Espy House

Alexander Hamilton had managed the enactment of an excise tax on whiskey. In a country where you could find stills everywhere, the tax was a blow to people's liberty, especially for farmers, who could not afford lawyers and could be held in jail for weeks, losing what little income they were making. Most of these men had fought in the Revolution just 11 years earlier, so they were willing to risk death again for their freedom, which they had rightfully earned. Whiskey had become a form of payment in America. People paid each other with whiskey, since it was so cheap and because no one had any cash. Even preachers were sometimes paid with it. Whiskey was practically a way of life for them. It was a dinner-time drink. To take away whiskey was to take away their freedom, and the people would not tolerate that. The complicated matter of it was that since they all used whiskey as a form of currency, no one had any cash to pay taxes with, and taxes had to be paid in cash. The rye they grew was untaxed, but to get cash, they had to distill the rye and then pay the tax for it. They saw this as an unfair tyranny. The rich were not affected by this, only the farmer, so that made it even worse. The rebellion was no small matter. Britain and France both waited to reclaim what they had lost as they watched the new country prepare to fall to pieces. President George Washington was not about to let the country he and the colonists fought for fall apart now. He was aging now, true, but he had not lost his zeal for the United States. The Constitution was at stake here. The rebels tarred tax collectors, defied the Federal Government and even nearly burned Pittsburgh, and the rebellious spirit threatened to spread, too. War was the likely outcome of this. Washington marched into Bedford in 1794 with 12,950 militiamen (unshod, poorly trained, a watermelon bunch, but just as zealous as Washington) ready for a battle. At the time, the nicest house in town was the Espy House. So naturally, Washington set up headquarters there.

Contributed for use by the Bedford County Genealogy Project (

Bedford County Genealogy Project Notice:

These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.



Return to Bedford County Genealogy Project

 (c) Bedford County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project