Hometown Tales Podcast

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Western PA, The State of Westylvania

In the early days of our nation the union was extremely fragile. Incorporating different settlements into the “United States” was a difficult endeavor. Especially when states would be held accountable to laws of a larger federal government ruled from a central capital in Philadelphia. This was no more evident than across the Appalachian Mountains in Western Pennsylvania. Since the early 1770s there were proposals and notions by the western part of Pennsylvania to be it’s own state called- Westylvania.

The areas near Pittsburgh were then considered to be part of the wild frontier or wild west. Filled with forest, animals and savages, it was a rough and rugged territory.

In 1791 the new government introduced the Whiskey tax. This would be the boiling point of tensions between Western Pennsylvanians and the Federal Government. Tax collectors were tarred and feathered, beaten, harassed and eventually a risen militia caused bloodshed and took the lives of collectors. The Spanish and English also wooed the “Westylvanias” to succeed from the union. Our First President, George Washington, faced one of the most difficult times in his presidency. The fragile republic could not withstand a Federal Government birthed on freedom violently enforcing it’s laws on it’s citizens. But at the same time the nation could not allow its authority to have no value. After holding off for some time and resisting the “hawks” in Congress, Washington decided to send in troops. However, he would not send troops into battle without reinforcing how strongly he believed in the authority of the new republic. At the age of 62, President George Washington would suit up and return to potential battle, commanding troops himself into Western Pennsylvania to crush the rebellion. The rebels resolve was overestimated and the rebellion was defeated. Order was restored and the New Republic withheld.