A1 A1
New museum ready to tell region’s role in Whiskey Rebellion
  • Updated

Not everyone who passes by the Bradford House in Washington knows the historical significance of the old, stone building on South Main Street and its role in a rebellion.

But Tracie Liberatore hopes that will change soon with the opening of the new Whiskey Rebellion museum directly across the street that will tell the story about how this region became the epicenter of the country’s first insurrection in the early 1790s.

Liberatore, who is the executive director of the Bradford House Historical Association, will also run the Whiskey Rebellion Education and Visitor Center that will offer an immersive experience to visitors when it opens to the public April 7.

“It’s amazing how people walk by the Bradford House – a National Historic Landmark and with that beautiful stone – and don’t realize or have any idea. It’s completely unique to this area,” Liberatore said, noting that Alexander Hamilton knocked on its front door in 1794 while quelling the rebellion. “It is downtown Washington history. It is kind of glossed over in the schools.”

The Bradford House was built by local attorney David Bradford, who railed against the excise tax and mobilized local farmers to rebel against the federal government. He fled to Spanish West Florida in modern-day Louisiana before federal officials could find him.

Since 2011, the annual Whiskey Rebellion Festival in downtown Washington has told the story of the insurrection with live re-enactments. The Bradford House nonprofit organization wanted to expand its own museum to tell the story to a wider audience outside the annual festival, which was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But since the house itself is an historic landmark that can’t be altered, a separate museum was needed to allow visitors an opportunity to learn more about the region’s rebellious history.

Architectural drawings were designed in January 2020, with an opening date expected a few months later. But many construction industries shut down at the beginning of the pandemic last spring, and the opening date had to be pushed back nearly a year. Liberatore said they used that delay to make the exhibits even better.

“On the flip side, we were really able to dive into the details,” Liberatore said of the shutdown during the pandemic. “We kept making sure the story was done right and told well.”

The museum includes replicas of an 18th century tavern and a whiskey still, which Liberatore said are “hands-on exhibits that people can touch and experience.” There are also real artifacts from the period, including an alcoholmeter used by distiller John Hollcroft – who’s widely suspected to be rabble rouser Tom the Tinker – and an original copy of the modified excise act Congress approved in June 1794 that allowed trials to be held in local courts.

Dave Budinger and Laney Seirsdale were at the museum, which is located at 184 S. Main St., to give tours to the media Wednesday afternoon before dignitaries stopped by for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Budinger said the self-guided tours take about 45 minutes and offer “snapshots of key figures” along with paintings by the late artist Ray Forquer. The museum includes information about how other parts of the region were involved in the Whiskey Rebellion.

Chase McClain, the director of marketing for the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, said the new museum will add to the “diverse mix of historical sites” elsewhere in the county.

The first tours by home-schooled students will begin in April, with the expectation that students in public schools will be able to visit when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Both the house and museum are operated jointly by the nonprofit Bradford House Historical Association and will work in tandem to educate visitors. The museum was built using donations from the public, along with support from the Allegheny Foundation, EQT Foundation and the Salvitti Family Foundation.

“The visitors center is an extension of our story,” Liberatore said. “It’s one of a kind.”

There is no entry fee to the Whiskey Rebellion museum, but donations are accepted. The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday from April through November.

editor's pick
Washington man accused of conspiring to steal car used in homicide

A Washington man is facing charges he conspired with his son to steal a car that reportedly was used in two shootings in January, one of which killed a city man.

Sidney Skadell Sadler, 55, also is expected to be arraigned Thursday on charges filed by Washington police of drug possession with intent to deliver, online court records show.

Police accuse Sidney Sadler of luring Thomas Muscarella to 719 Fayette St. where they were met by Zackory “Sid’s Kid” Sadler, court records indicate.

Muscarella told police Zackory Sadler stole everything from his pockets, including the keys to his 2013 BMW. The Sadlers left and returned, allowing Muscarella to grab his keys from the ignition.

