DEFENDS AGAINST SALLY EMILY GEIGER TRADITION

Descendent Says That in Purging History of Inaccuracies ,

Wheat Should Not Be Destroyed

Along With Chaff.

 

To The Editor of The State:

 Not caring to attract notoriety, nor to enter into newspaper controversy; but as I, too, am interested in the history of Emily Geiger, I will ask for space in your paper to give expression to some thoughts along this line, which may be of interest to some of your readers.

I have been reading the different articles by Mr. Salley, and in The State of November 6, under the caption, "Grave of Emily Geiger Myth Worshippers Mecca," he says "Some of the absurdities that are offered in support of spurious history would be amusing if so many people did not take them seriously. One such absurdity is the alleged grave of Emily Geiger. This grave is an invention mothered by necessity." Another absurdity is the story of the ride of Emily Geiger in in taking a dispatch from Genera1 Greene, in the fork of the Broad and Saluda rivers, to General Sumter on the Wateree, as was published in 1848 in Mrs. Ellet's "Women of the American Revolution."

Then in l850 to bear him out in the absurdity of this ride, Mr. Salley accuses Lossing, in his "Field Book of the American Revolution" (Who did) of changing the story "to make it come within the realm of possibility". Wonderful man, this Mr. Salley! Not only an historian, but a prophet as well, who, after a lapse of 77 years, can reproduce the thoughts of Lossing’s mind on the facts as he knew them..

Mr. Salley again: "In 1899 the city of Charleston published the greeter part of the correspondence between Greene end Sumter. It was at once seen that there could be no truth in the story, that the two officers never occupied the relative positions assigned to them by the story, that no such condition as described in the story existed." Thus you see a direct contradiction of himself, having just claimed that Lossing knew about Greene’s movements in his campaign against Ninety-Six, and his retreat to Winnsboro, and wove the story of Emily Geiger’s ride in keeping with Greene’s position.

As Mr. Salley says, "The greater part of the correspondence between Greene and Sumter was published", anyone would understand by that, that all the correspondence was not published. Now the question, what part was not published? Might it not have been that part which may have thrown some light on this much debated subject?

He says, "McCrady’ s lest volume was at that time in process of publication, and at the request of its author, the writer hereof prepared a footnote pointing out the falsity of the story of the ride. About the same time Asbury Francis Lever conceived the idea of introducing, a bill in the general assembly to erect a monument to Emily and wrote to me to get the facts. I gave him the facts as revealed by the letters of Greene and Sumter. I never heard from Frank again and the bill was never introduced. Nevertheless I started a little tempest in a teapot."

Here we have just grounds to drew vivid comparisons between these two sons of South Carolina. One who had been honored by the peop1e of his state, as a young man ably qualified to wear with credit the official mantle that had adorned the shoulders of his predecessor, J. William. Stokes and filled his seat in congress at Washington endeavoring to erect to the memory of one of South Carolina’s fair daughters a monument that would speak to unborn generations the high tribute of love and respect that throbbed in the breasts of the patriotic people of her state.

The other (with acknowledged incomplete correspondence between Greene and Sumter, published after a lapse of 118 years) , by making use of this boasts that he kept out of McCrady’s history the story of her ride and thwarted Lever in his praiseworthy efforts to perpetuate her memory.

Quoting Mr. Salley again, "Last year, in company with Mr. John M. Bateman, who is seriously interested in local history, I went to see Emily’s grave out on the road to Charleston, highway No. 2. While Mr. Bateman and I were at the grave, Mr. Martin, the tenant of the place, came up end he said "They say Emily Geiger was his second wife and that she is buried here beside the first.’ "

Does Mr. Salley hope to impose upon the people of South Carolina a corrected version of the history of Emily Geiger by using the say—so of a tenant to strengthen his contention, and after the lapse of more than one hundred and twenty—five years? When he visited this place, had he stopped at the home of Dr. William Geiger, an honored and highly respected citizen, who lives in the immediate neighborhood of the old Threewitts home, he would doubtless have been given more reliable information (had it been that he was seeking such) than he gleaned from his conversation with Mr. Martin. Doctor Geiger is a son of Eppes Davis Threewitts, who was a niece of Maj. John and his brother Llewellyn. He has reached the fine old age of 96 years and is still in possession of his mental faculties. Dr. Geiger had a sister named Emily Geiger in honor of her cousin. She married a prominent physician, Doctor Reed, and lived, up to the time of her death, within a few miles of the Threewitts home.

As to the tombstone found, I hardly think that could be included in the list of absurdities Mr. Salley mentions, as the inscription on it explains to whom it was erected, and does not warrant the assertion that it was "an invention mothered by necessity". Had there been a tombstone to Emily Geiger’s grave, the poem on "The Pines", by the late Mrs. Sallie K. Davis, would not have contained these lines:

"They’d point us to her lonely grave
Unmarked, unnoticed yet;
Shame on South Caroline’s brevet
Could such her deed forget?
But pine trees mark the lonely spot
Where sleeps her hallowed dust;
And it will never be forgot
While they keep well their trust.
For her they chant in dirge—like tones,
A requiem, sad and low;
As windharps play among their cones,
While gentle zephyrs blow."

