David Bradford's Escape

From DAVID BRADFORD AND HIS HOUSE By Harriet Branton (from a collection of articles in the Observer - Reporter Newspaper of Washington, Pennsylvania.

When "the insurrection was all over; a number of people were arrested, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of David Bradford At home in this house on October 25 he was warned of the approach of a calvary unit with orders to capture him. He is alleged to have leaped from a rear window onto his waiting horse, galloping off into the night. With soldiers in hot pursuit (there was a price of $500 on his head), Bradford made it to McKees Rocks, where he traded his faithful gray horse for a skiff and set out down the Ohio River. A touch-and-go gun battle with his pursuers went on all night but he managed to slip through by staying close to the opposite shore of the river.

The next night Bradford encountered the skipper of a keelboat who was also fleeing the region for his part in the rebellion. Just as they were about to depart for New Orleans the following morning, the boat was boarded by a party of soldiers. The crew of the keelboat helped to disarm the troops and throw them in the river, pelting them with lumps of coal from the cargo aboard the boat. As the soggy soldiers sloshed ashore the keelboat headed downriver to freedom."

Contrary to popular legend, as told here by Harriet Branton, Bradford did not leap from a rear window to escape arrest. Rather he left Washington, PA at a leisurely pace and went to Pittsburgh. From there he took a coal barge down the Ohio to what is now Portsmith, Ohio and (possibly later) to Spanish West Florida (New Orleans). Charles M. Ewing, at one time director of the historical collections at Washington and Jefferson College, who studied the Whiskey Rebellion and a recognized authority on the subject, felt that the Federal authorities were not to anxious to catch Bradford as they did not want a difficult situation on their hands. Mr. Ewing says that Bradford did not want to leave, but was persuaded to do so by some of the other leaders of the insurrection, who for their own reasons, wanted him out of the way.

All information does lead use to believe that David Bradford was discovered by some of the troops while he was on a coal barge not far below Pittsburgh. The ships' captain, a Captain Keene, and crew apparently did see to it that Bradford was not bothered by the troops. Captain Keene (there are various spellings) later was involved in the Aaron Burr conspiracy and lived for a while near Bradford in Louisiana.

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