He accused Zackory Sadler, 36, of Donora, of again stealing the car keys, that he didn’t fight back because he was outnumbered and feared for his life.

Zackory Sadler was driving a stolen 2013 BMW Jan. 26 when he was accused of shooting and killing Darnell “Cuddy” Brown, 41, of Washington, in a parking lot on Highland Avenue in Washington.

The same car was seen in Donora that afternoon when Keilone Preston was shot in the leg and foot at Zackory Sadler’s residence on Heslep Avenue.

Zackory Sadler also was charged in that shooting, but will not be prosecuted because he died the following month in Wheeling, W.Va. A cause of his death has yet to be made public.

The circumstances involving his father’s drug case were withheld Wednesday by the office of District Judge Robert Redlinger.

Sidney Sadler is in Washington County jail on $50,000 bond set by District Judge Michael Manfredi.

Meanwhile, a Monessen man was arrested by state police March 13 on charges he possessed 54 bricks of heroin and three bundles of the drug during a traffic stop in Rostraver Township, police said.

Police said the case against Rashawn Taylor Daine Ford, 25, led them to an area hotel room where investigators seized an additional 150 bricks of heroin, more than $8,600 and a firearm.

Police stopped Ford March 13 on the Vance Deicas Memorial Highway and launched the drug investigation after learning he had been accused of a violent crime and the trooper’s knowledge of drug activity and shootings in the nearby Monessen and Donora areas, court records show.

Ford is free on $75,000 bond.

editor's pick
Jobs are available, but not many answering the call

Mike Williamson is looking for a few good people. But he isn’t finding them.

“Forget qualified candidates. I’m having a hard time even getting applications,” said the operations manager of Solomon’s Seafood in Washington. “The market in our business is super bad. People should be looking for jobs.”

In many instances, apparently, they are not.

Williamson and most of the other area business owners and operators contacted by the Observer-Reporter say they have jobs available, but too few would-be candidates are responding to the plethora of “help wanted” signs and online job postings that are up.

There is a pandemic raging, to be sure. But with Pennsylvania’s prevailing unemployment rate – 7.3% in January – this appears to be a classic case of supply (jobs) exceeding demand (job seekers).

Williamson, second-generation operator of a family business, is looking for employees for his Hall Avenue restaurant, especially now that indoor dining restrictions have been loosened. He would prefer experienced people in certain positions, but not all. He is certainly reaching out.

“I have no problem getting high school kids to apply,” Williamson said. “We may look hard for a bartender, people who cook, servers – people who have done this for a living – and are really having difficulties getting them.

“If I said we were going to open at 100% tomorrow, we would not have enough employees.”

One reason for this quandary is obvious. On-the-job exposure to COVID-19 can be deadly, causing some to avoid a work environment.

Respondents for this article, however, listed several other reasons: receiving federal stimulus payments and/or unemployment compensation benefits – some extended into September – may quash the incentive to work; candidates set up a job interview, to fulfill an obligation to “actively seek work,” then skip the interview; some skip drug tests.

“Getting extra money is not an incentive to work,” Williamson said. “When things were bad, I got it. But I’m convinced that is a problem now.”

Civil Knox, general manager and marketing director at Washington Crown Center, agrees. “Our tenants are hiring but are short staffed,” she said from the mall offices in North Franklin Township. “It’s because there’s free money out there. You keep giving free money, why work? It’s beyond sad.

“We have applications in abundance and no takers.”

“People don’t want to work if they’re getting government money,” said Ron Smith, operations manager at Uniontown Mall. “We can’t get employees.”

He said that in several instances, members of the management team have set up an interview with a candidate, who then skipped the interview. One applicant hung up when he called to set up a time.

“We may not pay a large salary, but we offer steady employment,” Smith said.

He added that the mall had hiring challenges before the pandemic as well.

“A lot (of applicants) couldn’t pass the drug test and we didn’t hear from them again.”

