David Bradford


Taken mostly from Harriet Branton

David Bradford and his house have been an important part of local history. What is now Washington County was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania through the early 1700's. It wasn't until March 28, 1781 the drawing of the Mason-Dixon Line officially gave this land to Pennsylvania. Washington County was erected out of Westmoreland County at that time, and Washington, the county seat, was laid out by David Hoge later that same year. The following year, 1782, David Bradford, who was born in Maryland about 1760, came to town. Court records indicate that in April 1782 he was the sixth attorney to be admitted to the Washington County Bar. This brilliant young lawyer quickly established a very successful practice, and by 1783 he had been appointed deputy attorney-general for Washington County. He built, the first stone house on South Main Street in 1788. By frontier standards, it ranked as a mansion. The handsome stairway was solid mahogany; the mantel-pieces and other interior furnishings, imported from Philadelphia, were transported across the Alleghenies at considerable expense.

David Bradford had important family connections in town. One of his sisters, Agnes, had married John McDowell, a prominent local attorney; another sister, Jane, had married Col. James Allison, a lawyer who had settled in the Chartiers Valley in 1774. Both McDowell and Allison were elders in the Rev. John McMillan's Chartiers Church, and they also were among the first trustees of both Canonsburg and Washington Academies. David Bradford joined his brothers-in-law as a trustee of Washington College, and was appointed a member of the building committee.

Bradford also became active in political as well as legal and educational affairs, and by 1791 he was becoming more and more absorbed in the escalating protest over a whiskey tax which had been levied by the Federal Government that year and the general treatment of the western pennsylvanians by the East

Following the insurrection Bradford escaped to Louisiana, which then belonged to Spain. He and his wife settled at Bayou Sara where he became a wealthy planter. After the pardon by President John Adams in March 1799, he returned to Washington at least once, in 1801, to officially buy his house so he could start the process of selling it.

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