So much for negotiating with those who have no claim to your property in the first place.
The situation back then really does remind one of today’s Occupy movement, Kilgore agreed. Washington was about as popular among those squatters as a modern-day Wall Street banker is among today’s Occupy crowd, he said.
Eventually, the two sides met again; the squatters agreed — without conceding Washington’s ownership — to buy the land from him. Yet the price Washington demanded was too steep for them; they refused to pay — and colorfully rejected his claim of ownership.
No wonder that, years later, Washington sent 13,000 troops to quell fewer than 500 angry farmers, when this same breed of Scotsmen rebelled over a federal excise tax levied on whiskey.
Washington, by then president, “wanted to make sure they got the message,” said Kilgore, official historian at the home built in 1762 by whiskey rebel Bradford.
Washington’s land dispute eventually went before Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. The case dragged on for two years before he finally won.
He generously offered to allow the 13 squatter families to remain on their plantations without paying back rent, but insisted they pay going forward.
“They would have none of it” and moved on, Kilgore said.
Along state Route 980, all that is left of this confrontation is a historical marker badly in need of repair.
On that spot, an enterprising Virginia gentleman-general foresaw all the potential of this country on its Western frontier, not far from the rivers that converge into the mighty Ohio, and fought to keep what rightfully was his.
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