David Lamatrice, owner of Bistecca Steakhouse and Wine Bar, said his restaurant in the Meadows Racetrack & Casino “was blessed until recently. We had all of our staff back.

“Recently, we looked to add staff, but have had difficulty getting people to apply. We’ve had a problem with people who were to show up for an interview, but don’t, after fulfilling (a UC) requirement (to seek work). I think some people are happy to get their unemployment and make it last.

“I’m OK training people if they’re willing work, but some want $25 an hour without experience.”

Barchemy LLC operates in Donora Industrial Park. The company manufactures high-protein, low-sugar foods, and is hiring and expanding. It is constructing a third building there.

“We have opportunities to grow,” said Georgia Perry, the company controller.

She said Barchemy is hiring, and posts jobs on Indeed.com, “but we’re not finding people who are going to Indeed or even looking for jobs. We’re not getting the tracking as we used to, and we’re one of highest paying manufacturers in the park with good benefits.”

Charles German is not well versed in the machinations of Southwestern Pennsylvania, but plans to be. He will be moving his firm, Holland Cutting Board Co., from Michigan to Brownsville.

German is a descendant of the Brown family that founded the borough, where he is seriously considering a property that would house additional shops and “be fully operational by February 2022.”

He advertised for jobs on Facebook and was gratified “to fill 95% of them, all residents of Brownsville.”

A first: US Senate confirms transgender doctor for key post
  • Updated

Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be the nation’s assistant secretary of health. She is the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation.

The final vote was 52-48. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined all Democrats in supporting Levine.

Levine had been serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official since 2017, and emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She is expected to oversee Health and Human Services offices and programs across the United States.

President Joe Biden cited Levine’s experience when he nominated her in January.

Levine “will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic – no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” Biden said.

Transgender-rights activists have hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough. Few trans people have ever held high-level offices at the federal or state level.

However, the confirmation vote came at a challenging moment for the transgender-rights movement as legislatures across the U.S. – primarily those under Republican control – are considering an unprecedented wave of bills targeting trans young people.

One type of bill, introduced in at least 25 states, seeks to ban trans girls and young women from participating in female scholastic sports.

One such measure already has been signed into law by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, and similar measures have been sent to the governors in Tennessee, Arkansas and South Dakota.

Another variety of bill, introduced in at least 17 states, seeks to outlaw or restrict certain types of medical care for transgender youths. None of these measures has yet won final approval.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., confronted Levine about medical treatments for transgender young people – include hormone treatment and puberty blockers – during her confirmation hearing Feb. 25.

“Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul asked.

Levine replied that transgender medicine “is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care” and said she would welcome discussing the issues with him.

In the past, Levine has asserted that hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs can be valuable medical tools in sparing some transgender youth from mental distress and possible suicide risk.

A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed as Pennsylvania’s health secretary by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017. She won confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate.

However, Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, voted against Levine’s confirmation Wednesday.

“In Pennsylvania, the pandemic struck seniors in nursing homes disproportionately hard compared to other states,” Toomey said. “This was due in part to poor decisions and oversight by Dr. Levine and the Wolf administration.”

He also said an extended lockdown advocated by Levine “was excessive, arbitrary in nature, and has led to a slower recovery.”

A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

Praise for her accomplishments and her handling of the pandemic have coincided with a steady stream of vitriol directed at at her on social media.

As reported Tuesday by the Associated Press, Levine was among the targets of a private Facebook group called the Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom whose participants included many current and retired police officers.

Dozens of group members fueled days of transphobic posts about Levine for her role in statewide social-distancing mandates to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Someone needs to shoot this thing!!” one retired officer wrote.

In January, a Pennsylvania legislator shared on Facebook an image mocking Levine’s appearance, then offered a general apology.

State Rep. Jeff Pyle, a Republican, said on Facebook that he “had no idea” the post mocking Levine “would be … received as poorly as it was” but that “tens of thousands of heated emails assured me it was.”