Miller Homestead's Harvest Festival commemorates 18th century pioneers
The special event for November at the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park was a harvest festival commemorating the way 18th century pioneers in Western Pennsylvania gave thanks for blessings received, including an abundant harvest. The homestead was filled with re-enactors in period costume, providing an authentic picture of life well over two centuries ago.
My visit began in the Stone Manse, a large, rugged farmhouse that was built in the early 1800s. The docents there were quite knowledgeable and extremely helpful.
We arrived at a mock worship service in time to be greeted by Mary Tidball Miller, who promptly introduced her husband, Oliver Miller. He welcomed his neighbors and visitors and led them in a recitative reading of Psalm 100.
Oliver Miller then introduced the visiting preacher, the Rev. John McMillan. McMillan expressed his pleasure at making his annual visit to the Miller Homestead, reminding Oliver Miller that the cold weather and “spittin' snow” seemed to be traditional with it. He “lowed as how” it was about time Miller and his neighbors built a proper church.
Following his sermon we all went into the Log House where Mrs. Miller related how she, her husband and their nine children had come west in 1770 from Bedford and settled on this land.
Although the barn was built recently, it was constructed using the same tools and methodology that were employed two centuries ago.
Back in the big farmhouse, they had a table set up with the meal that a family in 1780 would have enjoyed at a harvest festival. It looked pretty good to me — succotash, sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, sugar cookies, corn pudding and apple and pumpkin pies.
A working display of spinning and weaving occupies another large room on the first floor of the Manse. I was quite impressed with the whole process and the huge amount of labor that was required to produce fabric in those days.
The homestead closes for the winter in early December and reopens on the first Sunday in May. We are extremely fortunate to have such a valuable cultural asset in this area, and grateful to the dedicated group of re-enactors who have preserved it for all of us.