'Thanksgiving' comes to Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park
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At Sunday's planned 18th-century Thanksgiving celebration at the Oliver Miller Homestead, look for Joe Hancsak of South Park -- wearing breeches, buckle shoes and three-corner hat -- at work crafting musket balls.
And look for a similarly attired Joe Pelan of South Park demonstrating woodworking, using chisels and knives.
The men are members of the Oliver Miller Homestead Associates, volunteer curators at the pioneer landmark and Whiskey Rebellion site on Stone Manse Drive in South Park.
The men said their pioneer counterparts would spend a portion of each day hunting and chopping wood while the women would tend to cooking and chores closer to the house.
"And, of course, the men would be more than aware that the ladies were preparing the best rabbit stew and pumpkin pie in the territory," Mr. Pelan said.
From 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, a traditional frontier feast will be prepared at the homestead's open hearth and fire pit. On the menu: turkey, maple-syrup-flavored carrots, squash, pies, cheddar and apple biscuits and more.
Cooking revolved around a big open fire, volunteer Mary Pat Swauger said of the homestead's original kitchen in which the Miller women would have labored.
Sunday, Ms. Swauger of Whitehall -- dressed in a period shift, petticoat, jacket, apron and cap -- will cook turkey on a tin reflector oven and boil potatoes and turnips in an iron pot. Layers of squash and apples will simmer in a kettle over the fire.
Re-enactor Fred Bowman of Jefferson Hills will cook sausage on a grate at the outdoor fire pit.
The meals will be served in the dining room on pewter plates, with cider, whiskey and ales.
County health regulations do not permit the public to sample the food.
While Sunday's event is billed as an 18th Century Thanksgiving, organizers note that the holiday was not formalized until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a "national day of thanksgiving" on the fourth Thursday of each November.
Instead, Sunday's event could more accurately be called "a harvest celebration," said Miller associate Pat Farley of Bethel Park.
"Crops are in, so we can relax and be thankful for our blessings and a day enjoying family and neighbors because we know a long winter is coming," she explained.
Built in 1772, the homestead is thought to be where the first shots of the Whiskey Rebellion were fired. The organized rebellion was over a federal law levying a seven-cent-per-gallon tax on whiskey, the main money crop of frontier farmers.
On July 15, 1794, officers attempted to serve a writ on William Miller, son of Oliver Miller, for failure to register his still and for not paying taxes on whiskey production.
When nearby farmers heard the arguing, they fired shots in the air to scare away the officers.
Associate Barb Powischill said the final soldiers arrived in mid-October of 1794, kicking in doors and whisking men away to Philadelphia jails, making that year's November harvest celebration particularly meaningful for the settlers.
"They would be grateful that the harvest was finished, but especially grateful that the troops were gone," Ms. Swauger said.
There is a $2 admission fee. Details: 412-835-1554, or visit www.olivermiller.org.
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First Published November 15, 2012 5:14 am