 In Mr. Salley’s last paragraph he says: "The writer does not know who Liewellyn Threewitts, brother of Maj. John Threewitts, married, nor does he know whether he had issue or not. The census of 1790 shows that at that time he had dependents, but these could have been his brother, Joel, and his sister, Mrs. Tucker, and her chi1dren. It is evident there were no living descendants when the estate of his brother, John, was in the court of chancery. Of course such a person as Emily Geiger might have lived and might have married Llewellyn Threewitts (brother of Major John) despite the fact that not a sing1e mention of her name in any writing or publication earlier than Mrs. Ellet’s book published in 1848 has been discovered, but it is highly improbable."

In the beginning of this paragraph, and after the many emphatic assertions he has published previous to this as to Emily Geiger’s ride, her burial place, end as to her having ever existed, all being a myth, Mr. Salley winds up his piece by an honest acknowledgement that he does not know who Llewellyn Threewitts, brother of Major John, married. He says that the census of 1790 shows that he had dependents, then using, as he has several times before, suggestions of his own manufacture as to who they could have been. I would like to as Mr. Salley, could not one of his dependants have been his wife, Emily Geiger, who we contend was his wife? If he expresses doubts as to the correctness of his statements, why should he be so persistent in his efforts to obliterate her name from history?

Now as to some of the other absurdities mentioned by Mr. Salley, such as Emily Geiger having attended a ball in 1825 given in honor of Lafayette, also a brooch given her by General Greene, an invitation to her marriage to John Threewitts, I am in full accord with him.; but in purging history of spurious claims, I would suggest that he be careful lest he destroy the wheat along with the chaff.

As to knowledge of Emily Geiger, it is purely traditional; but it has come through a line of ancestors (some of whom it is my pleasure to remember) whose Christian character won for them the confidence and esteem of all who knew them, and placed them. beyond the point of question as to their veracity.

Many Columbians remember the last Mrs. George W. Davis, the hospitality of whose home some of them may have enjoyed. She was the granddaughter of Mrs. Alexander Bell, whose father was John Conrad Geiger, a first cousin of Emily Geiger. I have often heard Mrs. Davis, (who was my aunt by marriage) say that she had heard her grandmother speak of Emily Geiger’s visits to their home and of being captured by the Tories, taken to Fort Granby (now the old Cayce home) and searched. After finding nothing incriminating, she with an escort of two British soldiers, continued her ride to the home of her cousin, John Conrad Geiger, five and one-half miles below Columbia, near the old Charleston road, where she spent the night. Next morning she proceeded on her way with the message to the American line.

John Geiger, brother of John Conrad, was the father of my mother’s grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Kaigler. My mother, who before her marriage was Sallie Kaigler, lived until she was 14 years old with her grandmother. She has often told us how she loved to hear her grandmother tell of Emily Geiger’s ride, her capture by the Tories, and how she tore up the message and swallowed it bit by bit. Now this old lady was born March 4, 1776, and died in l856. Thus you see she knew Emily Geiger, personally, living within three miles of the Threewitts burial ground, where Emily Geiger is buried.

One of Mrs. Elizabeth Kaigler’s daughters married a Mr. Plant, who kept a bookstore in Columbia. In 1830, when their first little baby came, Mrs. Plant asked her mother to name it. Her mother told her to name the baby for her distinguished cousin, Emily Geiger. Would the mother have suggested naming the child for a cousin who had never existed?

And if distinguished, why?

Now this was in 1830, 18 years before Mrs. Ellet had published" Women of the American Revolution", and 20 years before Lossing wrote his "Field Book of the American Revolution".

While this is tradition, it has come down with no missing links. Isn’t it natural that we should readily accept it as fact with as much confidence as to its correctness as though it had been recorded and most sacredly guarded within the archives of state’s records?

Rob history of tradition (with no records to the contrary) , we may, in many instances, rob those of honors due them for acts of heroism, and make of history a dry uninteresting volume of compiled records. Along this line I will mention this: A few years ago, while attending the Confederate reunion in Washington, I happened to meet an old veteran from Atlanta, Mr. Johnson, who asked me my name end where I was from.. Whereupon he said, "You are the son of a classmate of mine at Ford’s Military school in Columbia prior to the war". In talking of the war, he mentioned an occurrence that took place at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He said the Federals made several desperate assaults on Lee’s position, and the carnage was awful. A wounded Federal soldier lying in front of the works was calling, "For God’s sake, some water!’

Suddenly, a young soldier standing by Johnson sprang over the breast-works and in the face of what seemed certain death, with a canteen of water in his hand, advanced to the man, and raising his head, gave him the water. By this unexcelled act of bravery, the firing ceased on both sides; and after caring for their wounded and burying their dead, the Federal army retired to the north bank of the Rappahannock.

Now if we pass tradition into oblivion, we would rob South Carolina’s brave son, Kirkland, of the glory he so justly deserves. Again if we do away with tradition, we will lose the beautiful Christmas story that was revealed to the "shepherds as they watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the ange1 of the Lord appeared and glory shone around".

I will now in conclusion take the liberty of suggesting that Mr. Salley produce some positive proof to support his contentions as to Emily Geiger before he again harangues the public with a multitude of his conclusions as to her history.

Thomas R. Davis

Sandy Run

Copied from papers of Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof by Sara Texas (Geiger) Geiger- - January 27, l965

Copies for: Mrs. Annie Wolfe Roof, Alexander Milburn Geiger, Sara Anne Geiger, William Henry Geiger

Name correction and date submitted by Ms. Harriet Imrey.

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