Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Washington's troops died here
FLOREFFE, Pa. – Federal soldiers took viciously ill and died in the late 1790s while preparing to battle with militiamen who were bitterly opposed to a tax on the whiskey they produced in the hills above the Monongahela River.
A smallpox epidemic killed the soldiers after the Whiskey Rebellion was settled in a long-winded speech by then-U.S. Sen. Albert Gallatin to rebels in nearby Monongahela in August 1794. President George Washington’s troops were then buried in a mass grave in an area of Jefferson, Allegheny County, that came to be named Lobbs Cemetery.
The young West Jefferson Hills Historical Society hopes to use sonar to pinpoint the exact location of the soldiers' graves in the cemetery without a church or association to ensure its upkeep. In their spare time, society members have been working with a volunteer archaeologist to map the locations of other graves at the property along Walton Road, just off Route 837.
“We want to cut back the growth that is slowly encroaching the cemetery,” society member Deb Marinello said. “It’s really historic. There are veterans there from all wars, probably up to Vietnam.”
They know that two Virginia soldiers from the early federal encampment, Capt. Thomas Walker of Albermarl County and Lt. Alexander Bell of Berkley County, both 20, died of smallpox and were buried there in January 1795.
And so were at least 900 others over the years before the cemetery would find itself listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its ties to the rebels who launched the first protest against the U.S. government.