease, and being far from the East Coast, enjoyed few luxuries.
But through the rugged ingenuity of the brave Colonists, one of the first American Industries was born. Whiskey. For years, the grain that wasn't consumed was preserved in the form of distilled spirits. It was safer to drink than contaminated water, eased pain and suffering, and improved the spirits of friends and neighbors. It was easy to ship over the mountains in barrels on backs of mules or down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and up the coast to Boston.
It was then that the government of our new nation saw the opportunity, through the imposition of an excise tax on whiskey, to pay off the debts owed to the allies who had helped to win independence from tyranny. Yet, the farmers of Washington County were struggling mightily to keep their land and grow crops. Having no cash, they used their whiskey to barter for goods and supplies that they needed for daily life. Whiskey-making provided their best chance to survive. This is why they saw the tax as an imposition of an arrogant, out-of-touch, new government.
So they gathered together secretly in a meetinghouse near Mingo Creek and vowed not to pay the tax. They were the first men to oppose an act of the new government, and they vowed to stick together. They called themselves the Mingo Creek Society.
As a symbol of their unity, they planted Liberty Poles throughout the county.
Years later, the stories of their defiance are preserved in museums, churches and cemeteries around the county.
Now, heritage grain once again grows in the same soil they so dearly loved, travels down the paved paths upon which they drove the whiskey-laden mule trains, and arrives at the new Mingo Creek Meetinghouse where it is distilled and enjoyed by the next generation of the Mingo Creek Society.
And this time, the Liberty Pole is displayed on the label of each whiskey bottle and symbolizes the loving appreciation for a craft that once again is bringing livelihood to a proud community.