The Twin City News
There is a traditional story of a Lexington County girl who, in the face of dangers too greet for the bravest soldiers, carried a message from General Green to General Sumter during the Revolutionary War. The message according to the tradition, resulted in the junction of the two commands and the early consummation of the war.
The story, which has been received with undoubted veneration for many years, has found a critic in the secretary of the South Carolina Historical Commission. Mr. Salley's knowledge of Carolina history together with his official position, gives considerable weight to his positive statement that the story of Emily Geiger's exploit, and even of the existence of Emily Geiger herself, is a pure myth. Several people of undoubted veracity have cone forward to defend the tradition but of course have not been able to produce proof of the story ca it has been handed down.
It is a fact that if all tradition is removed from our histories there would be little left. George Washington and his famous cherry tree exploit has gone into the discard. Following this into alleged false tradition has gone Putnam riding down the stone stairway, and many other alleged incidents of even modern history, it is highly probable that practically everything would be discarded.
As to the story of Emily Geiger, we believe it. Mr. Salley's arguments are all negative. He states that the name of Emily Geiger appears in no Official records; that her burial place cannot be located, and that the position of the armies of Greene and Sumter were such that the message could not have been carried over the route she is alleged to have taken.
As to the first argument: The history in official record is incidental. In making a deed or a will, the maker simply names those persons necessary to the instrument. If Emily Geiger married and died without issue, it is very unlikely that her name should appear in any Official document. Thousands upon thousands of individuals lived and died during the period of the Revolutionary War without having their names appear in any will, deed or other official document.
As to the grave of Emily Geiger: Comparatively few graves of Revolutionary times are known ~t this time. If failure to locate the grave of a progenitor as far back as the year 1800 was proof that no such progenitor existed, many of us would be in a queer condition as regards our family tree. For any one to say that a grave for Emily Geiger was necessary to support the story of her having existed is pure bosh.
Regarding the third point in Mr. Salley's proof: We know nothing of the position of the two armies at the time, but we do know that it would be far more reasonable for tradition to confuse names than facts.
If General Sumter was not the recipient of the message, how about some of the other partisan leaders who were in that section at the time? Perhaps it was Lieutenant Colonel Washington, who did operate along the section indicated. Then there were plenty of others. But, even as regards Sumter it would be easy for for Salley to become confused with the records as regards time.
Now, as to the story itself: It was first published in 1848. If it had been untrue there would have been people living at that time who could have done from knowledge what Mr. Salley is now trying to do from records and with better effect. But the story was never disputed in so far as the records slow. For more than a hundred years it was accepted as fact and it wou1d be safe to accept it as being true.
We are decidedly of the opinion that Emily Geiger lived; that she carried a massage from a General Greene to some partisan leader, probably General Sumter, Under very trying conditions; that she married a man named
Threewits, and that many descendants of her family now live in Lexington County. The story should be preserved as a type of bravery and become an accepted part of our history.
Unlike most of those who have come to the defense of traditional Emily, we bear no relationship to either the Geigers or the Threewits. We are impartial in that regard and would rather see the story discredited if the arguments were not stronger for its perpetuation as a fact. When opportunity offers we shall reproduce the story itself.
As soon as she was alone, the girl read the letter carefully, then tore it into small pieces, chewed the pieces, end swallowed them. Soon a woman came to search her, but of coarse she found nothing, and Emily was released. She at once set off again.
Late in the afternoon of the same day Emily was again arrested, this time by some Tories. She was taken to a farm house and confined in a room by herself. About twelve o'clock at night, the moon rose bright.
All in the house except Emily were sound asleep. She contrived to open her window, and to get out of the house. She found a bridle, and in the lot, she got her own horse. Without the saddle, she mounted him, and succeeded in finding her way to the house of a patriot friend. It was scarcely day when she arrived. A hurried breakfast was prepared, a fresh horse was saddled for her, and a guide was given her to show her a shorter and safer way.
After the guide had given her accurate directions, he left her alone. She urged her tired horse on. In the afternoon, she came up with some soldiers whom she knew to be Sumter's men. "Take me to General Sumter", she said eagerly "I have a message from him from General Greene." She was so tired that she could hardly speak, yet she repeated to Sumter word for word, the contents of the letter.
In an hour, the patriot officer and his band were on the march to the point to which Gen. Greene had directed him to come. At the same a courier was sent to Marion to explain the change in plans of the Americans. It is said that Lafayette, when he revisited the United States met Emily at a ball In Charleston, and danced with her.
Written by Mrs. Allie Carson Cooper, Eutaw Chapter, D. A. R.,
Orangeburg, S. C. 1933
Copied by Lillian M. Cain, from a copy loaned by the Lending Bureau, of the National Society, D. A. R., Washington, D. C.
Copy for Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof
Mrs. Gladys Geiger Long
Miss Anna Geiger
Copied from papers of Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof by Sara Texas (Geiger) Geiger January 17, 1965
Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof (Daughter of Frederica Geiger and T. A. Wolfe)
Alexander Milburn Geiger (Son of Lellan Caughman and A1exander Geiger)
Sara Anne Geiger (Daughter of Sara Texas Geiger and William M. Geiger
William Henry Geiger ( Son of " " " ")
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